Rabbi: Freezing Eggs Not Viable Solution

Eggs in a boxLast week I reported on the conference encouraging single women in their 30’s to freeze their eggs for after marriage. The website Jewish Ideas Daily translated and published two responsa by Rabbi Yuval Cherlow to a desperate 36-year-old, in which he addresses some of the many issues facing singles who desire children.

In the first responsum, Rabbi Cherlow explains why he ultimately permits sperm donation so that single women may conceive. In the second responsum, he defends his position against those who claim he is anti-marriage, and addresses attacks point by point.

Here is Rabbi Cherlow’s reply to those who suggest “cutting-egg” technology such as freezing eggs and implanting ovaries as a solution:

There are those who think that there exists another solution, namely freezing one’s eggs [and using them at such later time when one is married]. Being a member of the Helsinki Committee for medical and genetic experimentations, I am proficient in the research subject of freezing eggs. In the last few weeks I have been dealing intensively on various aspects of egg freezing [IMF], both in slow freezing and in the emerging technologies of flash freezing. One should not deceive women in this matter. The percentage of successful impregnations via these methods is about 2-4% per egg, [Emphasis mine. HK] and the flash freezing which is still in progress is far from being a successful medical procedure. It is still in the realm of research and not a medical protocol. Similarly, it is a complex problem because in reality what is suggested actually tells the woman to freeze her eggs [meaning to prefer harvesting eggs by invasive methods] and to gamble —“if she is lucky and gets married then it was a wise decision, if not she will be forced to be impregnated only on the day she defines it as that day when all her chances to bear children have faded away, I find it very difficult to comprehend this logic. [Emphasis mine. HK] Above all, making the procedure of egg freezing into a modus operandi creates with it very serious ethical problems [maintaining one’s fertility even beyond the normal age of fertility etc.] and my ethical stand is that one should minimize such procedures.

I’ve emphasized Rabbi Cherlow’s two main arguments: 1) Egg freezing is still new and not very successful. 2) It is a way of delaying the decision as to whether or not to have children on one’s own. Whether or not a woman marries, she may be forced to make a critical decision about using frozen eggs at a much older age, only to find out that she waited too long.

Previous posts on egg freezing:

Conference Urges Single Women to Freeze Eggs

Israeli Government to Subsidize Harvest and Freezing of Human Eggs

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  1. Every time I read something that Rav Cherlov writes I admire him more.

  2. Just because we have the technology doesn’t mean we have to use it for anything we can think of. Freezing eggs has its place but I think we have to think about the bigger picture here. By that I mean, how far are we willing to go and what kind of society are we aiming for. For one thing how much control over our fertility is too much? Maybe we aren’t meant to be able to have babies up to age 55 (and with no male back-up yet?) It also doesn’t seem fair to the child herself to be a teenager with a 70-something year old mother.
    (As a mother who gave birth after age 40 I can say that it doesn’t get easier. )
    Social problems, such as ‘the shidduch crisis’ need social solutions. Technology here will only complicate matters.

  3. While I admire this rabbi’s forward thinking and open mind about women having children why does he advocate single motherhood and denying a child the right to have a father? My heart breaks for people who have difficulty finding a spouse yet my heart breaks even more for a child forced to grow up under those circumstances. It’s not fair to any child( including orphans and children of divorce) however to CHOOSE this is beyond me. In my opinion it’s a selfish choice.

  4. Hannah – do you really mean ‘cutting-egg’ technology???

  5. Just because we have wonderful medical technology doesn’t mean it is simple or quick or painless. I had *no idea* how complex the IVF procedure was until a married friend with fertility problems explained it to me. … harvesting eggs involves many tests, doctors visits, medications (with all kinds of side effects) and a painful and invasive procedure to harvest the actual eggs. It’s a difficult thing to go through for a married woman who cannot have children any other way, but I couldn’t imagine a single woman doing it “just in case”. It’s also pricey, even here in Israel. Kupat Cholim covers most of the costs (for people who have legitimate medical needs to do these procedures), but my friend was still paying for part of it. I wouldn’t imagine most single women have thousands and thousands of extra shekels to spare.

    Freezing eggs is not like making an extra pan of kugel and throwing it in the freezer in case you have more Shabbos guests.

  6. I find it terribly painful that women have to think about these issues. The one thing in my life that i have never ever EVER had any regrets about is my child (with please g-d more on the way). As humans, we probably reevaulate decisions all the time: from whom we married to the job choices we make. But children—that is not one I have ever second guessed. It’s painful to know that there are women (and many are my friends) who bumping up against their last years of fertility with decisions like these to make.

  7. thanks hannah for highlighting the plight of these older singles and rabbinic efforts to help them. I hadn’t known that such important rabbis, like rabbi cherlow, allow IVF for single women…fascinating.

  8. It seems to me like in these discussions, we forget God and the fact that the way we were designed, in the image of God, is that of perfection.

    I think God designed women so that fertility normally stops in the 40’s. Do we think we can “improve” upon God’s design through technology that makes it possible for women to have children for longer? Of course we can’t. By definition, God’s design is perfect. More is not always better.

    My parents married late and had me later in their life. As a kid, let me tell you… it was neither fun nor healthy to have parents who were too old to keep up with their kids. I spent most of my childhood indoors emulating my father’s propensity for studying and grew up with unhealthy eating and exercise habits that I am now trying to unravel.

    There is a balance to EVERYTHING in life. There are social solutions to the shidduch crisis, and encouraging women to focus on careers is definitely an unbalanced decision (putting career before family).

  9. Regular Anonymous says

    I had a feeling the current success rates for pregnancies from frozen eggs were not high. This would indeed make such an invasive and expensive procedure somewhat impractical. Perhaps the technology will improve. This would also be valuable to people, lo aleinu, who must undergo chemo.

    Sol, I am an “older parent”. Of all the issues I have with my kids (and there are many) they are not bothered at all by the age gap. My husband spent much more time in active play with the kids than his younger father ever did. Sometimes it’s also a function of personality.

    The technology is also from God.

    Erika, if a woman, despite her best efforts is unable to find a husband, why does that have to also deny her the possibility of a child?

    Everybody is entitled to an opinion but things look a lot different when you are the married or single woman faced with the reality of never being able to have children.

    • The thing that blows my mind is your question, “if a woman, despite her best efforts is unable to find a husband, why does that have to also deny her the possibility of a child?”….

      Here’s my question, WHAT ABOUT THE CHILD??? Our selfish society is all about ME ME ME and what I want. It’s so sad. Of course most women want a child however it’s my belief that children should not be brought into the world for the sake of fulfilling a person’s dream… if you don’t have the basics for raising a child: TWO PARENTS it’s not right to bring the child into that situation. It’s selfish. Be a foster mom, there are so many children who need loving homes.

      I have no desire to be PC. I have never met a single mom who can do it all without extreme emotional pain and sacrifices. A single woman who decides to bring a baby into the world is CHOOSING to hurt a person for the rest of their life. That’s a fact. Ask any adult who never had a father. It’s sad and painful. It’s not fair to inflict that intentionally on a baby, child, person.

      • Regular Anonymous says

        We’ll have to agree to disagree.

        I know several single moms (both bio and adoptive) who BH are raising happy children.

        Being a foster mom is a wonderful thing to do but most people aren’t up for it because it’s too difficult to get attached to a child and then have to let him/her go – especially if you have no other children.

  10. There is no hard fast rule that can be applied to all women. But the reason the suggested number of frozen eggs is 12 is because this guarantees generally success of at least one pregnancy. I would not have organized the conference had the chances been as low as rav cherlow suggests. This is the information – have from dr meirow, one of —israel’s top specialists in the field. I am not a rabbinic authority. As a social worker I want all woman to have knowledge about the variable options that exist, whether it be freezing eggs, fertilized eggs, or sperm donation. As in all of life, there is a price to be paid for any choice. Knowledge is necessary to assess cost over gain. Dina kazhdan


  1. […] Update: Rabbi Yuval Cherlow explains why freezing eggs is not a viable solution. […]

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