Cryopreserving Jewish Motherhood: Egg Freezing in Israel and the United States

Daphna Birenbaum-Carmeli, Marcia C. Inhorn, Mira D. Vale, Pasquale Patrizio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Oocyte cryopreservation (i.e., egg freezing) is one of the newest forms of assisted reproduction and is increasingly being used primarily by two groups of women: (1) young cancer patients at risk of losing their fertility through cytotoxic chemotherapy (i.e., medical egg freezing); and (2) single professionals in their late 30s who are facing age-related fertility decline in the absence of reproductive partners (i.e., elective egg freezing). Based on a binational ethnographic study, this article examines the significance of egg freezing among Jewish women in Israel and the United States. As they face the Jewish maternal imperative, these women are turning to egg freezing to relieve both medical and marital uncertainties. In both secular and religious Jewish contexts, egg freezing is now becoming naturalized as acceptable and desirable precisely because it cryopreserves Jewish motherhood, keeping reproductive options open for Jewish women, and serving as a protective self-preservation technology within their pronatalist social environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)346-363
Number of pages18
JournalMedical Anthropology Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the American Anthropological Association


  • Jewish
  • cancer
  • egg freezing
  • fertility
  • motherhood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology


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