Timing Fertility -A Comparative Analysis of the Relationship between Time Constructions and 'Social Freezing' in Germany and Israel.

Department of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine


Phase I: August 2016 – January 2018 
Funding: Minerva-Stiftung; Post-Doctoral Fellowship 

Phase II: February 2018 – September 2019
Funding: The Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual-Fellowship (EU)

Duration: 2016-2019

Carried out by:

  • Dr. Nitzan Rimon-Zarfaty (PI)
  • Lisa-Katharina Sismuth


The technical progress has made the "freezing" of germ cells in reproductive medicine possible: women have the option of cryopreserving their eggs to prolong their fertility. This procedure is known as "social egg freezing" (SEF). It has sparked both bioethical and public debate about social and ethical implications. The socio-empirical investigation of this research project analyzes "freezing" in a broader context. It does so from the perspective of a "sociology of time."

SEF is a technology that allows women to reproduce regardless of their biological limit. In terms of this biographical perspective, egg freezing is an interesting paradigm. It can be used to show how the modern life sciences can influence concepts of time, timing, and planning (for example, in the context of decisions involving family and reproduction, as well as the work-related allocation of one's time).

This study aims to examine the interplay between culture and bioethics in an interdisciplinary and empirical manner. The focus is on a double-comparative analysis: expert and lay perspectives on the one hand, and a cultural comparison between Germany and Israel on the other. This intercultural comparison is particularly interesting because the German regulatory and legal framework regarding new reproductive technologies is rather restrictive, whereas the Israeli regulation has proven to be extremely permissive.

The project includes two main empirical phases:

Phase 1: August 2016-January 2018: qualitative semi-structured interviews with German and Israeli experts and an archival analysis to create a cross-cultural research framework.
Phase 2: February 2018- September 2019: qualitative semi-structured interviews with users of "social egg freezing" and analysis of their internet forums.

Research Objectives:

(a) Detailed empirical analysis of time in the context of reproductive medicine.

(b) A double-comparative analysis of "social egg freezing" by two cultures as well as experts and laypersons

(c) Theorizing the temporal dimensions of connections between reproduction, labor, and gender.


Rimon-Zarfaty, N. and Schweda, M. (2019). Biological clocks, biographical schedules and generational cycles: Temporality in the ethics of assisted reproduction. Bioethica Forum, 11(4): 133-141.


  • June 2019: “Freezing for the fourth and fifth child”- The usage of social egg freezing among Israeli Jewish religious women- An intracultural perspective. Experts Symposium: Comparative and transnational perspectives on technologies of fertility preservation and extension; DMU, Leicester, UK (Invited Talk).
  • May 2019: Reproductive temporalities –A comparative analysis of time constructions among social egg freezing users in Germany and Israel. Workshop: Bioethics and Human Temporality; Oldenburg, Germany (a self-organized workshop).
  • October 2018: TIMING FERTILITY- A comparative analysis of time constructions and the social practice of egg-freezing in Germany and Israel. Stakeholders‘ conference: Social Egg Freezing-  the practice and its implications (a self-organized conference).
  • September 2018: Reproductive temporalities, gender and clinical labor–Experts’ debates on social egg-freezing in Germany and Israel. The 39th Congress of the German Sociological Association, the Georg-August-University of Göttingen, Germany (cfp).
  • July 2018: The Medicalization of reproduction, reproductive timing and the labor market- The Israeli experts’ Debate on social egg-freezing. The 19th ISA world congress, Toronto, Canada (cfp-DP).
  • June 2018: Reproductive temporalities, late motherhood and the social practice of egg freezing in Germany and Israel. The ESHMS 17th Biennial Conference, Lisbon, Portugal (cfp).
  • June 2018: Reproductive temporalities – Experts’ debates on social egg-freezing in Germany and Israel. Colloquia: Institute of History, Theory and Ethics of Medicine, University Medical Center Mainz, Germany (Invited talk).
  • February 2018: Social egg freezing and reproductive temporalities – A comparative study of experts’ debates in Germany and Israel. Colloquia: The Institute of Medical History and Science Research, Lübeck University, Germany (Invited talk).
  • October 2017: Reproductive Timing: A comparative analysis of temporality constructions and the social practice of egg freezing in Germany and Israel. Paper presented at the conference: Frozen: Social and Bioethical Aspects of Cryo-Fertility, Tel-Aviv, Israel (cfp).
  • April 2017: The Construction of Time, Timing and Planning: A comparative case study of the social practice of egg freezing in Germany and Israel. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Minerva Stiftung Fellowship Program- as the representor of fellowships’ holders, the Max Planck Society, Munich, Germany (Invited talk).
  • March 2017: TIMING FERTILITY- A Gender Sensitive Analysis of Time Constructions and the Social Practice of Egg-Freezing in Israel.  Paper presented at the conference: Politiken der Reproduktion – Politics of Reproduction, Hannover, Germany (cfp).
  • January 2017: The construction of time, timing and planning- a comparative case study of the social practice of egg freezing in Germany and Israel. Paper presented at the Department of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine Colloquium, University Medical Center Goettingen, Germany (Invited talk).

Workshops and Conferences

  • May 2019: Bioethics and Human Temporality: Perspectives from the Beginning, Middle and End of Life- An international, interdisciplinary workshop; Oldenburg, Germany (Co-organizer: Prof. Dr. Mark Schweda).
  • October 2018: Stakeholders’ Conference: Social Egg Freezing. Stakeholders’ perspectives on the practice and its implications; Tel Aviv, Israel.

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Prof. Dr. Silke Schicktanz

Prof. Dr. Silke Schicktanz

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