In an attempt to encourage a work and life balance and close its embarrassing gender pay gap, which reaches to 50,6 per cent, Goldman Sachs launched its new benefit scheme for its employees earlier this month—a fund of $20,000 (£15,400) to cover the costs of extracting or purchasing donated eggs for prospect parents.
This is not the first time a company announces a scheme of that nature. In 2014, tech-titans Apple and Facebook made headlines when they announced that they would include the option of egg freezing among their work benefits. Goldman’s ‘Pathways to parenthood’ project also includes delivering mothers’ breast milk to their children should they have to be away for work, and offers emergency nannies to look after unwell children.
While the efforts of a company of monstrous power to close gender pay gaps should not be dismissed, the reality is that it won’t solve mothers’ problems and maintain a work and life balance. Rather, it will only increase their time spent at work by preventing women from being there for their families or even being present to in order to create one.
Egg freezing is a method of fertility preservation. Some women wish to freeze their eggs for medical reasons, such as cancer or any other illness that may trigger early menopause (in that case the process of egg freezing can be funded by NHS). Alternatively, other women go for ‘social egg freezing’, referring to women who wish to conceive at an older age due to career or high-risk career jobs (such as working in the army) or women who have yet to start hormone therapy when wishing to go through a sex change.
“The process overall lasts 12 to 40 days, beginning with the woman’s circle,” explained Suvir Venkataraman, the general manager at Harley Street Fertility Clinic in London. The ovaries are hyperstimulated with hormone injections in order to produce more than a single egg (which is usually produced in one menstrual circle). The eggs are then retrieved with a needle via a low-risk surgical procedure, individually fast-frozen via a method called vitrification, and placed in liquid nitrogen until needed. The eggs can usually be stored for up to ten years.
“The treatment costs £3,500 but the medicine can cost from £600 to £1,800 depending on the patient. Overall we’re issuing a cost of £4,000 to £5,500 per circle,” says Venkataraman. On top of the costs, you will need to undergo the procedure to fertilise the eggs (called ICSI) and factor in the potential of more circles needed in order to bank 10 to 20 eggs for a successful outcome, as only a small percentage of eggs are mature and capable of being fertilised. The success rate? “In the past, the survival rate of frozen eggs was 30 per cent now its 90 per cent,” shares Venkataraman.
It’s hard to give a definite answer, however, as only 2,000 babies have been born worldwide from frozen eggs, 700 of them in the UK, according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). In 2017, only 19 per cent of IVF treatments using the patient’s own frozen eggs were successful. Furthermore, regardless of the condition of the fertile eggs themselves, older patients are at an increased risk for miscarriages and pregnancy-related complications.
Freezing fresh embryos (either from a donor or the patient’s partner), on the other hand, has a higher success rate, as embryos are not affected by the length of time they are frozen for. The process has helped prospect parents, and Hannah Selinger was one of the patients who had frozen her eggs, too. Sellinger spent $17,000 and claims that she regretted the whole process. She conceived naturally and, sardonically, during her pregnancy had found out that her eggs were destroyed. The reason was a lapse in communication, as she didn’t receive the egg-rent reminders due to her moving to a new place.
Discussing Goldman Sachs’s scheme, Sellinger said that despite her experience she isn’t against egg freezing, and that she believes the problem lies elsewhere. “I think the real problem is to care about mothers, make sure that that mothers take six months to a year off, and that should be the case for paternity leave, too. It would be wiser for my government to move into that direction rather than ban abortions, I am only able to have children cause my husband makes enough money from me to do what I do.”
While Venkataraman claims, “It’s really nice that we can help someone, because it means that they’ll do as they please. Because we all live longer, our quality of life is better, we are able to stretch our biological clock and egg freezing allows women to do that with fertility as well. It’s a great option but I don’t think the socio-political system should force someone to do it.” If you wish to freeze your eggs, feel free to do it. But don’t do it because your company told you to, because your company won’t care about you—it will care about the money you’re making.
Scrolling through Goop, I can’t help but roll my eyes at the coconut flavoured floss that’s supposed to transform your daily dental experience. The same applies to turmeric lattes, mushroom matcha coffee, and a stone diffuser for your crystals. It’s fair to say I’m somewhat of a sceptic to the majority of what wellness offers and to whom. Yet with organic and sustainable menstrual cups, ‘period pants’ that soak up 8 hours of blood, the wellness industry has moved to our nether regions and is finally trying to make our monthly bodily trials a fair bit easier.
Meet Daye, a female-owned and led sustainable CBD-infused and 100 percent cotton tampon company that is in sync with your cycle and delivers to your letterbox. It sounds like the epitome of millennial convenience, with a pro-feminine lens on what women and non-binary people need. Screen Shot spoke with Valentina Milanova, the founder of Daye, about what inclusivity, CBD and wellness should look like for the majority.
“Daye started when I got my first period, at nine years old. No one had sat me down and explained what the menstrual cycle was, so when I started bleeding I thought I had a rare and shameful disease”, recalls Milanova. After hiding it for a year until she was taken to the emergency room by her father, who suspected something was wrong, her early experience of shame cemented her interest in calling to dismantle the taboos surrounding female health.
Reading research papers and anything she could get her hands on, Milanova discovered industrial hemp and in her words, “had a Eureka moment”. The fibres of the hemp plant are more absorbent than traditional cotton tampons, plus the extract from the flower are pain-relieving and thus help women who suffer from painful menstrual cramps.
Launching with two products—naked tampons and ultra-soothing CBD-infused tampons—the main question on everyone’s mind is: do they really work? Or is it no different than popping into Boots for a pack of Tampax and Paracetamol? “All our tampons are made from sustainably-sourced cotton fibres that are batch tested for cleanliness and pesticides”, explains Milanova. Keen on making sure there is no bacterial residue (seeing as tampons are not considered medical devices the regulation of feminine hygiene products are lax), Daye ran a microbiological analysis on various mainstream and organic tampons and found them bacterially contaminated. Tampon manufacturers aren’t even legally obliged to disclose the ingredients of their product.
Daye tampons also use a cotton protective sleeve that covers the whole tampon and prevents fibre loss so there is a smaller chance of Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) and Toxic Shock Syndrom (TSS) happening. Yet when it comes to any CBD-infused wellness products, many medical experts have rejected the use of CBD as its thought that only a high dosage of the ingredient is needed to have any kind of a palpable effect.
Daye’s CBD infused tampons have 150mg of 30 percent concentration of CBD, with the THC extracted. “Since they’re administered vaginally they have a much higher bioavailability than if the compound were administered orally”, explains Milanova. “If you were to ingest CBD, the compound would have to go through your digestive tract and be metabolised before reaching your bloodstream, so your gut and liver take a huge chunk”.
When asking what the results showed, Milanova has stated some women felt their cramps subside after 15 minutes and some after an hour. Have I mentioned that all packaging is biodegradable, sustainably sourced, compostable, and water-soluble too?
Is Daye helping women? Tick. The planet? Tick. Heightening our expectations for menstrual products? Tick. What about inclusivity? When heading to the brand’s website, there is a glossary of terms explaining everything from ‘period poverty’ and LGBTQI+ to burnout and pelvic inflammatory disease. Daye also has its own platform for women’s health called Vitals where conversation and transparency around its research will be audio-recorded and published.
Daye, therefore, looks like it’s made for women. That said, as cultural practises and lack of sanitary aid has meant pads and cloths are more familiar in the east, making tampons significantly more common in the west , what kind of woman is the company targeting?
Founder Milanova says plainly, “We don’t want to force tampons on anyone. We’re simply here to raise the standards in period care and upgrade the tampon, a product that has been overlooked for way too long”. Raising standards in female health and bridging the gender gap in medical innovation seems to be the intention behind Daye.
Daye plans on manufacturing locally in places like China and India, where femcare is almost non-existent. The brand’s micro-monetisation in these areas could result in local commerce and entrepreneurship for women, because it’s crucial that women get invested in helping other women. CBD-infused tampons are just the beginning.