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Plans to increase storage limits for eggs, sperm and embryos

People across the UK will have more choice over when to start a family as the government sets out plans to increase the storage limits for eggs, sperm and embryos.

Following a public consultation earlier this year, proposals will be introduced to increase the statutory storage limits for everyone from the current 10 years, to a 10 year renewable storage period up to a maximum of 55 years.

Under the new system, prospective parents will be given the option at 10-year intervals to keep or dispose of frozen eggs, sperm and embryos.

This update not only ensures greater reproductive choice and less pressured decision-making for parents thinking about when to start a family, but it will also ensure greater equality as the same rules will apply to everyone and storage limits will not be dictated by medical needs.

Health and social care secretary, Sajid Javid, said: ‘The current storage arrangements can be severely restrictive for those making the important decision about when to start a family, and this new legislation will help turn off the ticking clock in the back of people’s minds.

‘There are any number of reasons why someone may choose to preserve their fertility, and it is one of the most personal decisions any of us can make.

‘Technological breakthroughs, including in egg freezing, have changed the equation in recent years and its only right that this progress puts more power into the hands of potential parents.

‘By making these changes, we are going to take a huge step forwards – not just for giving people greater freedom over their fertility, but for equality too.’

pair of baby's pink knit shoes on bench

The proposed changes are made possible by using the latest freezing methods. Evidence shows frozen eggs can be stored indefinitely without deterioration, due to a new freezing technique called vitrification, and changes reflect the increasing success of using frozen embryos in routine IVF treatment.

It would be inappropriate for the limit to apply to all cases so there will be additional conditions around third party donors and posthumous use. This will be consulted upon separately.

Julia Chain, Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) chair, said: ‘We welcome the government’s plans to extend the storage limit for frozen eggs, sperm and embryos, bringing the law in line with advances in science, changes in modern society and individuals’ reproductive choices.

‘This is great news for patients, giving them more time to make important decisions about family planning. “Any decision to store or preserve eggs, sperm or embryos is a serious one and anyone considering this must be given full information on the procedures involved, including the best time to freeze and the likelihood of successfully using them to have a baby in future.

‘It is important that the new rules are clear and that fertility clinics are given adequate time to update their procedures to ensure they can both implement the changes effectively and give patients sufficient information so that they are fully informed about their options.’

Minister for innovation, Lord Bethell said: ‘People across the UK are starting families later in life and it is increasingly commonplace for people to choose to freeze their eggs, sperm and embryos to preserve fertility.

‘There are myriad reasons for this, such as not being ready or able to start a family or having a medical condition that can lead to premature infertility.

‘Prospective parents should not have to wrestle with time limits on their fertility choices, and this important change to storage timescales will give people more control over their future and eliminate the pressure that comes with knowing a decision has to be made within 10 years.’

Photo Credit – ?? Janko Ferli?

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