Page URL:

10-year limit on egg freezing is 'debilitating' for women, says former HFEA chair

28 January 2019
Appeared in BioNews 984

Fertility experts are campaigning for the UK government to review current legislation which means women who freeze their eggs must use them within ten years. After this time limit, labelled as 'arbitrary' by experts, women are required to destroy the eggs. 

Baroness Ruth Deech, who is a former chair of the fertility regulator the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, is leading a campaign to extend the ten-year limit. She met the health minister Jackie Doyle-Price last week to discuss a change to existing fertility laws.

Campaigners say that the limit means women could lose their chance to have a baby, or they may have to find a sperm donor before the ten years is up so they can freeze an embryo

'It's quite clear that the ten-year limit is arbitrary and arguably discriminatory,' said Baroness Deech. 'The cost is extortionate and the psychological pressure is debilitating. They know the eggs are going to be destroyed if they don't find a man.'

According to the campaigners, the current law has not kept pace with advances in technology. A freezing technique called vitrification was introduced a decade ago now allows eggs to be stored without deteriorating. 

Professor Emily Jackson, who specialises in medical law at the London School of Economics, and Sarah Norcross, director of the Progress Educational Trust (which publishes BioNews), joined Baroness Deech in speaking out about the ten-year limit.

'There's absolutely no biological reason for this law,' Norcross told the BBC. 'It's discriminatory against women and removing an option for them to take charge of their reproductive system.'

The number of women freezing their eggs has grown over the last decade from 300 in 2010 to 1300 in 2016. Increasing numbers of women want to preserve their chance of having a child later in life or when are in a long-term relationship. 

Women who freeze their eggs due to premature infertility, for example as a result of cancer treatment, are an exception to the ten-year rule and may have them preserved for 55 years.

In a debate on the topic last year, Conservative peer Lord James O'Shaughnessy said that any extension 'would be a significant policy change with far-reaching impacts on decisions that women make in starting families'.

Fertility experts call for ditching of UK's 10-year limit on egg freezing
The Guardian |  22 January 2019
Women's frozen eggs 'should be stored for longer'
BBC |  21 January 2019
16 December 2019 - by Dr Molly Godfrey 
Children born from IVF using frozen embryos may have a slightly higher chance of developing childhood cancers, according to a new large-scale study, though the overall risk remains low...
11 November 2019 - by Dr Catherine Hill 
The Progress Educational Trust's (PET's) #ExtendTheLimit campaign to extend the ten-year storage limit for social egg freezing gathered over 1000 signatures to its online petition in its first week...
28 October 2019 - by Dr Catherine Hill 
Increasing numbers of women in the UK are facing the stark choice of having to destroy their frozen eggs or become a mother before they are ready to do so because of an outdated law...
10 June 2019 - by Jen Willows 
A bill that aims to extend the time limit that eggs and sperm can be kept frozen has been introduced in the UK's House of Lords…
18 March 2019 - by Martha Henriques 
A group of women is bringing the UK's first legal challenge to the ten-year limit on preserving frozen eggs...
13 August 2018 - by Dr Sam Sherratt 
Women who freeze their eggs for social reasons need to be better informed about the potential difficulties of the process, experts from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have warned...
9 July 2018 - by Georgia Everett 
Women are more likely to freeze their eggs due to a lack of a stable partner, rather than for career planning, according to a new study...
23 April 2018 - by Professor Joyce Harper, Dr Kylie Baldwin, Dr Lucy Van de Wiel and Professor Jacky Boivin 
In the UK, the storage limit for eggs frozen for social reasons is currently limited to ten years: too short for healthy young women wanting to preserve their opportunities to conceive later in life...
12 September 2016 - by Dr Rachel Montgomery 
Following the increase in 'social' egg freezing, the ten-year time limit on the storage of human eggs should be removed, according to a leading academic at the London School of Economics....
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.