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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'.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
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
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