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Extend legal time limit on frozen eggs says bioethics report

5 October 2020
Appeared in BioNews 1066

The ten-year limit on storing women's eggs frozen for non-medical reasons should be extended, according to the UK's leading bioethics body. 

The report, prepared by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics (NCOB), also recommends greater transparency around the success and limitations of using frozen eggs in fertility treatment. 

Currently, eggs frozen for medical reasons can be stored up to a maximum of 55 years. Eggs frozen for social reasons, such as not being in a suitable relationship can currently only be frozen for up to ten years.

The report, which comes in light of the Government reviewing current regulations, states that there is no good reason not to extend the current ten-year limit.

Dr John Appleby, lecturer in medical ethics at Lancaster University, said 'the UK's ten-year egg freezing rule for social egg freezing is not fit for purpose and this briefing highlights how we have very little reason for maintaining it any longer'. 

Egg freezing is increasingly popular, with a 240 percent increase in egg freezing procedures between 2013 and 2018. Sarah Norcross, director of the Progress Educational Trust, which publishes BioNews, said 'With more women than ever choosing to freeze their eggs, it is time for the law to be changed'. 

However, the report also highlights the need for better regulations for the marketing of social egg freezing services, and better data on the outcome of egg freezing procedures. 

In particular is the concern that women are targeted at prosecco-fuelled events by playing on anxieties around motherhood. There is also the worry that social media influencers and adverts do not disclose success rates, costs and risks associated with social egg freezing. A report from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) indicates that women have a one in five chance of conceiving with frozen eggs, but data is sparse and success rates decline significantly for eggs frozen from women older than 35. 

The report also indicates that transparency around the individual experience of egg freezing should be prioritised if social egg freezing is promoted as a 'gender equaliser' as part of an employment benefits package. 

'It's vital for women thinking about freezing their eggs to be able to make informed choices… [they] need clinics to be frank about the process, and about what is known and unknown about egg freezing' said Professor Frances Flinter, member of NCOB and emeritus professor of clinical genetics at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust. 

SOURCES & REFERENCES
10-year egg freezing limit should be scrapped because women feel under pressure to use them before time runs out, ethics body warns
Daily Mail |  30 September 2020
Egg freezing in the UK
Nuffield Council on Bioethics |  30 September 2020
Frozen eggs should be stored beyond UK's 10-year limit, urges ethics board
Yahoo Finance |  30 September 2020
'No reason' for egg freezing 10-year storage limit
BBC News |  30 September 2020
Scrap ten-year limit on freezing women’s eggs, say ethics advisers
The Times |  30 September 2020
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