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Egg freezing ten year limit to be extended

6 September 2021
Appeared in BioNews 1111

The UK Government has announced that the ten-year limit on storing frozen eggs, sperm and embryos will be scrapped.

The current limit of ten years applies to most frozen embryos and gametes and will be replaced by storage periods that can be renewed every ten years up to a maximum of 55 years.

Health minister 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.'

The current law allows eggs, sperm or embryos belonging to patients who are judged to be 'prematurely infertile' or likely to become so – such as people freezing eggs or sperm prior to cancer treatment – to be kept for up to 55 years. The proposed legislation would do away with this distinction between those who are and are not 'prematurely infertile' and treat all patients equally.

Every ten years patients will be given the choice to continue with storage, or to donate or dispose of their gametes or embryos.

'Technological advances mean that storage of reproductive material is a safe and effective way of protecting fertility for many individuals,' said Dr Raj Mathur, chair of the British Fertility Society. 'This change ensures that UK regulation is compliant with the scientific evidence about the safety of storage, and protects the ability of all our patients to make reproductive choices for themselves as individuals and couples.'

The Progress Educational Trust (PET) – the charity that publishes BioNews – launched its #ExtendTheLimit campaign in 2019, asking Parliament to address the law on egg freezing time limits (see BioNews 1022).

'We are delighted that the Government has seen fit to make the changes we campaigned for,' said PET's director Sarah Norcross. 'Extending the ten-year storage limit on social egg freezing will enable the exercise of reproductive choice, freeing women from the constraints of an outdated, discriminatory and unscientific law, and the threat of having their eggs destroyed against their will or being forced to become a mother before they are ready to do so.'

The change will require new legislation, and so when it becomes law will be dependent on the Parliamentary schedule. However, all patients with frozen gametes or embryos have already been given a two-year extension, due to the disruption to fertility services during the COVID-19 pandemic (see BioNews 1044).

Frozen eggs and sperm storage limit increased to 55 years
BBC News |  6 September 2021
Gamete (egg, sperm) and embryo storage limits: response to consultation
Department of Health and Social Care |  6 September 2021
Government consultation response on statutory storage limits for gametes and embryos
UK Parliament |  6 September 2021
Prospective parents given more choice over when to start a family
Department of Health and Social Care |  6 September 2021
23 May 2022 - by Tsvetana Stoilova 
'Freezing fertility' is a documentary by the Dutch broadcaster VPRO, which delves into the opinions and policies on egg cell freezing around the world...
21 February 2022 - by Farah Alam 
While headlines have focused on the growing demand for egg freezing among women during and following the pandemic, there has been little focus on the cost of this procedure...
1 November 2021 - by Dr Alexis Heng Boon Chin 
Unlike in the West, many Asian countries adopt conservative and traditionalist policies towards motherhood and female reproduction...
25 October 2021 - by BioNews 
This film documents a Progress Educational Trust event about the future of egg freezing, in light of the UK Government's announcement that it intends to extend gamete and embryo storage limits...
4 October 2021 - by Eleri Williams 
To the relief of many patients and those working in the IVF sector, the Department of Health and Social Care announced on 6 September 2021 that the storage limit for embryos and gametes would be extended from ten years to a maximum of 55 years with a renewal every ten-years...
11 May 2020 - by Sarah Norcross 
In addition to continuing with its #ExtendTheLimit campaign, PET has developed ten key principles on egg, sperm embryo storage which have informed its response to the UK government's consultation on this area...
27 April 2020 - by Dr Catherine Hill 
The Government has announced a two-year storage extension for eggs, sperm and embryos to give people extra time to access fertility services, whilst the UK tackles the coronavirus pandemic...
4 November 2019 - by Georgia Everett 
The Progress Educational Trust (PET) has launched its #ExtendTheLimit campaign, asking the UK public to sign an online petition requiring Parliament to address the law on egg freezing time limits...
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...
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