Department of Health and Social Care
Storage limit for frozen eggs, sperm and embryos to be reconsidered
The government is seeking views on reviewing the current 10-year storage limit for eggs, sperm and embryos, to give more people the opportunity to start a family.
People could have their frozen eggs, sperm and embryos stored for longer, as the government yesterday launched a call for views on whether the current law to store them for 10 years should change.
Currently the storage period is limited to a maximum of 10 years, after which people must choose whether to undergo fertility treatment, or have their frozen eggs, sperm and embryos destroyed.
Only those stored for medical reasons, such as cancer treatment and premature infertility, can be preserved for longer – up to 55 years in total.
The consultation will consider whether the limit should be extended in line with significant improvements in freezing technologies.
Both men and women may choose to freeze their sperm or eggs for a variety of reasons, such as wanting to have children in future but not having a partner, or to preserve them while being treated for cancer.
The consultation will also consider arguments about whether women are disproportionately affected by the current time limit.
The number of women choosing to freeze their eggs has increased by 257% in the last 5 years. There were 1,462 egg freezing cycles in 2017 compared with 410 in 2012.
If a woman freezes her eggs in her 20s when her fertility is at its peak, she has a better chance of achieving a healthy pregnancy. However, if frozen at this age, the 10-year storage limit will expire in the woman’s 30s, which may be too early for some to start a family.
Currently, the most common age for women to freeze their eggs for treatment is 38, when the likelihood of a successful pregnancy from using these eggs is much lower.
The government will also consider:
- the safety and quality issues related to prolonged storage
- the additional demand for storage facilities that will arise if the statutory time limit is increased
Minister for Care Caroline Dinenage yesterday said:
Every person should be given the best possible opportunity to start a family, which is why it is so important that our laws reflect the latest in technological advancements.
Although this could affect any one of us, I am particularly concerned by the impact of the current law on women’s reproductive choices. A time limit can often mean women are faced with the heart-breaking decision to destroy their frozen eggs, or feel pressured to have a child before they are ready.
As the number of people seeking this storage rises, we want to hear from the public about whether the law is fair and proportionate, and ensure everyone is empowered to choose when they become parents.
Sally Cheshire CBE, Chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), yesterday said:
The HFEA welcomes the launch of the consultation on the gamete and embryo storage limits.
As the fertility regulator we have heard the voices of patients and clinicians calling for a review and extension of the current time limit for egg, embryo and sperm storage.
While any change to the 10-year storage limit would be a matter for Parliament as it requires a change in law, we believe the time is right to consider what a more appropriate storage limit could be that recognises both changes in science and in the way women are considering their fertility.
Latest News from
Department of Health and Social Care
Roll-out of 2 new rapid coronavirus tests ahead of winter04/08/2020 10:10:10
Millions of new rapid coronavirus tests will be rolled out across NHS hospitals, care homes and labs from next week.
Updates to the shielding programme on national and regional levels03/08/2020 13:10:00
Shielding guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable to be paused from 1 August across England.
Health and care workers to self-isolate on return to England from high-risk countries31/07/2020 14:25:00
Registered health and care professionals travelling to the England from high-risk countries will be required to self-isolate for 14 days, the government has confirmed.
Health and care workers to self-isolate on return to UK from high-risk countries31/07/2020 11:20:00
Registered health and care professionals travelling to the UK from high-risk countries will be required to self-isolate for 14 days, the government has confirmed.
New rules on gatherings in some parts of Northern England31/07/2020 10:30:00
Government announces changes to rules on gatherings in Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and East Lancashire after increase in COVID-19 cases
Statement from the UK Chief Medical Officers on extension of self-isolation period: 30 July 202031/07/2020 10:10:10
The self-isolation period has been extended to 10 days for those in the community who have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms or a positive test result.
NHS Test and Trace launches campaign to encourage everyone with symptoms to get a free test30/07/2020 15:10:00
NHS Test and Trace will launch the new campaign alongside a new business plan to expand testing capacity and prepare the nation for winter.
The future of healthcare30/07/2020 14:43:00
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock spoke at the Royal College of Physicians about the future of healthcare.
NHS recovery to put staff wellbeing at its heart30/07/2020 12:33:00
The Health Secretary welcomes the launch of the new NHS People Plan as he launches a new bureaucracy-busting drive so staff can spend less time on paperwork and more time with patients.