The storage limits for eggs, sperm, and embryos will go up to 55 years under UK government plans that ministers say will enable people greater choice over when to start a family.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid explained that the current limit of 10 years was ‘severely restrictive.’ As research from the Royal College of Obstetricians has suggested, modern freezing techniques have shown that eggs can be stored indefinitely without deterioration.
At the time of writing, the plans require parliamentary approval. However, the Department for Health added that there would be extra conditions around third-party donors and the use of a person’s frozen cells after they have died.
At the moment, once the 10 years are up, prospective parents must decide whether to undergo fertility treatment or have the cells destroyed, unless samples have been stored due to medical procedures, like chemotherapy.
Under the new system, they would be given the choice to keep or dispose of the frozen cells or embryos at 10-year intervals. As Mr. Javid remarked, ‘This new legislation will help turn off the ticking clock in the back of people’s minds.’.
British Fertility Society chairman Dr Raj Mathur welcomed the plans and added that extending the time limit ‘protects the ability of all our patients to make reproductive choices for themselves as individuals and couples.’
Julia Chain, chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, also shared that the earlier a woman froze her eggs, the better the chance of a successful IVF pregnancy later.