Extended Storage Limits for Embryos and Gametes

Pavankumar Kamat

September 08, 2021

The Government has announced that the storage limits for eggs, sperm, and embryos will be extended to a 10-year renewable period, regardless of whether there is a medical need. With this change, couples across the UK will have more control over when to conceive.

The current statutory storage limit for gametes and embryos is 10 years. Following the public consultation in 2020 on extending the storage limits, the Government has now decided to increase it to a 10-year renewable period, up to a maximum of 55 years. 

The change will not only give greater freedom to prospective parents in making reproductive decisions but will also ensure greater equality as storage limits are no longer governed by medical need. England's Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid said in a statement: "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."

Improvements in embryo and gamete freezing techniques have made it possible to extend the storage limits. Evidence backs a new freezing technique called vitrification, which enables eggs to be frozen indefinitely without deteriorating their viability.

Additional conditions will be applicable to third-party donors and posthumous use of gametes and embryos, for which there will be a separate consultation.

Julia Chain, Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority Chair, said: "It is important that the new rules are clear and that fertility clinics are given adequate time to update their procedures to ensure they can both implement the changes effectively and give patients sufficient information so that they are fully informed about their options."

Welcoming the Government's move, Dr Edward Morris, President at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: "Egg freezing allows women to have the chance to have children at a time that’s right for them. It is also for women going through therapies, such as chemotherapy, that may decrease their fertility but who still wish to have children. We know that women have better success rates when freezing their eggs at a younger age and this new legislation will enable them to freeze their eggs until the time is right for them." 

The change has also been welcomed by other key bodies, including the British Fertility Society and the Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists.

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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