An increasing number of people in the UK are choosing it Freezing of eggs, sperm and embryos For use in their fertility treatment. Previously, the storage limit was Decade – Although extensions are allowed for people who can demonstrate a medical need (eg early infertility) up to 55 years of age.
But many felt that storage restrictions limited the options for people who freeze eggs and sperm to treat their fertility. If they cannot give a medical reason to increase the storage period, then these gametes must be destroyed after ten years.
Cryopreservation techniques, which include freezing gametes to preserve them, have also improved greatly since previous storage limits were set. Studies are now showing Eggs frozen using current preservation techniques are likely to develop in the same way as fresh eggs. Pregnancy rates from frozen embryos are also equivalent to those using fresh embryo transfer. As such, there is no longer any scientific reason to store for a maximum of ten years.
After launching a public consultation in February 2020, the government has now passed legislation to extend the storage limit for everyone (regardless of medical need) to 55 years.
After the change to the storage limit (which took effect on July 1), people will now need to give consent every ten years to continue storing gametes and embryos for use in their own fertility treatment. However, egg and sperm donors who are not seeking fertility treatment will not be required to renew consent every ten years – although they will be able to decide whether or not they want to store their donation for up to 55 years.
There are potential consequences for these new storage times for both donors and children born from donated eggs or sperm. Although donors have already been counseled to ensure they are comfortable with what they will be doing, counseling will now need to address the issues raised by the extended storage period. The most important of these is that eggs or sperm from some donors will be available for use over a much longer period than in the previous bases. Clinics’ commitment to ensuring donors fully understand the implications of their decision will become even more important with implementation of this extension of stocking times.
For example, if someone donates sperm at age 35 and their sperm has been stored for 55 years, children may be born from that donation when the donor turns 90. This also means that for children born from this person’s donation, they may have older donor siblings than their parents. People born with a donor should be aware of the possibility that the donor is someone who is very old – or already deceased – and they may have donor siblings, and possibly much older nephews and nieces.
This change occurs in context, since the law change in April 2005, the people envisioned by donors Entitled at the age of 18 To find out who the donor is.
Fertility specialists are also concerned about the speed with which these far-reaching changes take effect – leaving little time for them to prepare. Although the changes have already taken effect, there is still a need to adopt new guidelines in fertility clinics, and provide training and education for staff. Many clinics were also unable to provide updated advice for donors. This is necessary to ensure that everyone fully understands what they are agreeing with.
It is also important to ensure that people who seek fertility treatment with donated eggs and sperm are fully aware of the effects that changes to storage limits can have when starting a family in this way. although European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology Information is already available on what to consider when donating or accessing fertility treatment with donated gametes, it will be important for UK fertility clinics to produce their own information that reflects changes in storage limits.
The effects of this legislative change will persist over many years. There are clearly significant benefits to extending the maximum storage period of eggs and sperm for those who need to use it in their treatment. But attention must be paid – sooner rather than later – to the implications of these changes for university donors and people who have been conceived by donors.
Caroline Redhead is a research fellow in the ConnecteDNA study at the University of Manchester’s Center for Ethics and Social Policy. Follow Caroline on Twitter @cabr88
He is a Reader in Human Reproductive Biology at the University of Birmingham.
He works as a reader in bioethics at the University of Manchester.