Egg freezing law
Having postponed a wedding myself due to Covid and hurtling quickly towards my mid-30s, the question of fertility is ever more on my mind.
It seems I am not the only one. A poll of 400 women, conducted by Stowe Family Law, found 6 in 10 were anxious about their chances of having a family due to Covid and were contemplating a backup plan.
The most popular option for those looking to preserve their chances of having a child is egg freezing. However, with the current rules around the storage period of eggs and gametes, and the NHS only facilitating storage for medical reasons, it can be very expensive for those people who want to take steps to freeze their gametes for personal rather than medical reasons.
With the onset of the global pandemic, the usually high IVF treatment rates have plummeted with many clinics being closed. Those who have been trying to conceive for some time are also suffering with fertility tests being postponed – pushing those couples ever closer to the cut-off criteria for IVF treatment on the NHS.
Therefore, it is unsurprising that in the same study, 16% of women have abandoned their plans to have a child altogether, whilst we remain in the current climate.
Explaining egg freezing law
The current rules around egg freezing and fertility treatment favour younger women, ignoring those who have chosen to start a family later in life. I, for one, have often prioritised my career over relationships, as my fiancé can attest.
This leads me to question whether the current rules around the storage of eggs and fertility treatment are fit for purpose, in a world where anything is possible – does the law need to catch up with the modern family?
With the current storage rules, gametes are destroyed after a period of 10 years (unless a medical reason can be shown for an extension) – whilst there is a consultation currently in the works, this is a small and arguably well overdue reconsideration of the current law.
Thirty-one years ago, when the act came into force, the technology was not as effective as it is now, meaning the quality of eggs frozen long term could not be guaranteed.
However, going further than that, the storage limits, meant that ultimately the decisions about when women had a child, were effectively removed from them, as they were forced to use, or lose, their frozen eggs.
The consultation goes a way to address this, looking at extending the storage of gametes, with a focus on reproductive choices for women. It has been considered that some women may not wish to start a family in their 30s and that the law needs to change to provide more options – about time too!
Things to consider if you are thinking of about egg freezing
The first thing you must consider is the cost.
At present, unless there is a medical reason, you may not be eligible for this treatment on the NHS. However, you should check with your local Clinical Commissioning Group, as this varies between NHS trusts and has been described as a “fertility postcode lottery”.
The second thing to think about is your future plans. The current maximum storage period is ten years, so before undertaking this invasive treatment, consider when you might plan to have a child, to ensure that your eggs do not end up being destroyed.
Although the consultation concerning the timescales for storage is ongoing, it is not known when any new legislation might be bought in to force – so you must work to the current laws when making any decisions.
There are also other eventualities to consider before going ahead with egg freezing including:
- What should happen to your eggs if you were to pass away or are unable to make decisions about them yourself
- Whether the eggs are to be used for only your treatment or whether you would consider donation
- Any other conditions you might have for the use of your eggs
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