Leading doctors back egg freezing extension

Medics back calls for egg freezing extension Credit: PA

Leading doctors have backed calls for extending the time women can freeze their eggs to delay having a baby.

Earlier this month, the Government said it was considering extending the limit for how long frozen eggs, sperm and embryos can be stored for.

Currently, the storage period is a maximum of 10 years, after which families must decide whether to undergo fertility treatment or have their eggs, sperm and embryos destroyed.

But leading doctors said this limit is “too restrictive and not fit for purpose”.

A new paper from the Royal College of Obstetricians (RCOG) concludes that frozen eggs can be stored indefinitely without deterioration, due to a new freezing technique.

Experts from the RCOG and The British Fertility Society (BFS) said that the current 10 year limit may encourage women to defer freezing her eggs until later in life, when the quality of the eggs will have deteriorated.

The bodies have called for a change in the law which governs the storage limit for frozen eggs for non-medical reasons.

RCOG spokesman Adam Balen, professor of reproductive medicine and surgery, said: “Currently, the 10-year limit is too restrictive and not fit for purpose because it means women are either forced to initiate a pregnancy they may not be ready for, or have their eggs destroyed.

“The RCOG fully supports calls to remove this restriction and will work with the government and other key partners to find a solution to any storage issues that would be better for women.”

Dr Jane Stewart, chair of The British Fertility Society, added: “The 10-year limit is arbitrary and can be extended for those people who froze eggs for medical reasons. There is no scientific or medical reason why eggs frozen for social reasons couldn’t be kept for longer too.

“As a sector, we want to offer all the support we can to our patients. Family planning is changing and many people choose to have children later in life. We wish to ensure that those who want to have a baby have the best possible chance of success.”

The bodies said that data from 2016 shows that 18% of IVF treatments using a woman’s own frozen eggs were successful. The live birth rate for fresh IVF treatment in the same period was 26%.

The number of women freezing their eggs has soared by 257% since 2012, with 1,462 egg freezing cycles in 2017 compared to 410 in 2012, while freezing technologies have become more advanced.

Both men and women may freeze their sperm and/or eggs for non-medical reasons, such as wanting to have children in future but not having a partner.

Currently, only those stored for medical reasons, such as cancer treatment, and premature infertility can be preserved for longer – up to 55 years in total.