Prospective parents will soon be allowed to store frozen eggs, sperm and embryos for up to 55 years to give them more choice over when to start a family, the health secretary has announced.
Sajid Javid confirmed that the government is planning to scrap the current 10-year storage limit, which he and medics argued can be too "restrictive".
Ministers have put forward plans to increase the statutory limit by more than five fold and say it should no longer be governed by medical need.
Under current laws, prospective parents must decide whether to undergo fertility treatment or have the cells destroyed after the allocated time period.
But under the new system, they would instead be given the option to keep or dispose of the frozen sex cells or embryos every 10 years.
ITV News's Nitya Rajan took a closer look at the cost and process behind storing frozen eggs
Research from the Royal College of Obstetricians has now suggested that frozen eggs can be stored indefinitely without deterioration, thanks to a modern freezing technique.
The proposals, which follow a public consultation launched last year, will need approval by Parliament.
Mr Javid said: “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.
“Technological breakthroughs – including in egg freezing – have changed the equation in recent years and it’s only right that this progress puts more power into the hands of potential parents.
“By making these changes, we are going to take a huge step forwards – not just for giving people greater freedom over their fertility, but for equality too.”
Additional conditions will apply around third party donors and posthumous use, with the health department saying it would be “inappropriate” for the limit to apply in all cases.
British Fertility Society chair Dr Raj Mathur welcomed the plans.
He said: “This change ensures that UK regulation is compliant with the scientific evidence about the safety of storage, and protects the ability of all our patients to make reproductive choices for themselves as individuals and couples."