The government has announced plans to increase the storage limit on frozen eggs, sperm and embryos from 10 years to 55. The initiative is aimed at giving people more choice over when to start a family, and remove the pressure associated with 'ticking clocks.'
The decision to increase the storage limit follows new research from the Royal College of Obstetricians which shows modern freezing techniques mean eggs can be stored indefinitely without deteriorating.
Speaking about the current limit of 10 years, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said it's "severely restrictive."
Under the current limit, prospective parents are forced to decide whether to start fertility treatment or have the cells destroyed when their 10 years is up. However, the rule does not apply to eggs, sperm or embryos that have been stored as a result of medical procedures, such as chemotherapy.
With the new proposed 55 year limit, prospective parents will still be given the option keep or dispose of their cells every 10 years.
"This new legislation will help turn off the ticking clock in the back of people's minds," said Javid, "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."
The proposal has been praised by a number of medical professionals, including British Fertility Society chairman Dr Raj Mathur (via BBC). He said: "[the new time limit] protects the ability of all our patients to make reproductive choices for themselves as individuals and couples."
Similarly, Julia Chain, chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), told the BBC: "This will give women a lot more choice and flexibility about when they can start having their families."
HFEA explains: "A woman’s chances of conceiving naturally fall as she gets older because the quality and number of her eggs drops. Egg freezing can be an attempt to preserve fertility by freezing the eggs when the woman is young and the eggs are of the highest quality."
By freezing their eggs, women can undergo IVF (In vitro fertilisation) to try and have children in the future.
Last year, iNews reported that the number of people choosing to freeze their eggs or embryos in the UK had increased by 523% between 2013 and 2018.
Although the plan to increase the storage limit has been welcomed by medical professionals, the proposal still needs parliamentary approval to come into effect.
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