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Image of an IVF test tube

The UK government has just extended the period that gametes (eggs and sperm) and embryos can be stored from ten years to 55 years. While this change will probably be welcomed by people who wish to have fertility treatment, it could have important implications for egg and sperm donors.

A growing number of people in the UK are choosing to freeze their eggs, sperm and embryos for use in their own fertility treatment. Previously, the storage limit was ten years – though extensions were permitted for people who could prove a medical need (such as premature infertility) up to 55 years.

But many felt that the storage limits restricted the choices of people who freeze eggs and sperm for their own fertility treatment. If they couldn’t give a medical reason to increase the storage period, these gametes had to be destroyed after ten years. 

Cryopreservation techniques – which involve freezing gametes to preserve them – have also improved significantly since the previous storage limits were set. Studies now show that eggs frozen using current preservation techniques are likely to... see more