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COVID-19: Storage limits extended

The government has made the decision to extend the storage time limit of eggs, embryos and sperm by 2 years so that those undergoing fertility treatment during the coronavirus outbreak have more time to continue treatment.

Currently, the limit is 10 years from the date of freezing your gametes or embryos, with the exception of storage for medical reasons – which increases the limit to 55 years.

Providing reassurance

“Health Minister, Lord Bethell, has commented:

  • Many people rely on fertility treatment as their only hope to start a family and the current pandemic means some will have to put their hopes on hold.
  • We are taking steps to ensure during these extraordinary times, those that have embryos, sperm or eggs stored as part of their treatment are not unfairly caught out by the existing storage limits and have the best possible opportunity to start their family in the future.
  • I know for some people the pausing of services will be extremely worrying and we are constantly assessing when it will be appropriate to commence fertility services again while balancing the pressures of the pandemic on our NHS and workforce.

Sally Cheshire, Chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), said:

  • We welcome today’s announcement from the DHSC. We have been working together to ensure those patients who have stored sperm, eggs or embryos that are reaching the 10-year storage limit are not penalised by the current suspension of fertility treatment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • We know this is a difficult and distressing time for all patients, so this decision brings good news for those who are reaching the 10-year storage limit.  It provides them with some much-needed reassurance and most importantly gives more time to try for their much longed for family.”

The bigger picture

This is very positive news and will be welcomed by many of our patients. This also forms part of a wider issue that the government is currently looking into around the 10-year storage limit – and whether this should be raised.

With the increasing prominence of Social Egg Freezing and women starting fertility treatment in their 20s, there are arguments to suggest that preventing storage for longer than 10 years is unjust.

The government’s consultation is continuing until the 5 May and more information can be found here.

Next steps

The HFEA are continuing to monitor the situation and aim to allow as many patients to resume safe treatment as soon as possible. 

There is a clear focus on understanding what criteria need to be in place before this happens and will be agreed with the British Fertility Society (BFS) and Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists (ARCS) before any action is taken.

Fertifa can help

To echo the words of the HFEA, we recognise the distress this closure is causing any patients awaiting fertility treatment and hope that those relying on NHS funding will be allowed to continue their treatment as they expected.

The majority of our holistic wellbeing services continue to be available for all our patients – including fertility coaching and counselling. If you would like to book and appointment, drop us a message and we’ll arrange a suitable time for a video session through the Fertifa Platform.

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