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04/01/2018 12:12 GMT | Updated 04/01/2018 12:18 GMT

NHS Should Offer Transgender Men Fertility Preservation So They Can Become Parents, Advises British Fertility Society

'It is hugely frustrating that the NHS is not always able to help our patients.'

Transgender men should be offered egg storage on the NHS, the British Fertility Society (BFS) has suggested in new guidelines.

Many Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGS) don’t fund fertility preservation for transgender people, but the BFS believes they should, as transgender people have the right to become parents

Today (4 January), at the Fertility 2018 meeting in Liverpool, the BFS will present these guidelines urging the NHS to offer fertility preservation for transgender people assigned female at birth. 

“The number of people coming forward with gender dysphoria has increased rapidly over the past decade, but the consistent provision of NHS funding for fertility preservation for this group has yet to catch up,” said Dr James Barrett, of Charing Cross Hospital’s Gender Identity Clinic.

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Dr Barrett is presenting at Fertility 2018 on fertility preservation for transgender people.

“My clinic sees around half of the patients being referred for difficulties with gender identity in the UK,” he said. “Although we do discuss future fertility with them, they are not always able to self-fund for the necessary procedures and ongoing storage of material,” he said.

“Infertility is a real disease and it is hugely frustrating that the whole NHS is not always able to help our patients with that part of their lives.”

Dr Barrett explained that for transgender people, medical interventions, such as hormone treatment and surgery, may be necessary, but can reduce or destroy fertility.

However, by freezing eggs, embryos, or ovarian tissue, there is still the opportunity for transgender men to have a child who is biologically related to them, through pregnancy or surrogacy.

Commenting on the introduction of the new guidelines, Professor Adam Balen, chair of the BFS said: “There are a number of situations where the preservation of fertility is needed. This has to happen at a time before a person is ready to start a family and can sometimes be the only hope for becoming a parent in the future.

“Our guidelines are designed to help our members and the wider fertility community to decide on the best course of treatment, in consultation with these patients.”

The new guidelines also introduce the need for fertility preservation for women undergoing cancer treatment - as the medicine that cures them can also render them infertile - and genetic, congenital and other conditions that may leave a person infertile. 

In 2013 NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) updated guidance on fertility, including a recommendation that the criteria for NHS fertility treatment should not apply to women seeking fertility preservation, and that no lower age limit should be used.

In reality, the BFS said the provision of fertility preservation treatment is patchy, with local CCGs deciding on their own criteria. The same can be said for fertility treatment, for which there is a “postcode lottery” of care, it was revealed in October 2017. 

For more information on the BFS’ new guidelines, click here

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