No Woman Should Ever Be Denied The Choice To Become A Mother

Clearly there is a need to reconsider the 10-year egg freezing storage limit, writes Minister of State for Care Caroline Dinenage.
It's time for the 10-year egg freezing limit to be extended.
It's time for the 10-year egg freezing limit to be extended.
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Whether or not we choose to become a parent, having a child is an individual’s fundamental human right.

As society has evolved, so too has the notion of a set timeline when a man or woman should have a baby.

There are still many questions for individuals and couples on when they will have children but ultimately, no one should have the power to dictate a person’s life choices or lambaste them for any decision they make about their own fertility.

There are several reasons why a person may choose to freeze their sperm or eggs and we must respect them.

It could be they’re going through a life-changing medical treatment, such as chemotherapy, or are living with another medical condition which may impact their chances of natural conception.

Under these circumstances, people are legally permitted to store their frozen eggs and sperm for up to 55 years.

However, things are different if someone has decided to preserve these to use at a later date for what is currently classed in the jargon as a “social” reason.

This could be because they do not want to rule out the option of having a child at some point in their life, but circumstance means they can’t become a parent at this stage.

In this situation, as the person’s choice is not deemed “medical”, current UK law dictates their frozen eggs and sperm must be discarded after ten years.

This is what I am becoming increasingly concerned by.

We know women are more likely than men to take measures to “preserve their fertility” and it worries me to think their reproductive choices may be hampered by outdated legislation, which may rob them of their chance to become a mother.

The data speaks for itself – the number of women choosing to freeze their eggs has increased by 257% in the last five years – with 1,462 egg freezing cycles in 2017 compared to 410 in 2012.

If a woman wants to preserve her eggs, the optimal time to do so is in her twenties or early thirties. If she chooses to do this at the age of 28, she has to be ready to use them before she is 38.

The current 10-year deadline can therefore leave her facing a gut-wrenching choice – become a parent before she is ready, use donor sperm to create embryos, or make the drastic and heart-breaking decision to destroy her eggs and possibly lose perhaps her only chance to have her own biological child.

No woman should ever be denied the choice to become a mother, especially when our advancements in technology mean eggs and sperm can now be stored for longer.

Clearly there is a need to reconsider this limit, and that’s why the Government has today announced our plans to consult on reviewing the existing storage limit, ensuring people’s views are fully heard. I’m confident this will make a real difference in helping us adapt and modernise existing legislation, to ultimately change people’s lives for good.

While we must remember this is an issue that affects both men and women, it is right that this consultation considers why females are disproportionately affected by the system and what we can do to level up the system.

I’m determined the current approach matches the demand of this increasingly popular fertility method.

Parenthood is a wonderful gift that we should all have the choice of should our health system allow. While adoption is a brilliant alternative for many, there is clearly an opportunity here to ensure more men and women have the choice to have a biological child for longer.

We are taking strides when it comes to driving women’s health to the top of the agenda and this symbolises the progress we are making so women’s wishes are no longer ignored – though there is still a long way to go.

Caroline Dinenage is Minister of State for Care.


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