The 10-year storage limit for freezing embryos, eggs and sperm will be replaced with a right for individuals or couples to keep them for up to a maximum of 55 years.
While being a welcome change for many, there are concerns about whether the process is affordable for all and the impact on children of much older parents. Four women around the UK share their views on the announcement.
Many people don’t start to seriously consider their fertility until they’re older and they might have lots of different reasons for having children later. Extending the limit will also be helpful for children and teenagers who have had their fertility damaged by things such as cancer treatment.
It also eases the pressure people feel to have children – so many of my female friends who don’t have children have said, ‘I wish I were a man, so that I didn’t have this pressure to get pregnant now’. I think quite a lot of us are feeling pressured to date people we wouldn’t necessarily have dated, which can lead to some not great choices.
The extension could really even things out – I know there can be a lot of prejudice towards older women having babies, but there’s not as much towards men, because it seems more natural. It would make a big difference for women to have more equality with men in that respect.
However, there need to be reforms in NHS funding for fertility treatment so this technology doesn’t unequally support rich people – I think it’s almost cruel to extend it in this way, if it’s going to exclude a large proportion of the population – knowing it’s there but not being able to afford it would be heartbreaking for many people. Ellie, 39, mental health researcher, County Durham
I’m currently pregnant with donor sperm after IVF and I’m going to be a solo mum, and I have a frozen embryo at my clinic that will be used to make a sibling for my baby, if I’m lucky. I think it’s fantastic that eggs, sperm and embryos can be frozen for longer as this will allow greater control over our fertility and family planning choices. However, I would like there to be a formal consultation with organisations that promote the voices of donor-conceived people (DCPs), as the extension would affect them more than anyone else.
The trauma and genetic bewilderment experienced by many DCPs as a result of anonymous donation is now well understood. The rights of DCPs to contact their donors as adults is already the law in the UK, but the benefits of this law are negated if the eggs and sperm can be frozen for so long. In conclusion, this is great for recipient parents like me, but it is our children that will be disadvantaged when donor gametes are used. We need to think very hard about the ethics of this. Ruth, 36, Birmingham
I froze my eggs earlier this year, and did it with the knowledge that the 10-year limit was likely to rise due to lobbying surrounding it. If that hadn’t been the case, I would have thought twice – I probably would have still done it, but it’s not a long time, given how expensive is. They tell you to do it as early as possible, when it’s most effective, but if there’s only a 10-year limit, that’s a bit pointless for many women. I’d have to make a decision to use them by the age of 42 – while that sounds like a long way off now, I’m aware it’s entirely possible that I may still not be in a position to conceive a child naturally then.
Given we have the medical technology to do this, I feel like it should just be much more normalised. There are men having kids in their 70s and 80s and that’s seen as more acceptable – women never will do that, we’re not actually talking about women having kids in their 70s, nobody wants to do that. This is about women in their 40s who are still completely capable. You’re not actually geriatric at 35 – we all know that, it’s just this hideous thing that is put on us.
The process needs to become cheaper and more accessible. I couldn’t have frozen my eggs any younger purely because of the cost – and there are lots of people for whom it won’t ever be possible. That isn’t fair – this kind of fertility treatment should be open to everyone. Hannah, 32, London
I think it’s a great thing that a one off storage will cover all the years you may wish to try for a family. I’m a doctor and I know people who have tried, failed and had to gather money again as it can be a postcode lottery of getting the treatment on the NHS. Some only have two gos and have to see their eggs destroyed. I have four kids and the joy of children is something that can’t really be vocalised. Not helping people have that joy is a real problem so I’m very much in favour of it.
The only concern I have is that I think I would have extended it for 25 or maybe 30 years. Why would I limit it? I guess it’s because I’m not particularly comfortable with having granny mothers. Grannies don’t live long enough to bring children up, but who am I to deprive someone of having children? I would have gone for 25 years, which is influenced by being a doctor, but I’m a bit ambivalent about it. I don’t think many will happen, but if a childless person is able to have one child, no matter the age, we should let them. Jill, 69, Scone, Scotland