30 Sep 20
Egg freezing in the UK
This briefing note provides an overview of key policy, social, and ethical issues around egg freezing and social egg freezing.
The Government’s new policy would offer people the option of keeping or disposing of their eggs at 10-year intervals, for a maximum storage period of 55 years. At present, this option is only available to people who egg freezing for medical reasons. People who freeze their eggs for ‘social’ purposes can only store their eggs for up to 10 years, after which time they must be used or destroyed.
People who are worried about their declining fertility might opt for egg freezing for a range of ‘social’ reasons: primary among these is not being in a suitable relationship, though other life circumstances may also play a role. This is widely known as ‘social’ egg freezing. Some women choose to freeze their eggs for medical purposes, including if they need treatment that affects fertility such as chemotherapy.
Last year, we published a briefing note which concluded that there are few arguments against increasing ‘social’ egg freezing storage limits.
Commenting on the change, Danielle Hamm, Director of the Nuffield Council, said:
“The Government’s decision to extend storage time limits for people who freeze their eggs reflects the fact that there are few reasons to keep the current system in place. We are delighted that it has seen fit to shift its stance on this important question of reproductive health.”
There has been significant growth in egg freezing cycles in recent years: in the last 10 years, there has been a tenfold increase from just under 230 cycles in 2009 to 2,400 cycles in 2019.
However, our briefing note highlighted that egg freezing success rates can be measured in a variety of ways that can be difficult for people to navigate. There is a pressing need for data to be presented clearly, accessibly, and transparently to help people make informed reproductive choices.
Some companies are starting to offer egg freezing treatments as an employee benefit. It has been described as both a bribe for the ‘best years’ of a woman’s life, and a benefit that is unlikely to extend to low-wage workers. Our briefing note also concluded that if more UK companies start to offer social egg freezing as an employment benefit, women’s experiences should be a focus of research.
Read our briefing note: 'Egg freezing in the UK'.