The UK’s HFEA reports a rapid uptake of freezing eggs and embryos

Just last week, the UK’s HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) released their latest report, entitled Fertility Treatment 2018: Trends and Figures 

The latest figures show that egg and embryo freezing cycles in the UK have increased fivefold since 2013

In 2013, just 1500 freezing cycles occurred. This increased by a staggering 523% in 2018, representing just under 9,000 frozen cycles in that year alone.

This demonstrates a rapid uptake of egg and embryo freezing in the UK over the past decade, allowing people to maximise their fertility and start a family on their own terms

It also marks an increase in people donating eggs, sperm or embryos for others to use for fertility treatments.

This report reflects the vast improvements in freezing techniques, and more widespread acceptance of fertility treatments in general.

Owing to an increase in freezing technology, most patients undergo a fresh embryo transfer in their first IVF cycle, and the remaining embryos are then frozen for future frozen embryo transfers, if necessary

More patients are also choosing to freeze their embryos and undergo frozen embryo transfers as their first choice. This has marked an 11% decrease in fresh embryo transfers between 2013 and 2018. In contrast, the number of frozen embryo transfers have nearly doubled, representing 38% of all British IVF cycles in 2018.

Laws around fertility treatments

The report points out that there are a wide array of practical and legal issues surrounding the freezing of human gametes (eggs and sperm) and fertilised embryos. These include the following:

  • Legal issues around financial responsibility, dispute mitigation, and legal parentage that arise with using frozen gametes or embryos from a known donor, co-parent or surrogate.
  • Issues for older women who are facing rapidly declining fertility, including implications on personal relationships and personal feelings around using donor gametes.
  • Legal issues for individuals who wish to preserve and maximise their fertility options due to a cancer diagnosis, illness, or gender reassignment treatments.
  • Restrictions around consent and expiry dates when storing and using frozen eggs, sperm and embryos. The UK currently has a ten year limit on the frozen storage of gametes and embryos.
  • Legal issues associated with importing and/or exporting frozen gametes and embryos to or from the UK for the purpose of surrogacy or fertility treatments.
  • What to do in the event of the death of a loved one who has eggs, sperm or embryos in frozen storage. Who has the rights to use this genetic material?

If you have questions or concerns about any of the legal issues listed above, you need to reach out to a lawyer who specialises in fertility issues

Don’t try to handle the issue on your own – you need a specialist who can help you parse the legal system and HFEA regulations.

Have you used frozen embryos or gametes in an IVF treatment? If so, what was your experience? Do you currently have any embryos or gametes in frozen storage? Share your experiences with us at or on social media @ivfbabble

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