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Coronavirus Regulations for the Storage of Gametes and Embryos

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Statutory Storage Period for Embryos and Gametes) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 (Coronavirus Regulations) will come into force on 1st July 2020. These new regulations have been introduced because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on fertility patients with gametes and embryos in storage. However, they will not apply to all patients with stored eggs, sperm and embryos.

Whilst the Coronavirus Regulations will enable some fertility patients to extend the storage period of their gametes and embryos from 10 to 12 years, they will not apply to everyone. Only patients who have gametes or embryos in storage at UK licensed premises on 1 July 2020 will be eligible to extend their storage term from 10 to 12 years. The person who provided the gametes or the persons whose eggs and sperm were used to create the embryos must also have consented in writing to the gametes or embryos being stored for at least 12 years. Their written consent can be provided before, on or after 1 July 2020. The Coronavirus Regulations enable a one-off extension from 10 to 12 years. After that, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Statutory Storage Periods for Embryos and Gametes) Regulations 2009 (2009 Regulations) will continue to apply enabling extensions of storage of up to 10 years in cases of premature infertility.

However, patients who store gametes and embryos after 1 July 2020 will only be able to consent to storage for up to 10 years and will not be entitled to consent to storage for 12 years under the Coronavirus Regulations.

Fertility Treatment Law issues

Notwithstanding the assistance and breathing space offered by the Coronavirus Regulations, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic continues to create a variety of legal and wider issues for those seeking to undertake fertility treatment and assisted conception, including:

  • Problems for women facing rapidly declining age-related fertility and loss of opportunity of fertility treatment and conception.
  • Difficulties with storage and use of frozen eggs, sperm and embryos in fertility treatment.
  • Issues associated with import of gametes and embryos into the UK for use in fertility treatment and surrogacy.
  • Issues associated with the export of gametes and embryos abroad for use in fertility treatment and surrogacy.
  • Unexpected death of a loved-one and related issues associated with posthumous storage and use of eggs, sperm and embryos in fertility treatment.
  • Greater focus on the options and legal issues associated with fertility preservation and maximisation.
  • Uncertainty around availability of egg and sperm donors and surrogates.
  • Delays in medical diagnosis and consequent treatment and associated impact on individual fertility.

If you would like to discuss your situation or you require specialist fertility and family law advice and assistance please contact Louisa by email louisa@louisaghevaertassociates.co.uk  or by telephone +44 (0)20 7965 8399.

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