Latest trends in family formations through UK fertility treatment

5 October 2020

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (‘HFEA’) published its latest report on 22 September 2020 called “Family formations in fertility treatment 2018”. It gives valuable insight into the creation of modern family forms in the UK and an upbeat pre-pandemic picture of fertility treatment in 2018. However, the ongoing disruption, uncertainty and loss caused by the global Covid-19 pandemic continues to unfold around us and drive unprecedented and rapid levels of change. As such, this evolving picture creates complex issues and difficulties in terms of the current and future management and navigation of fertility treatment and healthcare, as well as our ability to create and protect our families in 2020 and into the future.

Family formation treatment trends in the UK in 2018

Key trends emerging from the HFEA’s latest 2018 statistics on family formations through fertility treatment indicate:

  • Fertility treatment patients comprised: heterosexual relationships (90%), female same-sex relationships (6.4%) and single patients (3.2%).
  • The overall birth rate per embryo transferred in 2018 reached its highest ever level of 23%, having increased from 15% in 2009 (although birth rates differ between family forms).
  • IVF was used by 57% of single patients and 45% of patients in female same-sex relationships in 2018, the highest proportion recorded, while remaining treatments were DI.
  • IVF birth rates per embryo transferred were highest for patients in female same-sex relationships (31%), then patients in heterosexual relationships (23%) and then single patients (17%); differences in success rates attributed to age and infertility factors.
  • 55% of patients freezing eggs were single, followed by patients in heterosexual relationships (44%).
  • Patients thawing their own frozen eggs for treatment mainly comprised heterosexual relationships in 2018 (88%).

Future landscape of modern family building and fertility treatment

Given all that has happened in recent months, life in 2018 seems a distant memory in so many ways. Our ‘new normal’ learning to live with Covid-19 is hard and many feel overwhelmed by the loss of freedom, ongoing restrictions, economic loss and ongoing uncertainty about our health, well-being and futures.  Until we can find effective vaccines and more treatments, Covid-19 will continue to impact personal relationships, delay, restrict and make it harder to make plans for the future for ourselves, with loved-ones and for the creation of much-wanted children and families. As such, this ‘new normal’ is likely to intensify existing fertility and family trends, including:

  • More delayed and later-life parenthood.
  • Increased demand for egg, sperm and embryo freezing.
  • More demand for fertility treatment and assisted conception.
  • Greater uptake of modern and diverse family forms.
  • More pressure on personal relationships and family life.
  • Greater focus on posthumous conception.

Specialist fertility and family law advice

Undergoing fertility treatment and building modern family forms creates a range of legal and practical issues that require careful consideration and management, and never more so given the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. Specialist fertility and family law advice helps effectively navigate many complex legal and wider issues, including:

  • Legal and practical options for women with rapidly declining age-related fertility (e.g. fertility preservation and maximisation, management of existing personal relationships and implications of using donor gametes).
  • Difficulties with storage and use of frozen eggs, sperm and embryos in fertility treatment in the UK (e.g. lack of consent and expiry of storage terms).
  • Problems associated with import of frozen gametes and embryos into the UK for use in fertility treatment and surrogacy (e.g. due to anonymous and commercially obtained gametes and embryos which engage UK public policy restrictions).
  • Issues with the export of frozen gametes and embryos abroad for use in fertility treatment and surrogacy (e.g. lack of consent and storage term difficulties).
  • Unexpected death of a loved-one and issues associated with posthumous storage and use of eggs, sperm and embryos in fertility treatment (e.g. due to an accident, illness including Covid-19).
  • Legal issues and options associated with fertility preservation and maximisation.
  • Issues associated with assisted conception using frozen gametes or embryos involving a known donor, co-parent or surrogate (e.g. legal parentage and parental responsibility, financial responsibility and dispute mitigation).
  • Issues and problems associated with the care and upbringing of children following a dispute with an ex-partner, parent, donor or surrogate.

Need a fertility lawyer or a family lawyer? If you would like to discuss your situation or you require specialist fertility and family law advice and assistance please contact Louisa by email  or by telephone +44 (0)20 7965 8399.

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