The retention periods for eggs, sperm and embryos are being raised to a maximum of 55 years as part of government plans to give people more choice when starting a family.
The ministers have proposed that the legal retention period of currently 10 years should be more than fivefold and that it should no longer be based on medical necessity.
Potential parents would have the option of keeping or disposing of the frozen sex cells or embryos at 10-year intervals according to the new system.
Doctors argue that the current limit by which parents-to-be must decide whether to undergo fertility treatment or have the cells destroyed is too restrictive.
Research by the Royal College of Obstetricians has shown that thanks to modern freezing technology, frozen eggs can be stored indefinitely without deterioration.
Health Minister Sajid Javid said, “Current storage regulations can be severely restrictive for those making the important decision about starting a family, and this new legislation will help turn off the ticking clock in people’s minds.”
“Technical breakthroughs, including egg freezing, have changed the equation in recent years and it is only right that this advancement puts more power in the hands of potential parents.”
Proposals, following a public consultation launched last year, have to be approved by Parliament.
Additional conditions apply to third-party donors and posthumous use, with the health department saying it would be “inappropriate” to apply the limit in all cases.
The Chairman of the British Fertility Society, Dr. Raj Mathur, welcomed the plans, adding, “This change ensures that UK regulations are in line with scientific evidence on storage safety and protects the ability of all of our patients to make reproductive choices for themselves as individuals and couples. “
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