Posts Tagged ‘egg freezing’

Trends in Fertility and Family Law

Friday, January 19th, 2018

There have been a number of significant developments in UK fertility law, policy and practice in recent months and its association with family law.

On 15 December 2016 the HFEA approved the use of a new and innovative medical technique, which is known as mitochondrial donation. This could help around 15% of people affected by genetic diseases. UK fertility clinics can now apply to the HFEA for permission to use this technique in fertility treatment.

In February 2017, research from Harvard University found that women who work more than 40 hours a week may take 20 percent longer to get pregnant compared with women who work 21 – 40 hours a week. Their research found that lifting heavy loads several times a day may delay pregnancy by as much as 50 percent. It reported that physical strain lifting, 8 hours a day on your feet, working nightshifts and long hours at work may impair women’s pregnancy prospects. This prompted headlines that “female bankers are the least likely to conceive through IVF” and “women who work a lot may struggle to get pregnant”.

The spotlight then fell on UK fertility clinic practices. We read about “cash for eggs”, egg freezing, expensive “add-on” treatments and misleading sales pitches to fertility patients. Consequently, in May 2017 the HFEA investigated alleged breaches of its code of practice and announced it had taken enforcement action in September 2017.

Over the last year, women have been reminded not to be overly optimistic about getting pregnant in their late 30s and 40s. Companies like Apple and Facebook have started to offer fertility benefits including egg freezing to female employees. This has driven increased interest in egg freezing across the UK.

In May 2017, the HFEA issued a statement about egg freezing. It warned clinics to give accurate predictions about the chances of success, highlighting that data is limited and that available national data showed that the pregnancy rate is around 22% for women of all age groups.

A new style app, ‘Just A Baby’ launched in the UK in May 2017 bringing together prospective parents, co-parents, egg and sperm donors and surrogates. With potential candidates in your local area now just a swipe-away, it brings a new dimension to having a baby. Modern families and those formed through assisted conception represent more legally complex and difficult cases to manage and resolve. Deciding to start a family is a big step financially, practically, legally and emotionally. This makes it more important than ever before for modern families to have a strong legal foundation.

In September 2017 in a legal first, the English High Court awarded damages of £74,000 to a woman for surrogacy following a delay in detecting cancer in smear tests and biopsies. I gave expert evidence on fertility and family law issues in this case and it was a first-of-its kind award following complex court proceedings. It marked the meeting of medical negligence and fertility law in the UK and sparked debate about a new ‘fertility’ head of claim.

In December 2017, The Law Commission of England and Wales published its report on a 13th Programme of Law Reform. It announced it intends to review surrogacy law over the next 2-3 years to reach recommendations and potential draft legislation, taking the view surrogacy law is outdated, unclear and requires comprehensive reform.

In December 2017, the government also published a paper and draft remedial order to enable single people to apply for a parental order subject to meeting prescribed legal criteria. It is hoped this will pass into new law later this year.

Fertility law, policy and practice continues to evolve and this makes it important to understand and proactively manage the complex legal issues on a case by case basis. If you would like to learn more or discuss your situation, I can be contacted by email louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com or by telephone +44 (0)207 7886382.

Fertility treatment is on the rise in the UK

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

The latest figures released by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) show a six percent increase in the number of fertility treatments undergone in the UK  last year.

According to the HFEA’s annual report, approximately 45,200 women underwent fertility treatment in the UK in 2010, up from approximately 42,500 in 2009. The HFEA’s report also indicates that the number of fertility treatment cycles using donor eggs and donor sperm increased. The majority of women who underwent IVF treatment in the UK in 2010 were aged 37 years or under. The average age of women undergoing IVF was 35.

Fertility treatment can raise complex legal issues.  If you would like more information about the legalities surrounding fertility treatment, including IVF, donor conception and surrogacy please contact me by email louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com.

Fertility treatment, IVF, PGD and the creation of healthy embryos

Friday, November 25th, 2011

I was delighted to attend Progress Educational Trust’s 2011 annual conference entitled “The best possible start in life: the robust and responsive embryo on Wednesday 23 November 2011.  The conference featured a series of leading lectures looking at assisted conception and the ways in which the circumstances of the embryo’s early development influence not only the likelihood of successful pregnancy and birth, but also the subsequent development and health of the child and adult in later life.

The demand for IVF continues to grow despite the relatively low success rates associated with IVF treatment.  The conference investigated the reasons for the relatively low success rates and addressed what needs to be done to improve these and create healthy embryos and babies. In addition to refining medical techniques associated with fertility treatment, discussion focused on the need for greater understanding and education about the risks associated with fertility treatment, multiple pregnancies and low birth weight babies.  There were calls for further investment and research into the longer term health of those conceived through assisted reproductive techniques and a more collective approach to family building across the world.

It was also predicted that preimplantaion genetic diagnosis (PGD) will rapidly become a significant feature of fertility treatment in future, as screening costs become more affordable and increasing numbers of medical conditions can now be indentified using this technique.

For more information about fertility treatment law, donor conception and children and parenting contact me by email louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com.

Fertility, infertility and parenting: is fertility preservation for women the way forward?

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Increasing numbers of women in the UK are postponing plans to have a family. Instead, many women are prioritising a foothold on the property ladder, career progression and consolidation of their financial positions and relationships.

The average age of new mothers in the UK is now 30 years, whilst women are at their most fertile aged 20-25 years. Half of all women undergoing IVF in the UK are over 35 years and functional infertility becomes a reality for many women from around age 40.

Women can struggle to conceive later in life and their journey to parenthood can be difficult and fraught with anxiety and disappointment.  Some will also have to face the painful reality that they will never carry a successful pregnancy or have their own biological child (although surrogacy and egg donation can offer hope and can create a much wanted family when natural conception or IVF treatment using their own eggs is no longer a possibility).

As women delay having a family until later in life, this increases the numbers of only children and these offspring are themselves more likely to go on to become older mothers themselves and have only one child of their own.  This raises continued concerns about a perceived ‘generation gap’ and a shrinking UK population that has to support ever increasing numbers of retired people.

The effects of these changing social trends on women’s fertility and family building plans in the UK therefore raises important issues.  It  begs lots of questions, including should we be doing more to preserve women’s fertility and should egg freezing for women be given greater consideration in the UK?  Science and technology has moved on and there has been significant improvements in egg freezing techniques over the last three years. Spain has become particularly successful at egg freezing and thawing and in some cases can require as little as five thawed eggs to establish a pregnancy. Egg freezing avoids the creation of frozen embryos (with the ethical concerns this can raise) and can preserve a women’s ability to have a biological child of her own in future or complete her family, when her biological clock may otherwise have run out.

Women face increasingly difficult life choices in the UK, having to balance economic concerns, relationships and the constraints of their biological and fertility clock.  For growing numbers of women, having a family is perceived to be the last piece of the jigsaw and this delay may prove fatal in terms of their ability to have or complete their family naturally. Egg freezing may offer some breathing space and hope for women who may otherwise not be able to fulfill their hopes and dreams of having a family, although it raises a number of potentially sensitive issues.  Overall, there is still much to be done in the UK to raise awareness of the issues surrounding fertility (and its preservation), infertility and the importance of planning for parenthood.

For more information about fertility law, family building and parenting contact me by email louisa.ghevaert@michelmores.com.