NSW Health Has Extended Storage Limits On Frozen Embryos To Take The Pressure Off IVF Parents

Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty.

Patients hoping to conceive through In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) are now free to store their frozen embryos for as long as needed thanks to a legislative change by NSW health.

Under the old laws patients only had 10-years to use stored frozen embryos created using donor sperm – that’s 10 years from when sperm was donated, not when the embryo was created.

Not only did this put undue pressure on parents but many IVF users were unaware of the time limit.

Professor Jenni Millbank from the University of Technology, Sydney, who led the country’s first study into the legislation and policies surrounding IVF, writes for The Conversation: “More than 120,000 human embryos are now in storage across Australia. While the majority will be used in future IVF cycles, many thousands will never be needed, leading to difficult choices for parents. Over the past decade in Victoria alone, over 20,000 embryos were discarded as a result of mandatory storage limits set by law.

Her research has been a driver in the push to review IVF laws not only in NSW but Australia-wide.
“Law should not set blanket storage periods that enforce destruction of embryos after a set period,” Millbank said.

“There’s no reason why an external body should be telling when embryos have to be destroyed. That should be the decision of the people who created them. People don’t understand that clinics are following guidelines rather than a hard and fast law.”

She also said the confusion caused a lot of heartache for patients.

“People would be halfway through their IVF cycles and the clinic was saying ‘oh no, you can’t use it’. They were incredibly distressed about it.”

IVF is used across the world to help patients overcome a range of fertility issues. For many couples, it gives them the best chance of having a baby.

Any extra embryos that are created during the IVF process, and that are not used during a treatment cycle, can be frozen and stored for the future.

According to IVF Australia, freezing embryos takes place for some 60% of all patients having the treatment, and that frozen embryo transfers account for around 50% of all IVF births.

Read more here.