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Consent to treatment and storage

Before treatment can take place, you are required by law to give your informed written consent to ensure your sperm, eggs, embryos are used and stored in a way that you are happy with. Find out more about why giving consent is so important and the different types of consent.

Why is consent to treatment and storage so important?

If consent to treatment or storage is not properly given it could have serious implications for how your embryos, eggs or sperm are used and stored, and in some cases, who is considered to be a legal parent of your child.

Mistakes with consent to treatment or storage have, for example, led to embryos, eggs or sperm being destroyed because proper consent to storage wasn’t given.

If you’re having treatment with donated sperm or embryos and you’re not married or in a civil partnership with your partner, giving consent to who will be your child’s legal parent is vital. Problems with legal parenthood consent have led to couples having to go to court after their child is born so that legal parenthood can be declared.

It is an essential part of your treatment and, together with your clinic, you should make sure you fully understand all the issues before giving your consent.

What are the different consent forms I might be asked to sign?

Some of the areas where you may need to give consent include:

  • how long to store your eggs, sperm or embryos
  • the type of treatment you have, including donation
  • use and storage of your sperm, eggs or embryos for training purposes
  • who will be the legal parent of a child born if you are using donated eggs, sperm or embryos and you're not married or in a civil partnership with your partner
  • what will happen to your eggs, sperm or embryos if you die
  • what will happen to your eggs, sperm or embryos if you lose the ability to decide for yourself (become mentally incapacitated)
  • how your personal information can be used.

Your clinic has a responsibility to ensure you completely understand your treatment and the implications of your decisions. They should also offer you counselling before you give your consent.

Consent to fertility treatment and storage of your sperm, eggs and/or embryos

Before treatment can take place, you are required by law to give your informed written consent if you want your sperm, eggs or embryos to be used or stored (eg, for IVF or ICSI treatment). If you are storing your eggs, sperm or embryos, you must state in writing on a HFEA consent form how long you consent to them being stored.

Only the egg or sperm provider has legal rights over the use or storage of their egg or sperm, or embryos created with their eggs or sperm. Please speak to your clinic for more information about this.

You are also legally required to record what you would like to happen to your eggs, sperm or embryos if you were to die or lose the ability to decide for yourself (become mentally incapacitated). While this is perhaps not something you have considered, if you have a partner but do not record your consent on the appropriate form, in the event that you die or become mentally incapacitated, your partner would not be able to use your eggs or embryos in their own treatment or in treatment with a surrogate. If a surrogate is required further screening is also required. If you are unsure of anything or need further information about treatment options in the event of your death or mental incapacity, you should speak to your clinic.

It’s important that before you complete and sign any forms, your clinic has clearly explained to you what your treatment involves, and that you are entitled to receive counselling.

How long can I store my eggs, sperm or embryos for use in treatment?

If your eggs, sperm or embryos are not used immediately in treatment, you may wish to store your eggs, sperm or embryos so they can be used for treatment in the future. To be stored, eggs, sperm or embryos are frozen. You will need to think about how far in the future you might want or be able to use stored eggs, sperm or embryos and the potential costs of storing. This is something you should discuss with your clinic.

If you are storing embryos, you should be aware that embryos can only be stored if both you and the egg or sperm provider have given consent. This may be your partner or may be the donor (if donated eggs or sperm have been used in your treatment).

On 1 July 2022, the rules on how long you can store your eggs, sperm or embryos changed. Before 1 July 2022 most people could usually only store their eggs, sperm or embryos for up to 10 years. Only if they had premature infertility or were going to be having medical treatment which could affect their fertility, could they store for up to 55 years.

The law now permits you to store your eggs, sperm or embryos for use in treatment for any period up to a maximum of 55 years from the date that the eggs, sperm or embryos are first placed in storage. However, crucially for storage to lawfully continue you will need to renew your consent every 10 years. You must give your consent on the relevant consent form. You will be contacted by your clinic with relevant information and they should also provide you an offer of counselling before you give consent to storage of your embryos. Your clinic will contact you and provide the consent forms that you need to complete at the appropriate time. It is therefore essential that you keep your contact details up to date with your clinic as you will need to be contacted. If your clinic is unable to contact you your eggs, sperm or embryos will be at risk of being removed from storage and disposed of.

You don’t have to match the length of storage to any contract for paying for the storage (whether you, or the NHS, is paying). However, if you don’t pay for storage as agreed, the clinic may be within its right to dispose your eggs, sperm or embryos. Your clinic should have explained this to your clearly when you stored your eggs, sperm or embryos.

What happens if I do not renew my consent to storage at the appropriate time?

If you do not renew your consent to storage your eggs, sperm or embryos will be removed from storage and disposed of when they no longer can be lawfully stored, so it’s really important you keep your clinic informed of any change to your contact details so they can let you know when your consent to storage needs to be renewed.

If you do not wish to renew your consent to storage or to continue storing your eggs, sperm or embryos at any time, then you can withdraw your consent to storage. You will need to contact your clinic and complete the relevant withdrawal of consent form. At this point you may wish to consider donating theggs, sperm or embryos that you do not wish to use for your own treatment for training purposes, or for use in someone else’s treatment. You would need to discuss this with your clinic and provide the additional consents where relevant. You can also consider donating your sperm, eggs or embryos for use in research, helping to increase knowledge about diseases and serious illnesses and potentially develop new treatments. Your clinic will need to give you more information about this and advise you whether this is an option for you.

Can I withdraw my consent to treatment?

Yes you can, providing your eggs, sperm and embryos haven’t already been used in treatment. Even if you’ve already created an embryo, you can withdraw your consent at any point up until it’s transferred to the womb.

Your partner or donor can also change or withdraw their consent at any time until their eggs, sperm or embryos have been used in treatment. If that happens, you wouldn’t be able to continue with treatment, even if the embryos have been jointly created with your eggs or sperm.

At this point you may wish to consider donating the eggs, sperm or embryos that you do not wish to use for your own treatment to training or for use in someone else’s treatment. You would need to discuss this with your clinic and provide the additional consents where relevant.

You can also consider donating your embryos for use in research, helping to increase knowledge about diseases and serious illnesses and potentially develop new treatments. Your clinic will need to give you more information about this and advise you whether this is an option for you.

I stored my eggs, sperm or embryos before 1 July 2022, what should I do?

If you stored your eggs, sperm or embryos before 1 July 2022 for up to 10 years but would like to store for longer (up to a maximum of 55 years from the date that the eggs, sperm or embryos are first placed in storage), you should contact your clinic to discuss whether this is possible and complete additional consent forms where necessary.

If you previously consented to store your eggs, sperm or embryos for longer than 10 years (up to a maximum of 55 years) because you are prematurely infertile or likely to become prematurely infertile you should contact your clinic as soon as possible as consent will now have to be renewed at each 10 years. You will need to complete additional consent forms in order for your clinic to legally continue to store your eggs, sperm or embryos (even if the clinic are still storing your eggs, sperm or embryos within the consent period you originally specified). Your clinic will know the date when you must complete and return the relevant consent form for storage to continue. If you do not renew your consent the eggs, sperm or embryos will be removed from storage and disposed of.

Keep your contact details up to date

Make sure you tell your clinic if any of your contact details change. Because your clinic needs to contact you about your consent to storage, you should always inform your clinic if your contact details change or if your circumstances change (eg, in the event of separation from your named partner). If your clinic is unable to contact you to obtain your consent, then your embryos will be removed from storage and disposed of when they can no longer be lawfully stored.

Consent to use of your eggs, sperm or embryos in training

During treatment, you may have eggs, sperm or embryos that you do not wish to use (for example, because the eggs or embryos are not needed, or are not suitable, for treatment). You can consent to your eggs, sperm or embryos being used and stored for potential use by designated healthcare professionals to practice the techniques involved in fertility treatment on the relevant HFEA consent form. The decision to consent to your eggs, sperm or embryos being used for training purposes will not affect your treatment in any way. Your clinic should give you information about the use of your eggs, sperm or embryos in training and an offer of counselling before you give your consent to this.

If you give your consent to storing your eggs or sperm for training purposes, your clinic may store your eggs or sperm for these purposes for up to 55 years from the date that your eggs or sperm are first placed in storage.

If you give your consent to storing your embryos for training purposes, your clinic may store your embryos for these purposes for a maximum of 10 years from the date that you give consent on this form. This period cannot be extended.

What if I want my eggs, sperm or embryos to be used and stored after my death or in the event of my mental incapacity?

If you want your eggs, sperm or embryos to be used and stored after death, you’ll need to have given all the appropriate consents for this. You should speak to your clinic as this can be quite a complicated area.

For example, if in the event of your death or mental incapacity you would like your partner to be able to use your eggs, sperm or embryos in their own treatment or with a surrogate, your partner must be named on the relevant consent form. If a surrogacy arrangement would be required, you will need to receive relevant information, be offered counselling, undergo further screening tests and complete additional consent forms before you die. It is therefore vitally important that you and your clinic discuss posthumous use and the different treatment options in those circumstances. Please ask your clinic about this.

How long can my eggs, sperm or embryos be used and stored for in the event of my death?

If you consent to your eggs, sperm or embryos being used for treatment after your death, the law permits your eggs or embryos to be stored for your named partner’s use for up to 10 years from the date of your death. You must consent to both use and storage of your eggs or embryos continuing after death. This storage period cannot be extended. You can consent to storage and use for a shorter period than 10 years after your death if you wish on the relevant consent form.

If your named partner does not use your eggs or sperm within this 10 year period, then 10 years after your death, your clinic will be required to remove all your eggs or sperm from storage and dispose of them.

If your named partner does not use your embryos, whether created before or after your death, within this 10 year period, then 10 years and 6 months after your death, your clinic will be required to remove all your embryos from storage and dispose of them.

Your embryos can only be used and stored during this 10 year period if there is also effective consent for use and storage from the egg or sperm provider.

In the event of your death, you may have eggs or embryos that your named partner does not want to use (for example, because the eggs or embryos are not needed, or are not suitable, for treatment). You can consent to your eggs, sperm or embryos being used and stored after your death for potential use by designated healthcare professionals to practice the techniques involved in fertility treatment.

If you consent for your eggs or sperm being used for training in the event of your death, your sperm or eggs can be stored and used for training purposes for 55 years from the date of first storage.

If you consent for your embryos being used for training in the event of your death, your embryos can be stored and used for 10 years from the date you sign the relevant consent form. You should be aware that embryos can only be used and stored for training purposes if both the egg and sperm provider gives consent.

How long can my eggs, sperm or embryos be used and stored for in the event of my mental incapacity?

If you consent to your eggs, sperm or embryos being used for treatment in the event that you lose mental capacity, the law permits your eggs, sperm or embryos to be stored for your named partner’s use for 10 years from the date that a medical practitioner certifies in writing that you lack capacity. You must consent to both use and storage of your eggs, sperm or embryos continuing after you lose capacity. This storage period cannot be extended. You can consent to storage and use for a shorter period than 10 years after you lose capacity if you wish on the relevant consent form.

If you regain mental capacity within 10 years (or the shorter period if you have specified less than 10 years) of being certified as lacking capacity you will be able to renew your consent to storage of your eggs, sperm or embryos for your treatment. You will need to notify your clinic as soon as possible if you are certified as having regained mental capacity and wish to renew your consent to storage of your unused eggs, sperm or embryos.

In the event of you losing capacity, you may have eggs, sperm or embryos that your named partner does not want to use (for example, because the eggs or embryos are not needed, or are not suitable, for treatment). You can consent to your eggs, sperm or embryos being used and stored after you lose capacity for potential use by designated healthcare professionals to practice the techniques involved in fertility treatment.

If you consent for your eggs or sperm being used for training in the event of you losing capacity, your sperm or eggs can be stored and used for 55 years from the date of first storage.

If you consent for your embryos being used for training in the event of you losing capacity, your embryos can be stored and used for 10 years from the date you sign the relevant consent form. You should be aware that embryos can only be used and stored for training purposes if both the egg and sperm provider give consent.

Consent to your clinic sharing your information

Unless it’s a medical emergency, your clinic is not allowed to tell your GP or anyone else about your treatment unless they have your consent to do so. Most patients are happy for their medical history to be discussed with their GP or other healthcare professionals to ensure they get the best possible medical care.

Clinics also need your permission to allow auditors and finance staff to see your records. If you’re having NHS funded treatment, the clinic will also need your permission to discuss details of your treatment and whether it was successful with the funding providers.

By law, some of your information must be shared with us as we’re required to hold details of all the fertility treatments carried out by licensed clinics in the UK. You don’t need to give your consent to this.

Find out more about how we manage your data.

Scientist using equipment

Consent to us sharing information for research

Clinics collect patient information, some of which is held securely by us. We’re able to use this data to study trends in fertility treatment, which helps to inform clinics, researchers and the wider public.

Occasionally, researchers in fertility ask us for patient identifying data to help with their research projects but we can only provide that data if you’ve consented for us to do so.

Research using fertility data can help to make treatment safer and more effective. Only research projects that meet strict confidentiality guidelines can use patient identifying data.

Find out more about how we manage your data.

Making sure your partner is legally recognised as your child’s parent

If you’re having treatment with donated sperm or embryos and you’re not married or in a civil partnership, both you and your partner will need to give written consent to parenthood to ensure that your partner is recognised as your child’s legal parent. You and your partner must give this consent before embryo transfer or insemination.

If you don’t give consent, or there’s an error in the forms, there’s a risk that your partner won’t be recognised as the child’s legal parent. Common errors include incorrectly writing the date you competed the form in the box that is meant for your date of birth and not signing all the sections of the form that require your signature. You should double check the form before giving it back to your clinic. If you are unsure of anything, you should speak to your clinic.

Find out more about becoming legal parents

What happens if my partner and I split up?

If you split up from your partner before the embryo(s) is/are transferred or before insemination, it’s vitally important that you both inform your clinic of your separation and whether you wish to change or withdraw the consent that you previously provided. If either of you wishes to change or withdraw your consent, you will need to do this by completing one of our consent forms – your clinic will provide you with the appropriate form.

If one person wants to use the embryos and the other person doesn’t, speak to your clinic about whether you may be able to rely on the one year ‘cooling off period’. The cooling off period enables the clinic to continue storing your sperm, eggs or embryos even though one of you has withdrawn consent while you think through all the issues and come to a final decision. Your clinic should support you both in reaching a resolution.

By law, the embryos can only be used if both parties have given their consent. Consent can be withdrawn at any point up until the embryo is transferred to the womb. If one partner withdraws consent, your clinic must take appropriate steps to inform the other partner that consent has been withdrawn.

If you were having treatment with donated sperm or embryos and you have split up from your partner but are still married/in a civil partnership with them, your partner would still be considered the legal parent of any child born unless you could demonstrate they did not consent to your treatment. There is a HFEA form that you can complete to evidence this (called the LC form-Stating your spouse or civil partner’s lack of consent), but it will not necessarily guarantee that your spouse or civil partner will not be the legal parent. This is a complex area and we advise that you get legal advice and talk this through with your clinic.

If you were having treatment with donated sperm or embryos and you:

  • have split up from your partner, and
  • you were not married to, or in civil partnership with, them

your clinic will need to establish whether:

  • you still consent to your ex-partner being the legal parent of any child born or if you wish to withdraw your consent and carry on treatment as a single parent or with another partner
  • your partner still consents to being the legal parent of any child born, or if they wish to withdraw their consent to being the legal parent.

Who can I talk to if I have questions about consent?

Your clinic should give you all the consent forms relevant to your situation and should help you to complete them. Part of this process is giving you clear information about your treatment and offering you the chance to have professional counselling. If you have any questions about consent, you should speak to your clinic.

Review date: 16 August 2025