Top tips for responding to changes in fertility treatment, assisted conception and family building in 2017

Recent political, economic, scientific and social developments continue to drive changes in fertility treatment, the creation and protection of fertility patients and modern families.

Over the last year, the spotlight has focused on assisted conception and family life with debate on: "add-on" fertility treatments, 3-Person IVF, egg freezing, informed consent to fertility treatment, the impact of Brexit and widespread international political and legal changes.

Fertility treatment and modern family building requires a firm medical, legal and practical foundation.  This rapidly evolving landscape creates legal and practical challenges for fertility patients and families requiring wide ranging expert legal services to problem-solve, manage risk, provide bespoke advice and deliver innovative solutions.  This provides reassurance and wide ranging value beyond a transactional approach to meet the multi-faceted demands of assisted conception and family building.

"Add-on" fertility treatments

Debate about the cost of fertility treatment in the UK has been fuelled by recent coverage of the value of a variety of fertility treatment "add-ons".  These include drug treatments for blood clotting and immunity, mock embryo transfer, blood tests and genetic screening prior to implantation.  A  recent review by experts at Oxford University shows that many of these "add-on" treatments are not supported by evidence to increase the chance of a live birth. 

One cycle of privately funded IVF in the UK can cost up to £5,000 or more.  Many fertility treatment "add-ons" are expensive, requiring private funding.   These "add-ons" place additional financial strains on patients, creating debt that can take years to clear.  The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has expressed concern about the growing market for "add-ons".  Fertility patients can find it difficult to understand the potential benefits, adverse effects or risks associated with these treatments.  This can make it difficult to make informed decisions in the short, medium and longer term.  More information about informed consent to fertility treatment can be found here and here.

3-Person IVF

Advances in a new 3-Person IVF technique have recently heralded the birth of babies free of potentially fatal genetic conditions in the Ukraine and the US.  On 15 December 2016 the HFEA approved the use of a new medical technique known as mitochondrial donation at UK fertility clinics.  This new technique is believed to help around 15% of people affected by genetic diseases.  UK fertility clinics can now apply to the HFEA on a case by case basis for permission to use this new technique in fertility treatment.  More information about 3-Person IVF can be found here.

Egg freezing

Interest in egg freezing has rapidly increased.  Coverage of Apple and Facebook's decision to pay for female employees to freeze their eggs as part of their benefits package has sparked controversy.  More women than ever before are delaying starting a family to forge a career, get on the property ladder and establish themselves.  These sociological changes are at odds with the decline in a woman's fertility as she gets older, particularly from age 35.  This creates challenges concerning the preservation, timing and mechanics of an individual's fertility and assisted conception plans.


The UK's Brexit vote marks a watershed giving rise to political, legal and economic change.  It creates issues for foreign citizens seeking to live, work and raise families in the UK.  Individuals with foreign citizenship should review their immigration and citizenship options to proactively manage their plans in the short, medium and longer term.  The wider impact of Brexit on English family law and family dispute management has yet to be clarified and will become clearer in the months and years ahead.

International political and legal changes

There have been significant shifts in the political and legal landscape with growing nationalism, stringent protectionist policies and changes in approach to assisted conception.  This has manifested itself in a variety of ways. The closure of international surrogacy destinations in places like India, Nepal, Thailand and Cambodia has led to increased focus on UK surrogacy and options in emerging fertility destinations.  Civil unrest, changes in political government and limitations on free movement of people create new challenges for those seeking to cross borders to access fertility treatment, build and parent much wanted families.

Top tips for family building in 2017

Parenting and family building will continue to be influenced by growing forces of socio-political, economic and legal changes. 

Successful family building and positive family life requires:

  • Assessment of the medical, financial, practical and emotional options and issues
  • A positive proactive approach
  • Clear understanding of the legal issues in the short, medium and longer term
  • Flexibility
  • Awareness of legal, political and economic developments impacting on assisted conception and family life

To help you on your way, our blog provides topical information about fertility, surrogacy and parenting law in addition to a wealth of information about fertility, parenting and family law issues on our specialist website.

If you would like to discuss your situation in more detail or find out more about UK fertility, family  and parenting law contact Louisa Ghevaert by email: or by telephone +44 (0)207 7886382.