Rich Vaughn Blog: Legal Time Limits on Cryopreserved Embryos Creates New Biological Time Clock

Legal Time Limits on Egg Storage Creates New “Biological Time Clock”

A new study by the London School of Economics argues that the U.K.’s statutory 10-year limit on storage of cryopreserved eggs or embryos has created a double standard and has, in a classic example of unintended consequences, replaced one kind of “biological timeclock” with another.

In many parts of the world the length of time frozen embryos or eggs may be stored is limited by law. In Sweden, for example, only unfertilized zygotes can be stored, and the storage period is limited to five years; in the U.K. the period for storage of frozen eggs or embryos is 10 years, whereas in the United States there are no legal limits on how long frozen eggs or embryos can be stored.

Many of the legal limitations were enacted decades ago when there was little research available on the “shelf life” and potential safety concerns with frozen eggs and embryos. Today, however, we know that cryopreserved eggs and embryos can remain viable and result in health live births far beyond 10 years.

Donna Dowling-Lacey, M.S., co-authored a 2011 case study of a successful live birth to a 42-year old woman, using a donated embryo that had been frozen and stored for nearly 20 years. As the article describes, the donated embryos were the result of an IVF cycle performed by an infertile couple using their own gametes in January 1990.  The embryo donor couple had a healthy baby boy in 1990, following the transfer of cryopreserved embryos using their own gametes. The donor mother was 34 at the time the embryos were fertilized.

In 1993, the couple signed a disposition consent form allowing five remaining frozen embryos to be anonymously donated to a qualified recipient. In 2009 a 42-year-old recipient was matched to the donated embryos, two of which remained viable after thawing. The recipient gave birth to a healthy baby boy in May 2010. Her pregnancy was the first resulting from implantation of a human embryo that had been frozen for that length of time, nearly 20 years. As the case study noted, “animal models have already shown that extended cryostorage does not affect embryo survival or healthy deliveries.”

Embryo and/or egg viability is only one motivation for jurisdictions in imposing time limits on cryopreservation and storage of embryos. Other considerations, such as legal complications related to inheritance, the legal and moral obligations of fertility clinics to preserve embryos, and even a shortage of storage space, have been cited.

In the U.K., The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 was updated in 2009 to provide women facing premature infertility, such as early menopause, to store frozen eggs for an extended period of time, up to 55 years. But no such consideration was given to women who might choose to store their frozen eggs for longer periods due to natural age-related declines in fertility. This imposed a double standard, writes Professor Emily Jackson of the London School of Economics Department of Law, whose paper, “‘Social’ egg freezing and the UK's statutory storage time limits,” was published recently in the Journal of Medical Ethics—one set of rules for women who might opt for cryopreservation of eggs for health reasons such as cancer treatment or a hysterectomy, another set for women who might need to delay procreation for career, financial or relationship reasons. The law also set a different standard for men, who are allowed to cryopreserve their sperm into old age.

The rule may also result in a number of unintended behavioral consequences. Assisted reproduction can be a way for women to avoid the pressure of the so-called “biological time clock,” allowing them to preserve their eggs at the height of their fertility but postpone gestation until later in life. But an imposed time limit on storage may push a woman to use frozen eggs before the legal clock runs out, creating a new version of the biological time clock. A woman may feel compelled her to use donor sperm if she’s still looking for “Mr. Right,” or may push her and a partner to procreate even if the family is not financially prepared for her to take time off from her career.

Likewise, as the School of Economics study points out, even though eggs frozen when a woman is in her prime years of fertility—30 and younger—have a greater chance of viability, she may wait to freeze her eggs until she is in her mid-thirties in order to have the option to conceive in her 40s.

The mandating of artificial legal limits on how long frozen eggs or embryos can be stored seems arbitrary and unfairly applied and undoubtedly forces people into the unnecessarily harsh choice between their dreams of having a genetically related child or rushing to start a family at an inopportune time. “By mandating the destruction of a woman's eggs during her reproductive lifespan, unless she happens to be prematurely infertile, the rules are illogical and their effects perverse,” Jackson writes.

She claims the storage time limits have been retained so that clinics are not obliged to store eggs indefinitely. “But this could easily be achieved by allowing for rolling time-limited extensions, as happens for women who are prematurely infertile,” she continues. More research is needed, she says, on the impact of a 10-year cap on egg storage on women’s behavior and decisions about whether and when to freeze their eggs.

Richard Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015, received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension, and obtained her second Master of Science degree in Legal Studies from Loyola Law School. Peiya relocated back to her hometown, Beijing, China in 2019 and works from IFLG’s Beijing office. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University which he received in 2013, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. Luis has worked for IFLG in both Los Angeles as well as San Francisco, and is currently based in Dallas, Texas. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”


Kim has over 30 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

Los Angeles

5757 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 645

Los Angeles, CA 90036

Phone:  +1 323 331 9343



New York

501 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1900

New York, NY 10017

Phone:  +1 844 400 2016



Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.

Phoebe Sadler

Fertility law attorney Phoebe Sadler has a background in family law and has been practicing exclusively in the area of assisted reproduction technology (ART) law since 2018.

Rubina Aslanyan

Rubina has an extensive background in the legal field as a paralegal in Family Law and has worked in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 2012. Her area of focus is in managing and assisting clients with surrogacy, egg donation, and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s domestic and international clients. During her spare time, Rubina enjoys spending time with her family and dog Bella, traveling and cooking.

Alexander Espinoza
Legal Assistant

Alexander joined IFLG as a legal assistant in 2019, where he manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases. Alex is bilingual in English and Spanish and has been in the legal field for 23 years. Alex is excited to join the IFLG team and pursuing his will to help others in the reproductive law process. In his spare time he loves spending time with his family and friends, being outdoors, road trips, loves music and dancing.

Cara Stecker
Senior Paralegal

After receiving her paralegal certificate in 2005, Cara began working in assisted reproductive law. During the fifteen years Cara has worked in this field, she has gained a wide range of experience and knowledge that she uses to help better assist clients and those involved in the assisted reproductive journey. Cara’s primary roles involve managing parental establishment matters and coordination with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorney network, drafting contracts and parental establishment court documents and providing support to other team members. Cara finds great joy in being a small part of a team of caring people who help others achieve their dream of having a family. In her spare time, Cara enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, watching her children play the sports they love, and she enjoys, running, cycling and exploring the outdoors in the sun.

Stephanie Kimble

Stephanie received her BS in History and Political Thought from Concordia University Irvine in 2015 and her Paralegal Certificate from University of San Diego later that same year. She has been working as a Paralegal since 2016 in Family and Reproductive Law. She is excited to be part of International Fertility Law Group working on managing Surrogacy, Egg donation and Parental Establishment Cases.

Trish Pittman
Assistant Financial Coordinator

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of accounting, Trish joined the IFLG team in 2019 as Assistant Financial Coordinator. Her client-facing focus at IFLG is to assist with all client trust accounting. Trish is the mother of two daughters and enjoys spending time teaching and learning new things from them. In her free time, she loves long walks in the park and reading suspense and mystery novels.

Katie Deaquino
Senior Paralegal

Katie is a Senior Paralegal with IFLG and has dedicated over sixteen years to the areas of surrogacy and reproductive law. She received her Paralegal Certificate from Coastline Community College and has worked with some of the top law firms in the assisted reproduction community. Katie is also a commissioned Notary Public. With IFLG, Katie manages Surrogacy, Egg Donation, and Parental Establishment cases and provides support to other IFLG team members. Katie truly enjoys helping others build their families through assisted reproduction and is thankful she has had the rewarding experience of assisting IFLG clients. Katie often spends her free time with her Husband, four young children and her bulldog “Bella”.

Elsa Jimenez
Legal Assistant

Elsa joined IFLG as a Legal Assistant in 2019, bringing more than 35 years of experience working in the legal profession (concentrating in tort and litigation matters). At IFLG she assists surrogates with their surrogacy and parental matters. The oldest of five siblings, born and raised in East Los Angeles to Mexican immigrant parents, Elsa loves “seeing the beauty of families forming” through assisted reproductive technology. She and her husband Carlos have four children and one grandson. Elsa enjoys jazz and ’80s music, being outdoors in nature, collecting teacups and tea pots, and spending time with her close-knit family.