Gamete storage – preservation of sperm, eggs or embryos

If you are considering having biological children in the future, gamete storage can assist with that option. If you haven’t started hormone treatment or had surgery, you may wish to preserve your fertility by having your sperm, eggs or embryos frozen and stored for future fertility treatment.

If you are on hormone therapy prior to attending our clinic and would like to consider gamete storage, your hormone therapy will temporarily have to stop. Hormone therapy (oestrogen or testosterone) suppresses your fertility function and over time can lead to a complete loss of fertility.  In some cases, people who stop taking their hormone therapy will have their fertility restored, although this is not guaranteed. Generally, the longer you have had hormone therapy, the more your fertility will be affected.

Is gamete storage funded by the NHS?

This is not straightforward. Funding for storing your eggs, sperm or embryos before having hormone therapy is subject to change and may depend on where you live.  Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have local arrangements regarding funding. In England, funding decisions about storage and fertility treatment are decided locally by Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). CCGs are linked to the borough where you live. Some CCGs will fund treatment and others will not.

We provide indirect referrals to GPs for gamete storage, who will be able to find out what is available in your local area and if you’re eligible.

Please note: even if you are able to have your eggs, sperm, embryos or tissue stored on the NHS, you may need to pay to use them in treatment later on.

Gamete storage for trans men

It is recommended you look into this before starting hormone therapy. Once you start taking testosterone it will have an effect on fertility and may result in becoming infertile. If you have started hormone therapy by taking testosterone you will have to stop to have a chance of enabling fertility preservation. This will be a distressing time for you as your periods will almost certainly return and male hair growth will slow. You may have some side effects, such as mood swings, tiredness, feeling bloated and sometimes chest tenderness and hot flushes. These side effects are a normal part of the process.

Embryo freezing for trans men

Embryos can be created and stored at a fertility clinic in much the same way as eggs. Eggs are collected as described above and sperm is then obtained and used to fertilise the eggs. Any eggs that are fertilised become embryos. The embryos are then prepared and protected before being frozen.

The survival and subsequent pregnancy rates following embryo freezing and thawing is rather higher than that of eggs. An embryo has an 80% chance of surviving being thawed with subsequent successful pregnancy rates of around 30%. This may be a good option for trans men in a long term relationships who have discussed having a family.

Sperm freezing for trans women

It is recommended you look into this before starting hormone therapy. Estrogen will have an effect on your fertility and may result in infertility. If you have already started taking estrogen, you will need to stop for a few months to have a chance of enabling fertility preservation. This can be a distressing time as your testosterone will rise again, erections return and facial and body hair growth will accelerate.

For further information on all of the above, please visit the HFEA website.

NHS England Guidance for CCGs on Fertility Preservation.