Women in their early thirties could freeze their eggs on the NHS, Matt Hancock has suggested.
The Health Secretary said that he was ‘instinctively open’ to the thought of the Government funding egg-freezing for women aged between 30 and 35.
Campaigners say this would enable more women to delay having a family group to focus on their career, or to find the appropriate partner.
It could also prove cheaper for the NHS in the future by allowing women to ‘bank’ top quality eggs in their early thirties.
Pictured: Stock photo of a Liquid Nitrogen Tank, used for storing frozen eggs. The Health Secretary said he was ‘instinctively open’ to the idea of the Government funding egg-freezing for women aged between 30 and 35
This would improve success rates when the same women later opt for publicly funded IVF treatments because fertility declines dramatically with age.
Asked concerning the calls, Mr Hancock said: ‘I hadn’t been aware of this but I’m instinctively open to it and can begin to see the benefits.
‘In this area I want the Government to be highly pragmatic.
‘It’s no idea that I’ve ever encounter before, but I’m ready to accept it.’
Freezing allows women to store their eggs at a younger age so they can be utilized in IVF when they will be ready to start a family.
Figures released a week ago revealed that rates of egg-freezing cycles performed for women in the UK have more than tripled in five years, from 569 in 2013 to at least one,933 in 2018.
The private procedure costs between £3,000 and £5,000 a time or more to £400 a year to store them.
Egg-freezing is not available on the NHS unless women are receiving medical treatment for conditions which could affect their fertility, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer.
It is around individual hospital trusts to determine whether or not to supply egg-freezing.
In a webchat with AllBright, a members club for women, Mr Hancock also said that he hoped flexible and remote working would are more common following the pandemic allowing more women to juggle childcare and careers.
He said: ‘I definitely think it should be the norm where possible… There’s a large argument that productivity went up in this when individuals are working from home, truly in terms of well-being – we must persuade individuals who allowing flexible working should continue.
‘This is just a change that’s never planning to go away.’
He added: ‘My hope is the shift to more flexible working on average benefits women more than men… as women do tend to have more childcare responsibilities and that is one of the main beneficiaries of more flexible remote working.’
Pictured: Stock photo of a Liquid Nitrogen Bank containing sperm and egg samples. It is around individual hospital trusts to determine whether or not to supply egg-freezing
Mr Hancock, who has three young kids, acknowledged he does not share housework equally with his wife Martha.
He said: ‘I’m incredibly grateful in order to not have as much of the mental load.
‘I absolutely don’t do 50/50.
‘I mean I do my bit, but I don’t and can’t do 50/50 and thank god Martha is totally wonderful in taking care of the children and looking after me and it’s really tough.’
The Health Secretary also said he hoped more fathers will now be permitted to attend baby scans after visitors were banned through the pandemic.
Many women have had to attend maternity appointments, and even give birth, without their partners present.
Mr Hancock, who has three young kids, acknowledged he does not share housework equally with his wife Martha (pictured at the Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year Awards in 2018)
‘Attending a baby scan has now been made flexible so hospitals can make the choice,’ that he said.
‘Staying after the birth, how long you are able to stay for is for local discretion.
‘We have a tight visitors policy in hospitals at the moment to ensure we don’t have illness in hospitals, but it is something that we’re constantly reviewing.’
Asked how he would have handled the pandemic differently with hindsight, Mr Hancock said the Government had ‘made a mistake’ by issuing guidance restricting the amount of guests at funerals.
He said: ‘We put out social distancing guidance, which was really strongly interpreted, and it meant that in the peak of the pandemic, lots of people didn’t go directly to the funeral even of somebody they’ve been married to for 50 years.
‘And there was just a little boy from south London who was buried without his parents there, and that basically affected me.
‘So, we realised we’d made a mistake and we changed the guidance.’