04 July 2017Family planning and fertility options

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Being a service family has its own unique set of challenges and busy lives can often get in the way of important considerations. Fertility preservation is something that many of us rarely consider, but it does provide an option to safeguard and plan for the future. The CDP Service Personnel Support team at MOD explains.
Fertility is a subject that is often overlooked or taken for granted until it is too late. However, it’s an important consideration because starting a family is a major life event that has long-term responsibilities. Similarly, the inability to conceive children for whatever reason poses major life choices. 
Service personnel may be exposed to hazardous duties and environments that might impact on their ability to have children. Aside from hazards encountered whilst on duty, natural disease such as cancer or even the, topical, Zika virus might drastically affect healthy fertility.
Health advances have made it possible to safeguard both men and women’s ability to start a family. Preserving fertility is like an insurance policy that will provide you with the potential to have children.
It gives you the opportunity to make an informed choice about lifestyle, employment risks and the potential impact on your future ability to start a family or have more children. Choosing to protect your fertility therefore gives you choice should something happen to affect your reproductive health.

How do you preserve fertility?

Essentially cryopreservation, the frozen storage of sperm or ovum (eggs), is the preservation method. For men, there is no age limit for sperm collection. For women the recommended age range is up to age 40. It is possible to posthumously collect sperm between 24 to 36 hours after death if prior consent is established and there are medical facilities to perform this. Unfortunately, there is no option to harvest eggs after death.
For males the sperm collection process takes up to four clinic sessions costing anywhere between £150 to £400. For females the process is more complicated and risky, requiring the cultivation of eggs inside the body prior to a medical procedure to extract the eggs under general anaesthetic. Egg preservation is also the more expensive process as it involves hormonal treatment and can take between two to five weeks at a cost of around £5,000.
Collection of the sperm and eggs have taken place, they have been stored (storage costs apply) until such time that the couple is ready to start a family. IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) is the medical procedure for initiating conception.

Other considerations 

Service personnel are advised to consult unit medical staff when making a decision on fertility preservation as the process may temporarily affect your medical employment standard.
Fertility costs are not funded by MOD or the NHS (currently only cancer patients receive full funding).
The Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority is the body that regulates fertility clinics – a link is provided below for a list of clinics. A web search using ‘fertility costs UK’ will also signpost you to a range of different clinics’ costs, some of which offer military discount.
Further information:
Preserving your fertility
What is IVF?
HFEA Clinic Search
Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

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