Understanding IVF consent paperwork

James Nicopoullos 1

Mr James Nicopoullos, Clinical Director at the Lister Fertility Clinic, explains what consent forms you need to complete before starting a round of IVF.

When people visit our clinic, they often have just one thing on their mind: getting pregnant. However, before treatment of any kind can start, it is preceded by a lot of talking and planning. Patients have told us afterwards they remember very little from their initial meetings and that as their consultant starts talking about ‘protocols’ and ‘stimulation’, often using fertility jargon they don’t recognise or struggle to understand, they find it difficult to concentrate and focus. And then, just as they think they’re done with the talking, out come the forms. They’ve told us they sign things in a blur, thinking to themselves ‘is it really necessary’ and ‘can’t we just start?’

Before commencing fertility treatment, it is essential to complete several consent forms.

This ensures you fully understand the proposed treatment and its implications. While the paperwork may seem extensive, it is designed to facilitate the delivery of a safe and effective service, adhering to the legal requirements governing fertility treatment.

So, what is all the paperwork about?

Consent for Treatment

This form, akin to those for medical or surgical procedures, seeks your consent for necessary procedures such as egg collection and embryo transfer. If you have any questions about your procedure, like whether sedation or anaesthesia will be used or the associated risks, make sure you ask them all so you fully understand what you’re consenting to before you complete the forms.

Consent to Disclosure of Information (CD forms) 

Each partner undergoing treatment must complete a CD form. While your confidentiality is legally protected, you have the option to permit your clinic to share information with your general practitioner and other medical practitioners involved in your ongoing care. Consent for administrative and audit staff access is recommended for service efficiency and quality improvement.

Legal obligations require your clinic to share specific information with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). You can choose to consent or decline the release of identifying information for research purposes. Research participation is optional and does not impact your treatment.

Consent to Use and Storage of Sperm, Eggs, and/or Embryos 

This form allows you to consent to the use of your gametes (reproductive cells) and embryos for treatment, research, or training, as well as their storage. Understand the nature and implications of the proposed treatment before giving consent and specify any additional conditions for usage or storage.

The law permits you to store gametes or embryos for use in your treatment for any period up to a maximum of 55 years from the date that the gametes or embryos are first placed in storage. However, you will need to renew your consent every 10 years.

The form also addresses what should happen to your gametes and embryos if you die or become permanently incapacitated.

Consent to Parenthood

Complete relevant consent forms if you are using donor sperm, donor eggs, or in vitro embryos created with donor sperm. This ensures legal recognition of the child's father or second parent. Refer to the patient information leaflet ‘Legal Parenthood’ and the HFEA website for details on legal parentage.

Consider seeking independent legal advice and be aware that the law distinguishes between legal status and parental responsibility.

Withdrawing, Varying and Restricting Consent

One or both parties can withdraw their consent for any procedure at any time. Situations like the withdrawal of consent can arise after a relationship breakdown, for example, so it’s always worth talking this through with anyone you’re starting treatment with.

If anyone withdraws consent, it has implications for the other person’s treatment. If someone withdraws their consent for embryos to be stored or used in treatment, we follow the steps below:

  • When the patient contacts the clinic, the paperwork for the stored embryos are clearly marked as in dispute and not to be used. 
  • The patient withdrawing consent is informed that the clinic will contact the other party to advise them of this withdrawal of consent and the patient concerned is required to fill in a WCS HFEA form.
  • If both parties consent to the withdrawal, embryos can be removed from storage.
  • If there is a dispute, the patients are given a 12-month “cooling off period” before embryos can be removed from storage. One month before the end of the cooling off period, the unit will contact both parties to find out if a mutual decision has been reached regarding the embryos.
  • No embryos will be kept in storage beyond the statutory storage period.


Remember, you retain the right to withdraw or modify your consent at any time without providing a specific reason. Notification of withdrawal or modification should be in writing, and an updated set of forms will be required, necessitating an appointment with our team.

Do not consent to treatment until you have received all the information you need to fully understand its implications. If you require additional information, please feel free to ask. We are committed to helping you to understand your treatment options and maintain control over your healthcare.

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