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Egg freezing in the UAE: Law reforms and changing attitudes

Human egg freezing (mature oocyte cryopreservation) is a medical procedure that has become increasingly popular worldwide over recent years. Individuals choose to freeze their eggs for numerous reasons including medical, social reasons or for career advancement. However, in countries such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the legality of human egg freezing has been a subject of complex debate for many years.

Until relatively recently, the UAE was one of the countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that banned human egg freezing. However, changes in legislation have made this medical procedure legal under certain conditions.
This article will discuss the current state of human egg freezing in the UAE, how the law has changed from previous legislation, and how this law compares to other GCC countries.


In recent years, the GCC has witnessed an increase in the use of medically assisted reproduction (MAR) techniques, particularly in-vitro fertilization (IVF). For many years, egg freezing in the region was prohibited for unmarried women, although married women were allowed to undergo the procedure with their spouse’s consent. However, this changed in the UAE when the government issued Federal Law No. 11 of 2008 on Human Reproductive Health, which prohibited the freezing of embryos, gametes, and any other reproductive material except for the treatment of infertility.

This meant that women were not allowed to freeze their eggs for social reasons or to delay pregnancy for educational or career purposes. These restrictions caused women to seek the procedure in countries that allowed it, such as the United States and Spain.
Fertility services and the applicable law across the Middle East dates back to the 1980s, originally stemming from the Fatwa (Islamic Decree) from Al-Azhar in 1980. Following this, culturally and religiously, treatment for infertility has been encouraged across the region, in order to achieve procreation by a legally married couple. The religious derivation of the applicable principles has important implications for assisted procreation between persons not amounting to a couple, as in the case of surrogacy, egg donation and other instances, which remain prohibited across the region for this reason.

Recent Legal Changes in the UAE
The 2008 law was repealed by Federal Law No. 7 of 2019 Concerning Medically Assisted Reproduction, and towards the end of 2020 the UAE government published the Executive Regulations (‘Regulations’) relating to the new law. The Regulations came into force on 1 January 2021 and now permit the freezing of eggs for both social and medical reasons, such as preserving fertility before undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment, or for those at risk of premature ovarian failure. 

The Regulations also permit the freezing of human embryos for up to 5 years, extendible with the consent of the relevant parties. This is a significant change which stands to reduce the cost of fertility treatment and is consistent with the UAE’s medical tourism ambitions. However, whilst single women are permitted to have eggs frozen, they are only able to use them for their own pregnancy after marriage with their husband’s sperm in an IVF procedure.

It remains the case that sperm and egg donations, together with surrogacy, are not permitted and only a married man and woman are able to produce a child together in this manner. This also means that egg banks remain prohibited.

Research using frozen eggs, previously prohibited, is now permitted subject to regulatory consent and to the consent of the parties concerned, for purposes including:
    • increasing knowledge concerning severe cases or diseases, embryonic development, the technical process of the freezing materials, and issues leading to abortion
    • the development of treatments for severe cases or diseases, and fertility issues
    • the development of methods for the detection of certain genetic abnormalities

However, the following research activities are prohibited, including:
    • reproductive cloning
    • the selection of genetic traits for reproduction purposes
    • commercial purposes
    • the purpose of changing the human genetic structure

The potential for research opens up significant potential for innovation in the UAE in human fertility research and enables the country to adopt a leading role in this field both in the GCC region and more widely.

Comparison with Other GCC Countries
The legal status of egg freezing in the GCC countries varies and continues to develop, although there are some key commonalities deriving from the cultural and religious overarching principles as described above. In Bahrain, for example, storage of a gamete is permitted for up to 10 years and an embryo for 5 years and again, treatment is only available to married couples. In Saudi Arabia, where IVF treatment has been increasing in popularity since its introduction in the 1980s (noting that KSA currently performs significantly more treatment cycles than the UAE), there is no time limit on storage but again treatment can only take place inside a contract of marriage which is required to be proven. In Oman, storage of frozen eggs is for 5 years and is then subject to annual renewal.

Whilst the laws in the UAE on egg freezing for both medical and social purposes are broadly comparable to other countries in the GCC region, in comparison to other countries around the world, the UAE’s law (and that of GCC countries generally) is still considered relatively strict. In the United States and many European countries, egg freezing is allowed for social reasons, regardless of marital status.

Impact of Legal Changes
The legal changes in the UAE have been welcomed by medical professionals and women's rights advocates alike. The resolution offers a degree of autonomy that was previously unavailable and moves the country's reproductive health legislation further towards broader international principles, with positive implications for the country’s economy.


The legalization of egg freezing in the UAE represents a significant shift in the country's stance on reproductive health, offering women the option to preserve their fertility for social or medical reasons. Although the law is still relatively strict, it offers a greater degree of autonomy and aligns the legislation more closely with broader international standards.

As more women decide to freeze their eggs, it is important that the government continues to provide adequate oversight and regulation to ensure that the procedure is conducted safely and ethically. The legal changes in the UAE offer a new chapter in the country's relationship with reproductive health, and it will be interesting to watch how this develops further in the years to come.

The article was originally written for Al Arabiya and can be read in full here: Surging number of women freezing eggs in UAE amid law reforms and changing attitudes

This article was published on 9 June, 2023.

It was written by healthcare lawyer James Clarke, and focuses on Egg Freezing Laws in the United Arab Emirates.

BSA is a regional Law Firm in the Middle East with offices in the UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia. As a full-service law firm our practice areas include litigation, arbitration and corporate services, including M&A, banking & finance, Intellectual Property, TMT, Fintech, employment and insurance. 

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