You can’t stop yourself from ageing, but you can preserve your fertility. Here’s your essential guide to egg freezing in Singapore.
Hoorah! Come 2023, women in Singapore will be able to freeze their eggs for non-medical reasons — also known as elective egg freezing — under the Assisted Reproduction Services Regulations of the Healthcare Services Act . This is great news for couples that are not ready to have children yet, or for women that hope to have children of their own, but have not yet met Mr. Right.
Here’s your primer to egg freezing in Singapore and what this step forward means for women.
Egg freezing refers to an assisted reproduction technology (ART) technique that involves retrieving, freezing and storing a woman’s unfertilised eggs, for conception at a later age. This is also known as oocyte cryopreservation. The crux of egg freezing is to preserve the fertility of a woman, who wants to conceive at a later stage in life .
The moment you freeze your eggs, its quality will remain unchanged. This means that you can save your eggs from today, and utilise these healthier eggs when you are older or at a time when you are ready to have a baby.
Why does egg freezing matter?
A woman is born with a finite number of eggs. With age, particularly after the age of 35, the quality and number of a woman’s eggs declines, thereby reducing the chances of conceiving. What this also means is that if you want to have a baby, trying to conceive before 35 would be optimal and yield higher chances .
However, having children is a big decision to make — one that could come with career sacrifices, financial implications and changes to your current lifestyle. Because of those reasons and more, some women might prefer to have children at a later stage in life. However, with age, comes the decline of fertility, and this is what makes egg freezing vital.
For others, it’s not quite the issue of not wanting to have children yet, but not being able to find the right partner. With a woman’s biological clock ticking, egg freezing could be the solution for women hoping to become mothers, but are not yet married.
Regardless of the reason behind choosing to freeze one’s eggs, this shift in policy by the Singapore government, outlined via a White Paper on Women’s Development, is an important step forward as it empowers women to preserve their fertility for the future .
What are the current rules like?
Under the current rules (before the Assisted Reproduction Services Regulations of the Healthcare Services Act comes into effect in early 2023), women can only freeze their eggs for medical reasons .
Medical procedures that could affect a woman’s fertility and/or their reproductive organs include :
- Chemotherapy to treat cancer
- Radiotherapy in the pelvic region
- Gynaecological surgery that affects the reproductive organs
Freezing eggs for such medical reasons allow women to preserve their eggs and have the chance to conceive after these procedures.
So, while it is possible for women to freeze their eggs today, it is only allowed for medical reasons. With the new Assisted Reproduction Services Regulations under the Healthcare Services Act early in 2023, women can undergo elective egg freezing done for non-medical reasons.
Things to note before freezing your eggs in Singapore
Freezing your eggs in Singapore doesn’t come without restrictions. Here are some of the key points to note about egg freezing in Singapore .
- You must be aged 21 to 35 years old to freeze your eggs; regardless of marital status
- You will undergo counselling before freezing your eggs
- Only legally married couples will be able to use the frozen eggs for procreation, through in-vitro fertilisation (IVF)
So, whether you’re attached today or not, you can choose to freeze your eggs and preserve them for the future. However, to use your eggs for procreation via IVF, you must be legally married as Singapore’s public policy encourages parenthood within marriage .
How much will it cost to freeze your eggs in Singapore?
As elective egg freezing is currently not yet available, neither are its prices. However, based on one cycle of egg freezing for medical reasons, SMG Women’s Health estimates the cost to be S$10,000 .
What the egg freezing process looks like
The process of egg freezing mirrors the early stages of IVF. This includes :
- Going through a series of hormone injections for egg stimulation
- Having ultrasound scans and blood tests to check on the egg maturity
- Retrieving of the mature eggs while under general anesthetic
- Freezing of eggs, with many clinics using a method known as vitrification that freezes the eggs in less than a minute
This elective egg freezing process will come with an additional safeguard of counselling before the procedure, to ensure that women make an informed choice. This counselling will touch on the invasive nature of the procedure, the storage of the frozen eggs, risks of a late pregnancy as well as the costs involved.
Risks involved with egg freezing
The risks of egg freezing are similar to the risks of IVF as well as pregnancies at an older age.
While egg freezing preserves your healthy eggs, and hence fertility for a higher likelihood of conception even at a later age, there are still risks that come with being pregnant when older. This includes risks such as being more likely to develop gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and increased risk of multiple births or pregnancy loss .
It is also important to note that the success rate of the procedure leading to a baby being born from a frozen egg is low, at about 2% to 12% based on medical research in other countries .
What should you consider when thinking about freezing your eggs?
To freeze, or not to freeze? That is the question. Here are some factors you should take into consideration when thinking about freezing your eggs.
- Your age: You need to be between 21 and 35 to opt for elective egg freezing.
- Risks: Preserving your fertility by freezing your eggs does not equate to or guarantee having a healthier pregnancy when you are older. With age, the risks involved in pregnancy also increases, particularly if you are above 35 .
- Whether you want children at all: There is the possibility of you undergoing the invasive procedure and incurring the cost to freeze your eggs, only to not use them in the end. Notably, less than 10% of women in studies conducted ended up using their frozen eggs .
- Cost: With the cost of one cycle of egg freezing at an estimated S$10,000, this could be a large sum to fork out for some women and therefore requires careful financial consideration.
Each couple’s journey to conception differs, as some could take longer to conceive, while others might even be successful on their first try. If you’re thinking of trying for a baby, one of the first things you could do is to take a hormone test with twoplus, to help determine your fertility health.
With your hormone test results, you will get a better idea of your level of fertility for your current age, and potentially indicate any health conditions you may not be aware of. It can also help to kick-start conversations with your partner or doctor, while giving you peace of mind that you’ve got a clean bill of reproductive health!