Egg freezing — a procedure where eggs are retrieved from a woman's uterus and stored — will soon be available to more women in Singapore.
Women who freeze their eggs have the option of conceiving later in life, using an egg that was produced when they were younger.
Egg freezing in Singapore has thus far been limited to those who have medical reasons, such as those about to undergo cancer treatment affecting their fertility.
This means that freezing one's eggs without a medical reason, also known as social or elective egg freezing, is illegal in Singapore.
This means that women in Singapore seeking to freeze their eggs without a medical reason must go overseas to do so, incurring greater cost and risk, something highlighted last Feb. by Member of Parliament (MP) for Tampines Cheng Li Hui.
But this will soon change, according to Sun Xueling, who is Minister of State in the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and the Ministry of Education (MOE).
All women between 21 and 35 will be allowed to freeze eggs
"We will provide all women aged 21 to 35 years the choice to undergo Elective Egg Freezing. EEF will be implemented with sufficient safeguards from early 2023," said Sun in her post.
This is in line with one of the recommendations in the White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development.
Speaking of the plans to legalise social egg freezing, Sun said:
"We hope this will support and encourage more Singaporeans to pursue their marriage and parenthood aspirations, particularly for women who are unable to find a partner when they are younger, but who wish to have the chance of conceiving and becoming a parent after marriage later in life."
Government recognises women's desire to preserve fertility due to personal circumstances
According to the White Paper, the government recognises that "some women desire to preserve fertility because of their personal circumstances".
It cited an example of women who cannot find a partner when they are younger but "wish to have the chance of conceiving if they marry later."
The White Paper said that the government "has studied the options" and found "no compelling medical reason to prohibit elective egg freezing as it is medically viable."
Age range of 21 to 35 aligned with age limits for egg donation
It explained that the age range of 21 to 35 years for those allowed to freeze their eggs was "aligned with the age limits for egg donation".
What are the "safeguards"?
One of the safeguards to be introduced is pre-procedure counselling.
The White Paper proposed that counselling should highlight the "invasive nature" of the procedure and the costs, including storage and insurance costs.
It should also highlight limitations of the procedure, such as:
- Low success rate of live births, that it does not guarantee motherhood
- Risks of late pregnancy
- Challenges of aged parenthood
Only legally married couples should use frozen eggs
The White Paper also proposed that "only legally married couples" should be allowed to use their frozen eggs for procreation.
This, the White Paper explained, was to be "consistent with upholding parenthood within marriage and the existing Assisted Reproduction regulatory framework".
Addressing a Parliamentary Question on surrogacy, MSF said in 2019:
"The Government does not encourage planned and deliberate single parenthood as a lifestyle choice. Hence, as a matter of public policy, we do not support the use of Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) or surrogacy by singles to conceive children and adopt them. We also do not support the formation of same-sex families through adoption."
Costs for egg freezing
Egg Freezing Singapore, a Facebook page, has compiled some of the prices for egg freezing packages in Malaysia.
One clinic in Malaysia offers an egg freezing package for RM 8,888 (S$2,870), including egg storage for three years.
Another clinic states its charges as starting from RM 13,999 (S$4,522).
Meanwhile, one woman's account of egg freezing in Thailand in 2017 stated the total cost as S$15,000, including pre- and post-procedure consultations with a doctor in Singapore.
Top image by Tembinkosi Sikupela on Unsplash
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