Egg Freezing Laws in Singapore: What You Need to Know
Increasingly, women in Singapore are considering egg freezing as a means of preserving their option to make considered decisions surrounding parenthood.
Social or elective egg freezing is permitted in Singapore, pursuant to the Assisted Reproduction Services Regulations under the Healthcare Services Act. However, many women may still be wondering what the egg freezing process entails, and whether they are eligible to have their eggs frozen.
This article aims to clarify some of these doubts, and will cover the following topics:
What is Egg Freezing?
Egg freezing refers to a process or method in which a woman’s eggs are retrieved, frozen and stored. The process of egg freezing targets the natural biological phenomenon that as women age, the number and quality of eggs that they produce decreases, making it more difficult for women to conceive naturally as they grow older.
The egg freezing process allows a woman to retrieve and preserve her healthy eggs when she is younger, so that she has the option to conceive later on in her life, using those healthy eggs.
How is Egg Freezing Different From Other Forms of Assisted Reproduction?
Assisted reproduction refers to any procedure that involves the handling of eggs or sperm outside of the human body. Methods commonly associated with assisted reproduction include in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and artificial insemination.
IVF involves the retrieval of a woman’s eggs and a man’s sperm, which are then put together in a laboratory. If an embryo is produced, it will then be placed into the woman’s uterus where it may implant and result in a pregnancy. Artificial insemination refers to the process in which a donor’s (who can also be the woman’s partner) semen is inserted into a woman’s uterus, in order to promote fertilisation of her eggs.
Egg freezing is entirely different from these other methods of assisted reproduction because it serves a different purpose (as explained below), and is only one stage of the entire assisted reproduction process.
In terms of the purpose of assisted reproduction methods like IVF and artificial insemination, their direct objective is to promote or encourage the fertilisation of a woman’s eggs, either outside her body (i.e. in the case of IVF) or inside her body (i.e. in the case of artificial insemination). On the other hand, egg freezing is primarily targeted at preserving and extending the viability of a woman’s healthy eggs, which may or may not lead to fertilisation of the eggs, depending on what the woman chooses to do with the frozen eggs in the future.
As for the stages of the assisted reproduction process, egg freezing is only relevant at the early stage – the extraction and storage of the eggs – whereas artificial insemination is only relevant at the later stages of the process. IVF covers the entire process, from egg extraction to fertilisation of the eggs, to the implantation of the embryo. Thus, egg freezing can work in conjunction with IVF, because it is merely a means of retrieving and preserving the viability of the eggs prior to the stage of fertilisation.
If you want to find out more about IVF, you can refer to our other article on IVF in Singapore.
The differences described above have been summarised in the table below:
|A process or method in which a woman’s eggs are retrieved, frozen and stored
|A process in which a woman’s eggs and a man’s sperm are retrieved, and then put together in a laboratory. If an embryo is produced, it will then be placed into the woman’s uterus where it may implant and result in a pregnancy
|A process in which a donor’s (who can also be the woman’s partner) semen is inserted into a woman’s vagina/uterus, in order to promote fertilisation of her eggs
|To preserve and extend the viability of a woman’s healthy eggs
|To promote or encourage the fertilisation of a woman’s eggs
|Only relevant at the early stages – the extraction and storage of the eggs
|Covers the entire process, from egg extraction to fertilisation to the implantation of the embryo
|Only relevant at the later stages – the insertion of a donor’s semen to fertilise the woman’s eggs
Why Would Someone Choose to Have Their Eggs Frozen?
There are many reasons why one may choose to have their eggs retrieved and frozen, which can be understood as being either medical in nature, or non-medical in nature. Some women might be facing difficulties conceiving children naturally due to medical reasons, and thus may opt to undergo egg freezing to preserve the option to have children in the future. For example, women who are undergoing treatment for cancer may be worried that the chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment may negatively affect their fertility, and hence may opt to freeze their eggs, and preserve the viability of their eggs.
Some women might also choose to freeze their eggs for other non-medical reasons. These may include wanting to prioritise their careers first while still preserving the choice to have children later on in their lives, or if they are still in the midst of finding a suitable partner to settle down with.
What is the Egg Freezing Process?
The egg freezing process can typically be broken down into the following stages:
Who is Eligible For Egg Freezing in Singapore?
Women aged between 21 and 37 can choose to freeze their eggs, regardless of their marital status (i.e. both single and married women can undergo elective egg freezing), and regardless of their reasons for doing so (i.e. women can choose to freeze their eggs whether for medical reasons or not).
However, the caveat is that only legally married couples can use the frozen eggs for the purposes of undergoing fertility treatment, and to try for a baby. This means that while single women can choose to freeze their eggs, they can only use their frozen eggs once they are legally married.
How Much Does It Cost to Undergo Egg Freezing in Singapore?
The cost of the egg freezing process is calculated by cycles (one cycle comprises the five stages above), and can differ greatly depending on whether you undergo the process at a public hospital, or at a private fertility clinic. Additionally, fertility doctors generally recommend that at least two cycles are needed to retrieve sufficient healthy eggs, so you should be prepared to pay for a minimum of two cycles.
If you are undergoing the egg freezing process at a public hospital, you can expect to pay an average of $7,000 to $9,000 per cycle, with an additional yearly charge of about $500 for the storage of the frozen eggs. At private fertility clinics, the cost per cycle would be higher on average, at around $10,000 to $15,000. Thereafter, the annual charge for storage of the frozen eggs starts at $900 yearly.
While there are currently no available subsidies that one can tap on for the egg freezing process per se, there are certain subsidies that couples can avail of when undergoing IVF treatment, if and when they choose to use the frozen eggs in the future. First, Singapore citizens and Singapore permanent residents can tap on their MediSave for IVF treatment at both private and public assisted reproduction centres, in the sum of up to S15,000 per person.
A second option is to elect for a co-funding arrangement with the government. This option is currently only available to couples who are undergoing IVF treatment at a public-assisted reproductive centre, and of which at least one spouse must be a Singapore citizen. If these criteria are fulfilled, then the government will provide up to 75% in co-funding. The co-funding will cover assisted reproduction treatment for a maximum of six cycles. In order to be eligible, you must be below 40 years of age at the start of the cycle, and a doctor must assess that you have met the clinical requirements for assisted reproduction treatment.
The egg freezing process is just one part of the wider assisted reproduction procedure, but it is a crucial step for women who are looking to maximise their chances of conceiving later in life.
If you are interested in egg freezing or considering egg freezing, you should consult a licensed and specialist gynaecologist who is experienced in egg freezing and who will be able to assist you with any concerns or queries that they may have about the process. They can also help you make up your mind on whether the process is suitable for you, given your needs and your goals.
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