Two years ago, Singaporean actress Ase Wang, 37, discovered that she had fertility issues after going for a check-up.
Three different doctors gave the prognosis that it would probably be difficult for her to conceive naturally because of her low reserve of eggs.
All that came as a rude shock to the local model-host who considers being a mother and having kids as the “greatest achievement”, she said in an interview with The Straits Times. So naturally, she wondered why she had this problem since she exercises and is generally healthy.
Recalling that it was an emotionally trying time, the actress said candidly in The Straits Times video: “It sucks to have so few eggs.”
So the actress, who divides her time between Bangkok and Singapore, turned to the Thai capitol to freeze her eggs because social egg freezing is prohibited in Singapore.
In Singapore, women can freeze their eggs only for medical reasons, such as when they have to undergo chemotherapy, which may adversely affect their fertility. Social egg freezing refers to when women do it for non-medical reasons, such as because they have not met Mr Right or are not ready to have children.
Friends have asked her why she did not have kids earlier. She explained that she wants to find the right person to have children with.
“I’m very particular about who I want to spend the rest of my journey with,” she told The Straits Times.
She remarked that if she had gotten married earlier in life, she’d probably be divorced and a single mother now.
Ase, who is now in a serious relationship with an American-born Chinese businessman, is considering getting married and having kids but said that she had to freeze her eggs at that time because if she hadn’t done it, it would have been too late.
The actress started the process in June 2018 and has since been through three cycles of the procedure which has cost her about 1 million baht (S$45,000). She underwent her last cycle last week, reported The Straits Times.
Documenting her journey in videos on YouTube, Ase recounted that the process was “physically taxing”.
In order to retrieve eggs for freezing for each cycle, Ase had to have daily injections – which were a nightmare for the actress who is terrified of needles – to boost their production.
There were also certain side effects which range from “didn’t sleep that well” to “feeling a little bloated”.
So far, Ase has had 17 eggs frozen, which gives her a decent shot at having a baby via IVF in future, according to her doctor.
Still, she wishes that social egg freezing was allowed in Singapore. Going overseas means more cost because one would have to pay for airfares and accommodation for around two weeks each cycle, on top of medical bills to get the procedure done.
“There are plenty of people out there who don’t have cancer but they have problems with their eggs. What solution do we have?”
Ase is the only child of John and Inger Wong. Her mum is Swedish and her dad, Chinese Singaporean, and her family owns Phoon Huat, the baking supplies firm.
Freezing a woman’s eggs, scientifically known as oocyte cryopreservation, is a process that involves IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) and then the cooling of said eggs to sub-zero temperatures for later use. Eggs are frozen using either a slow-freeze method or a flash-freezing process known as vitrification.
2. Can it be done in Singapore?
In Singapore, it is illegal for single women to freeze their eggs unless medically necessitated. The procedure can only be approved if a woman needs to have chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer, which could damage their eggs. For now, the Ministry of Health is cautious about egg freezing, saying it is still at an experimental stage with limited data on clinical outcomes.
Dr Ann Tan, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist at the Women and Fetal Centre, Mount Elizabeth Hospital, told Singapore Women’s Weekly: “It is a controversial topic as while some women believe that their fertility window can be lengthened by saving their eggs in a bank, other women and men frown upon it as being a delaying tactic and unnatural.”
4. Who should consider egg freezing?
There are many medical experts who are pro egg freezing and Dr Tan counts herself among them. “I believe Singapore should consider allowing women to have the right to save their fertility,” she says. “This is particularly important for women who have lost significant ovarian function due to ovarian cyst accidents, severe endometriosis or early ovarian cancer.”
A woman’s eggs deteriorate in both quality and quantity with age, which is why the option of egg freezing is particularly promising. Dr Ann explains that “fertility is the one thing we cannot take for granted will happen when we want it to. I have seen many women in their late 30s with poor egg reserves while others are newly married too so getting pregnant becomes even more stressful.
6. How egg freezing is done?
Take a look at the infographic on the right.
Photos: The Straits Times, Lianhe Zaobao, YouTube screengrab