Hollywood has given us some very warped ideas about fertility, pregnancy and parenthood. The reality, unfortunately, is a lot less 'happy' at times. And, of course, every country has their own laws surrounding such issues. Here are answers to six fertility-related questions, to give you a better idea about what you can and cannot do in Singapore.
Can I freeze my eggs if I don't want to have kids now then use them when I'm ready later in life?
This is called 'social egg freezing' and isn't allowed in Singapore. The only instance in which women can freeze their eggs for future use is if there's a medical reason for them to do so. Examples of such situations are when they need to go through chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment for cancer, which could damage their eggs, so freezing their eggs gives them the chance to have kids later.
Can I undergo IVF treatment to have a baby as a single woman?
No. Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) procedures – which includes IVF treatment – is only available to married couples in Singapore.
How do me and my husband qualify for ART treatments such as IVF?
If you're having difficulties getting pregnant, you need to go to a fertility clinic so that both you and your husband can be assessed to determine the cause. As a general rule, this time frame is after one year of regular, unprotected sex if you're under 35 and six months, if you're over 35.
IVF is recommended for women with irreparably damaged or blocked fallopian tubes, or if a woman has conditions such as endometriosis or ovulatory disfunction. It's also an option if there are sperm disorders or unexplained infertility.
Can I use donor sperm to get pregnant?
If you're undergoing fertility treatments and your husband has issues (such as count or quality) with his sperm – or if he has genetic conditions such as haemophilia – donor sperm is an option. Some hospitals and clinics have their own sperm banks while some ask that you find your own donor (eg. friend or family member). There are also some overseas sperm banks that you can access, which are approved by the Ministry of Health.
If a child is born from using donor sperm, the recipient and her husband are listed as parents of the child; donors have no claim to any child born under the programme and his identity is kept confidential too. Single women cannot go to a clinic here and ask to use donor sperm to get pregnant.
Can I use a donor egg to get pregnant?
Couples sometimes have to use donor eggs if the quality of the woman's eggs aren't good enough to result in pregnancy or carry one to full term. Unlike donor sperm, which can be accessed from sperm banks, there is very little access to donor eggs. Most clinics require you to find your own egg donor, which is usually a relative or friend. The donor then has to go through daily hormone injections in order to stimulate her ovaries to produce eggs and, after an average of 10 to 14 days, the eggs are retrieved through the vagina in a short procedure performed under local anaesthesia.
Under Singapore law, egg donors cannot be paid for their contribution; it has to be a completely altruistic transaction. You are, however, allowed to pay for the cost of reasonable expenses incurred during this process. The woman carrying the baby will be identified as the mother of the child; the egg donor has no legal claim to the child.
Can I use a surrogate to carry a child for me?
A surrogate is a woman who agrees to carry a child in her womb for someone else. Couples generally use surrogates if the woman is unable to conceive or to carry a pregnancy to full term. While there are no explicit laws that prohibit surrogacy in Singapore, guidelines set out by the Ministry of Health state that clinics that provide fertility treatments are not allowed to carry out surrogacy arrangements.
If you’re looking for more information about IVF, go to www.moh.gov.sg. Read more stories about pregnancy: How to cope with pregnancy pains; 17 myths about what you can or can't eat when pregnant and Don't let pregnancy affect your career.
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