From The Straits Times    |

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There’s been much debate on the topic of elective egg freezing even before the release of the White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development in March.

Previously, only women with valid medical reasons like cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy were eligible for the procedure. And over the past decade, women’s groups and public figures like Tampines GRC Member of Parliament Cheng Li Hui have called on the Government to allow it for all.

After the hallmark policy change with regards to egg freezing earlier this year, Minister of State for Social and Family Development, and Education Sun Xueling, alongside Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo, explained the Government’s change of heart.

“There were worries in certain quarters that making elective egg freezing available would send the wrong signal about marriage and parenthood, that they need not be prioritised and can always be postponed,” said Minister Teo.

Ms Sun elaborates to us further: “We will continue to tell young people that there are joys to starting a family early and will not stop those messages, but we’ve come to recognise that there are women who haven’t found suitable life partners that desire to have a family eventually. And yet, their biological clocks are ticking, so how do we provide them with options?

“Some women go overseas to get it done, and it may not only be expensive, but also dangerous, depending on where it is carried out. That is outside our jurisdiction, so if we take these things into consideration, we want to make it available to Singapore women in a transparent manner.”

The new ruling doesn’t mean there’s now a “free-for-all” approach when it comes to egg freezing in Singapore. In fact, the projected cost of one round of egg freezing is estimated to be around $13,000, or even higher if one undergoes the procedure in a private hospital. There will also be a yearly storage fee to take into account.

And while women aged 21 to 35 can opt for egg freezing regardless of their marital status, it’s only legally married couples who can use frozen eggs for in vitro fertilisation (IVF) should they wish to start a family.

Why the age limit of 35? It’s mainly for medical reasons.

“Based on current data, it seems like the success rates are higher before age 35. It’s based on scientific research – we didn’t invent this. That said, we do not preclude that with medical advancement, the age could be adjusted in the future, and will be setting up an appeals panel where women can write in to us, and we can assess how we can be helpful,” Ms Sun highlights.

“We’re also not diverging from our original message of marrying and having children at a younger age as, from a fertility standpoint, it is better for the women as there is less burden on their bodies. We reiterate the joys of parenthood, while providing an option.”

This story first appeared in the May 2022 issue of Her World.