Egg freezing is currently banned in Singapore with the exception for those with specific medical reasons. However, on 28 March 2022, the government released a White Paper on Women’s Development which details action plans to be implemented over 10 years. One of the proposed directives is the ratification of the Assisted Reproduction Services Regulations under the Healthcare Services Act. If approved, this new development will allow women aged 21 to 35 years old to undergo elective or social egg freezing regardless of their marital status.
This means that they will be able to retrieve healthy eggs for preservation even before they are at the stage of actively trying to get pregnant. What exactly is egg freezing, and how does it work? And what should a young woman take into consideration before opting for this medical procedure?
How Does Egg Freezing Work?
Egg freezing, known technically as oocyte cryopreservation, refers to the process of freezing a woman’s eggs. The eggs are removed through an in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) procedure from the ovaries, then stored at below freezing temperatures to be used potentially at a later time. In essence, egg freezing stops the clock from ticking by keeping eggs viable long after the others within the reproductive system have run out.
Egg freezing is one of the ways to maintain fertility. Women may choose this method for a number of reasons, including mitigating health problems such as endometriosis, which causes uterine tissue to grow outside of the womb and may result in infertility.
What to Consider Before Freezing Your Eggs
Given the significance of this procedure, it is important to understand the potential risks and implications that come with it.
1. Financial cost
Egg freezing literally allows you to buy time. However, this often does not come cheap. On average, one egg freezing cycle in Singapore can cost upwards of $8,000, which can be a hefty sum for many people. This amount also does not include storage fees, which can cost $600 each year.
2. Side effects from fertility drugs
To harvest healthy eggs, you will first need to take certain fertility drugs. Medications such as hormone injections help to stimulate the ovaries to produce an optimal number of eggs. However, these drugs do come with potential uncomfortable side effects. Apart from injection site bruising, you may experience:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Breast tenderness
They may even lead to Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS), which means your ovaries swell and become rather painful.
3. Risks from medical procedure
All medical procedures come with some degree of risks, and egg retrieval is no different. The eggs are retrieved using transvaginal ultrasound aspiration, which involves the use of an aspiration needle. While complications are rare, this intrusive procedure increases your risk of bleeding, infection, or even damage to the bladder or bowel. However, one should also understand that this does not mean egg freezing should be avoided – but rather, that medical procedures like this naturally come with its own set of risks.
4. No success guarantee
While egg freezing can increase your chance of becoming pregnant in the future, it does not guarantee that this will happen. The overall success rate is dependent on several factors, such as the quality of the eggs, and a woman’s age during the time of retrieval. Also, not all eggs will make it through the thawing process, and not all eggs may be fertilised by the sperm.
Seek Advice From The Experts
Egg freezing is not a fertility insurance policy, and should not be treated as such. Given the limitations and benefits of this procedure, it is crucial to understand the considerations and risks associated with egg freezing treatments. You must also ready yourself for the emotional toll this can take on you, should your eggs end up not becoming fertilised at the end.
At The O&G Specialist Clinic, we are delighted to see young women in Singapore being given the chance to take charge of their own fertility outcomes. While we anticipate that social egg freezing would become a norm in future for women across all ages, the fact of the matter is that this is still a serious medical procedure that should not be undermined.
Egg freezing may not be your only option. Book a virtual consultation to discuss your fertility management options, or read more about the views of our professional fertility specialist and founder, Dr Loh Seong Feei, on The Straits Times (‘Singapore to allow women, including singles to freeze their eggs, for non-medical reasons’) and Lianhe Zaobao (‘让女性结婚生子有更大自主权 冻卵能避免卵子素质下降导致不孕’) today.