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More seeking help to conceive despite low success rate

Jump comes after govt funding for couples kicked in

Published on Dec 16, 2013 7:39 AM
Madam Thay had almost given up hope. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Almost 1,000 more attempts were made by couples who sought help in conceiving last year, compared with 2008, the year the Government started funding assisted births, Ministry of Health (MOH) figures show.

The surge comes despite what doctors lament is a dismal one-in-five rate of success in assisted methods such as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).

Dr Loh Seong Feei, medical director of Thomson Fertility Centre, described the rates as "a bit of a disappointment", and feels that it should be improved.

MOH's figures showed 2,912 assisted reproduction cycles were carried out on Singaporeans last year, up from 1,916 in 2008.

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Background story


WHEN medical tests carried out at Thomson Fertility Centre showed she was pregnant, Madam Thay Putheaneath, 34, asked her husband: "Can you slap me?"

The reaction of the permanent resident was understandable, as she had undergone six failed attempts at conceiving via in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).

"To be honest, after four tries, I did not want to continue any more," said the part-time translator, who is originally from Cambodia. "Every time it failed, I cried - until I felt nothing."

The treatments were also very costly, said her husband, Mr Vincent Toh, 53, a Singaporean businessman.

"We wanted to give up," she recalled. "I even told my parents, I want to surrender."

The difference on her seventh attempt to conceive via IVF, Madam Thay reckons, was the use of traditional Chinese medicine. On the advice of physicians at Thomson Medical, which runs the fertility centre, Madam Thay drank bitter herbal concoctions and underwent acupuncture for nine months.

She is now three months pregnant and counts herself lucky she was able to conceive before 35 - the age after which a woman's fertility generally declines drastically.

The couple paid an estimated $100,000 for the seven rounds of IVF.

"When we spend, what we want the most is to be successful," she added.


Rise in assisted treatments and births

Assisted reproduction cycles carried out on Singaporeans

  • 2008: 1,916
  • 2012: 2,912

Women who received treatments via assisted methods from 2008 to last year: 16,853

  • 60% Singaporeans
  • 22% permanent residents
  • 18% foreigners

Babies conceived through assisted methods

  • 2008: 932
  • 2011: 1,268
  • 63% conceived in public hospitals, 37% in private centres

Successful attempts from 2008 to 2011 (fresh embryo cycles that resulted in live births)

  • Between 21% and 24%

2,500 Medisave claims made last year to pay for treatments