Forum: Permit social egg freezing with age limit

Posed photo of a pregnant woman.
Posed photo of a pregnant woman.PHOTO: ST FILE

The Straits Times' social affairs correspondent Theresa Tan described the dire situation of older women having dismal outcomes from fertility treatment due to the lack of viable and healthy eggs (Good to lift IVF age limit, but will women still have eggs?, Oct 11).

This, in turn, has sparked calls for social egg freezing to be permitted in Singapore, in tandem with the lifting of age restrictions on in-vitro fertilisation treatment.

However, the Ministry of Health (MOH) is reluctant to do so, fearing that the procedure could lead to disappointment for many couples who delay marriage and parenthood only to find out later that they are unable to conceive using this method.

The main challenge with social egg freezing is that most women freeze their eggs when they are too old and the quality of their eggs has substantially declined.

The high financial costs of social egg freezing tend to deter many younger women from freezing their eggs until they feel desperate after growing older.

Hence, it is common to read in the media that most women freeze their eggs in their late 30s or early 40s.

The solution to this problem is to impose an age limit on social egg freezing so as to ensure a good outcome in future fertility treatments. A suitable cut-off age is 35, since most medical publications have reported a steep decline in female fertility after that.

This may seem a bit harsh from an individual point of view, but looking at the big picture, imposing such an early cut-off age would in fact encourage and push more women to freeze their eggs when they are much younger for their own benefit.

This would ensure a much better outcome in future fertility treatment, thereby allaying the MOH's concerns and reluctance to permit social egg freezing.

Additional incentives for women to freeze their eggs at even younger ages could also be put in place. For example, let women who freeze their eggs before 30 years old be eligible to donate some of their eggs to infertile couples in return for heavily discounted medical fees for egg freezing.

Because such subsidies will come directly from infertile couples receiving the donated eggs, there would be no additional costs to the Government.

Moreover, such a scheme would also overcome the persistent shortage of donor eggs in Singapore.

Alexis Heng Boon Chin (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2019, with the headline 'Permit social egg freezing with age limit'. Print Edition | Subscribe