I strongly agree with Ms Malavika Menon that permitting social egg freezing in Singapore would expand family planning choices for young women and allow them to undergo this difficult and painful medical procedure within the comfort and security of their home environment (Dilemma of social egg freezing for women in Singapore, July 11).
If the Singapore Government were to permit social egg freezing, a pertinent issue that must be addressed is how to overcome the high costs of the procedure.
The costs can deter many women from freezing their eggs at younger ages, until they feel the pangs of desperation as they get older.
News reports suggest that the majority of women who freeze their eggs do so in their mid-30s to early-40s. This could be due to the fact that older women have accumulated more savings than younger women.
This late age for egg freezing is the major contributory factor to the relatively low success rates of conceiving through a frozen egg. Hence, it is imperative to look at helping younger women overcome the financial constraints of egg freezing.
It is difficult to justify direct government subsidies for egg freezing, as this is an elective procedure linked to personal responsibility for one's own actions and life choices, unlike subsidised in-vitro fertilisation treatment for infertile couples.
Instead, a three-pronged strategy can be considered.
First, younger women should be permitted to use their Central Provident Fund (CPF) money for egg freezing.
Second, the Government could consider providing low-interest loans to fund egg freezing pegged to CPF ordinary account interest rates, similar to HDB housing loans or loans for university tuition fees.
Third, younger women should be allowed to donate some of their retrieved eggs to infertile patients, in return for subsidies from these patients, which would ease the financial burden of egg freezing. Younger women, particularly those below 30, readily produce an excess number of eggs upon hormonal stimulation.
Stringent safeguards should be implemented with such financial assistance schemes, such as strict age limits, along with mandatory medical screening of reproductive health to ensure that prospective patients are good candidates for egg freezing.
Excluding older women from such financial assistance will also push and encourage women to freeze their eggs when they are much younger, thereby leading to much higher chances of future reproductive success.
Alexis Heng Boon Chin (Dr)