Raise age limit for elective egg freezing from 35 to 40: Tampines GRC MP Cheng Li Hui

The Government will allow elective egg freezing for women aged between 21 and 35 from next year. ST PHOTO: EDWARD TEO

SINGAPORE - The move to allow elective egg freezing is an "incredibly important development" but the age limit should be raised from 35 to 40, said Tampines GRC MP Cheng Li Hui.

Ms Cheng, who has been speaking in Parliament on the issue of elective egg freezing since 2016, said she understands that the scientific evidence shows that the quality of a woman's eggs depreciates significantly after 35.

However, it has become relatively common for women to conceive after the age of 35 and up to their early 40s, she added.

"I find it a huge pity that the age limit is set at 35, and that this policy is under-serving a very important age segment that is between 36 and 40," she said during a marathon debate on the White Paper on Singapore Women's Development in Parliament on Tuesday (April 5).

After years of deliberation, the Government will allow elective egg freezing, which is done for non-medical reasons, for women aged between 21 and 35 from next year, regardless of marital status.

The announcement on March 28 marks a major shift in policy. Existing rules allow women to freeze their eggs only for medical reasons, such as when they have to undergo chemotherapy, which may adversely affect their fertility.

Ms Cheng said so many women she has spoken to think of freezing their eggs only in their 30s. When they are younger, they are focused on pursuits like their careers, dating and travel.

Besides, younger women may not be able to afford of the cost of the procedure, which may cost between $10,000 and $12,000, she said.

During the debate, Minister of State for Social and Family Development (MSF) Sun Xueling said that since the announcement to allow elective egg freezing, she has received many e-mails from women who welcome the move but are concerned about the age limit.

She said the age limit of 35 is aligned with the age limit for egg donors, which is also 35. It is determined based on international scientific evidence and professional consensus that egg quality declines significantly after 35.

Ms Sun added that according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the chance that a frozen egg will lead to a baby being born stands at 2 per cent to 12 per cent.

And the further the Government extends the age limit, the further the success rate falls. However, she assured women that the Government will continue to monitor medical developments and international data.

Ms Sun said women who miss the criteria slightly can get their fertility doctors to appeal on their behalf.

She added that the Government is making a "big move" by allowing elective egg freezing. And it has taken time to study the issue, given the differing views and concerns, such as whether it will encourage women to put off marriage and parenthood.

Wrapping up the debate, Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo said: "Like the subject of elective egg freezing which Ms Cheng Li Hui championed for years, it takes time to develop deeper understanding and to build consensus on what is right for our women and society."

Ms Cheng suggested that the Government implement subsidised fertility and health checks for women in their late 20s and early 30s or allow the use of MediSave for such screening.

Ms Sun said the Government is also looking to support couples by giving them access to evidence-based fertility information to empower them to make fertility decisions and seek help if they need it.

She added: "I hope that this move to allow women to have the choice to freeze their eggs has also created some awareness and space for conversations about fertility, health and cause women to think about these issues earlier."

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