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Hope should be for everyone

Social egg freezing remains unavailable in Singapore.

This despite the Ministry of Health's announcement in November 2012 that it was reviewing the "medical, scientific and ethical implications" of the policy.

In an e-mail reply to our queries last month, the ministry says: Only women who have to undergo treatments which will damage their fertility, such as chemotherapy, are allowed to freeze their eggs.

Social egg freezing is not allowed because of risks such as ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome, bleeding and infection, says the ministry's spokesman.

The potential social implications, such as how social egg freezing may delay marriage and parenthood, also concerns the ministry.

He says: "Given its complex nature and its potential impact, this issue requires careful deliberation by various government agencies and any changes will need to be carefully considered."

Countries with declining birth rates, like Taiwan and Australia, have legalised social egg freezing. In Israel, up to four rounds of egg freezing can be done for free.

Last year, Apple and Facebook offered to pay the costs of egg freezing for their female employees.

A Facebook spokesman confirmed that the company covers the costs up to US$$20,000 (S$26,700) for all US employees covered by its insurance plan.

Fertility experts The New Paper on Sunday spoke to are for the liberalisation of egg-freezing policy.

UNFOUNDED FEARS

Thomson Fertility Centre medical director Loh Seong Feei (above), 51, says fears of delayed motherhood and child-bearing are unfounded.

He says: "Those who freeze their eggs are not doing it for frivolous reasons like advancing their career. They are educated professionals who have not found the right relationship.

"They are worried that their egg reserves are declining and want to freeze their eggs before they run out."

Female fertility peaks at the age of 24 and starts declining from 28. At 34 years old, a woman's fertility could drop by 15 per cent, explains Dr Suresh Nair, who specialises in advance fertility treatments.

"Age is not on your side," he says.

The optimum age for egg-freezing is between 28 and 34 years old, says Dr James Grifo, a specialist in infertility treatment and in-vitro fertilisation in the US.

The procedure involves daily self-injection of medicine for about two weeks to stimulate the ovaries in producing more eggs, which are retrieved in a minor surgery.

Frozen eggs can yield the same IVF success rate as a fresh egg, says Dr Loh.

Director of Singapore General Hospital's Centre for Assisted Reproduction, Dr Yu Su Ling, cautions that there are risks of drug allergies, ovarian hyper-stimulation and bleeding, as well as infection from the surgical procedure.

Professor SC Ng, medical director of Sincere IVF Centre, says that a patient may need a few cycles of ovarian stimulation and several procedures to collect about 20 to 30 eggs to give a good chance of pregnancy.

Dr Grifo says patients can discard unused eggs or donate them to research.

He says: "It is an insurance policy, not a solution. Women freeze their eggs so that they can become their own egg donor."

Dr Loh feels that women should be given the right to make their own decision. "As long as the patient understands that egg freezing is not a sure way for them to conceive in the future, I feel that it is the patient's right to avail herself to the procedure."