Government lifts IVF age limit, extends co-funding
By end-2020, there will also be more subsidies for child vaccinations available at polyclinics and Chas clinics
In a bid to encourage couples to conceive, the Government will be offering more subsidies for child vaccinations and more help for assisted reproduction.
The current set of subsidies are for certain National Childhood Immunisation Schedule vaccinations - for diseases with high outbreak potential such as measles, mumps and rubella, and Haemophilus influenzae type B - and only at polyclinics.
Before end-2020, subsidies for vaccinations against pneumococcal disease and the human papillomavirus (HPV), which are for personal protection, will be rolled out at polyclinics, and will also be available at Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) general practitioner clinics, of which there are about 1,000.
The Health Ministry will also extend subsidies for developmental screenings for Singaporean children to all Chas clinics.
With more couples here marrying later, it means they could require more help to conceive and against that backdrop, the Government will lift the age limit of 45 for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and will allow some co-funded treatments to be started at a later age.
The number of assisted reproduction technology (ART) - including IVF - cycles a woman can undergo will also no longer be capped, said Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor at a press conference yesterday.
Today, a woman is allowed to undergo a maximum of only 10 cycles up to the age of 40, and five cycles after that age.
Moreover, Government co-funding is available for up to six ART cycles only for women below 40 years of age at the start of the cycle.
Dr Khor announced that from Jan 1, 2020, up to two of the six cycles can be carried out when the woman is 40 or older, as long as the couple had tried ART or intra-uterine insemination (IUI) procedures before the woman turned 40.
For ART treatments, newly eligible couples will receive co-funding of up to $7,700 for a fresh cycle and $2,200 for a frozen cycle, for three fresh cycles and three frozen cycles, provided the woman is medically assessed to be fit to carry a pregnancy to term.
Dr Khor added that the Ministry of Health will also extend government co-funding for the less invasive IUI procedure to better support fertility treatment prior to ART treatment.
Eligible couples undergoing the IUI procedures at public assisted reproduction centres can receive co-funding of up to 75 per cent, capped at $1,000 a cycle, for three cycles of IUI.
There are currently no subsidies for the procedure.
President of voluntary welfare organisation I Love Children, Mrs Joni Ong, 59, who conceived after ART treatment, applauded the move to lift the age limit for IVF treatment.
She pointed out that most 45-year-old women who wanted to access the treatment had been trying for a child for years.
She said: "For them to suddenly have that window closed at 45, it can be quite devastating.
"While it is best to encourage couples to start early, more are getting married later and lifting the age limit and providing more support will allow them to have that window of hope and opportunity widened."
Associate Professor Yong Tze Tein, head of obstetrics and gynaecology at Singapore General Hospital, has encountered a number of women older than 45 who ask for ART treatment after struggling for years to get pregnant.
She said: "I remember how upset a patient got when I had to turn her away. She didn't give up and came in a few times, and each time I had to turn her away.
"Finally, at 51, she went overseas for the treatment and delivered a child."
Madam Emily Lim, 44, a mother of a six-year-old, is trying for a second child.
She has experienced secondary infertility and one miscarriage, and speaking to The New Paper, she welcomed the Government's latest moves.
"It is not just important for me, but for all the women out there who really want to have kids.
" If women can't get access in Singapore, they will simply go overseas. So the access needs to get easier," she said.