Older couples relieved to get more help for fertility treatment
Relief for those above 45 as Government announced removal of age limit for assisted reproduction technology, subsidies
She spent about $50,000 on in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment and has been emotionally and financially drained in the process. Yet, the 44-year-old remains hopeful of having another child - a companion for her six-year-old son.
"(The money) would be worth it as bringing life into this world is a miracle," said the consultant, who did not want to be named.
More older women are seeking fertility treatments here, with later marriages increasingly the norm.
Currently, the age limit for assisted reproduction technology (ART) treatment in Singapore is 45, and women above 40 can try up to only five cycles.
The Government announced last month that both limits would be removed next year.
It also unveiled subsidies for intra-uterine insemination (IUI) and allowed some ART cycles to be subsidised even if done after 40.
The moves come as a relief to older couples.
"I was already worrying about what I had to do next year once I turned 45," said the consultant. "At least (now) I can continue IVF treatment in Singapore and not have to resort to going overseas."
Gynaecologists said the chances of pregnancy after fertility treatments remain low.
"Only about 30 to 40 per cent of women succeed in fertility treatment at their first attempt, so persisting with treatment after failure is important," said Dr Sadhana Nadarajah, a senior consultant at KK Women's and Children's Hospital reproductive medicine department.
The success rate for IUI in older women is as low as a few per cent, said Associate Professor Yong Tze Tein, head and senior consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology at Singapore General Hospital.
While the success rate for older women for IVF is higher at about 15 per cent, it drops exponentially each year after 40, said Prof Yong.
Also, only 10 to 15 per cent of their eggs are "normal" at age 40. Even if they do get pregnant, they are more likely to have a miscarriage, hypertension or gestational diabetes.
Despite procedures becoming safer, resulting in the removal of the age and cycle limits, "the real fact is that technology has not advanced to increase the pregnancy rate of older women (through treatments)", said Prof Yong.
Rather, the lifting means that now couples will be able to make their own choices and be assessed individually, from a "pure medical point of view and not just age alone", she said.
"The Government's message is still to try (treatments) before 40."