Singapore will allow women 21 to 35 years old to freeze their eggs regardless of their marital status. This move is to help the country address a decline in population due to women marrying later in life and having trouble getting pregnant.
Egg freezing entails freezing one or more unfertilised eggs, or eggs that have not been combined with sperm, to save them for future use. The eggs are frozen and stored as a method to preserve reproductive potential.
In this blog we will tell you everything you need to know if you are planning to freeze your egg for future use, and how this procedure could best serve your purpose.
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What is egg freezing?
Egg freezing, also called oocyte cryopreservation, occurs when a woman’s eggs or oocytes are retrieved, frozen, and stored to preserve her fertility until she wants to conceive later on in her life.
To date, egg freezing in Singapore is allowed for medical purposes, such as for a woman who will undergo treatment with chemotherapy or radiation. To preserve her fertility, her eggs are frozen and she can later use them after being treated for her illness.
Included in the White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development, the proposal aims to help women be informed of the benefits of egg freezing. However, only legally married couples can use the eggs to try to conceive through in-vitro fertilisation.
Allowing egg freezing is an attempt to address the current problem of population decline in the country. In fact, Singapore’s population size in 2021 saw its sharpest percentage decline since 1950. The population of Singapore, including foreign workers, dropped by 4.1 percent to 5.45 million people.
Why do women freeze their eggs?
When a woman gets older, the chances of conceiving decline since the eggs’ number and quality drop. Egg freezing is an attempt to preserve fertility by collecting eggs and freezing them. This way, the eggs are of the highest quality, which is perfect for conception.
There are two major reasons why women opt to freeze their eggs:
Women may freeze their eggs if they have a condition or situation that can affect their fertility. For example, autoimmune diseases like lupus or sickle cell anaemia make it possible that the eggs will be affected. Hence, egg freezing is given as an option. But in Singapore’s new guideline, women regardless of medical conditions can now opt for egg freezing.
Further, women who are undergoing treatment for cancer or radiation can choose egg freezing because these treatments can harm their fertility. Egg freezing may help them have biological children in the future when they are healthy enough.
In some instances, women who are at a high risk of getting cancer due to some genetic conditions may also decide to freeze their eggs. This is because physicians may recommend removing their ovaries to cut the risk of developing cancers.
Women may choose egg freezing if they wish to preserve younger eggs now for future use. Some ladies are not yet ready to have a baby or start a family during the peak of their reproductive years. Some women also marry later in life, reducing their chances of getting pregnant or start a family later, reducing the chance of achieving their desired family size. Freezing eggs at a younger age can help women get pregnant when they are ready.
How is egg freezing done?
The egg freezing process is similar to the initial stages of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) cycle.
First, the woman will receive hormone injections to stimulate egg follicle growth and maturation for about two weeks. Regular ultrasound scans and blood tests are performed to see if she is responding to the treatment. When the eggs are the desired size, a final injection will be administered to mature the eggs and the doctor will extract the eggs from the ovary. An embryologist doctor in the lab will examine to ascertain if the eggs are mature before they are frozen with the use of a flash-freezing method (cryo precipitation).
How will the eggs be used in the future?
In the future, when a woman decides to use her eggs, the cryopreserved eggs are thawed and warmed in a solution. The viable eggs that have survived the freezing process will be fertilised via intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), a procedure where a sperm cell is directly injected into the egg.
From there, the fertilised egg (embryo) will develop in the lab until it is ready to be transferred into the uterus (usually day 3-5). Usually the best quality embryo is transferred back to the woman in an appropriate time of her cycle. Any remaining embryos will be frozen again for use in the future if this first transfer does not succeed.
How effective is egg freezing?
Egg freezing involves a lot of time and effort, from the preparation for the procedure until the woman decides to use the eggs if she is ready to get pregnant. Egg freezing is a rapidly changing field, hence, if you want your eggs frozen, choose a reputable clinic that has lots of experience.
Many clinics across the world have attested to the success rate of egg freezing. It’s an evolving procedure that is continuously being updated to ensure safety and efficacy.
According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the standard period for eggs to be stored is a maximum of 10 years. In certain situations, the eggs are allowed to be stored for up to 55 years.
When is the best age to freeze eggs?
A woman’s peak fertility is in their early 20 s and declines slowly after, expedited after they turn 35 years old, affecting both the number and quality of egg cells . Doctors recommend getting the eggs frozen before 35 years old to make sure you have eggs that are viable and can help in conceiving.
Egg freezing is a new promising concept in Singapore to help women live up to their maximum potential. They can delay getting pregnant, and at the same time, provide a chance for them to become mothers someday. Aside from letting other people know about the procedure, it can also help address the growing number of population problems.
Find the right answers in this fertility journey. If you have any questions about egg freezing or other fertility concerns, you can schedule a consultation with Dr Pamela Tan today. You may call our clinic at +65 6254 2878 to book your appointment today.
Dr Pamela Tan is a board certified obstetrician and gynecologist in Singapore. She finished her undergraduate studies at the National University of Singapore and earned her post-graduate degree at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the UK. She is an accredited specialist by the Specialist Accreditation Board (Ministry of Health), and a fellow of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore. She subspecialises in colposcopy and is certified to perform Level 3 minimally invasive keyhole surgeries such as laparoscopic hysterectomy, myomectomy and cystectomy. Dr Pam also supports the natural birthing method and she strives to provide a personalised care and treatment for each patient.