Singaporean couples are waiting longer before getting married. As a result, they also have babies at a later age.
If this is you, you’ve probably wondered if this delay affects your chances to have a baby, and whether there’s anything you can do about it.
In your research and conversations, egg freezing might have come up as an option.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- What is egg freezing?
- Why do women freeze their eggs? (medical vs social freezing)
- The process: How does egg freezing actually work?
- Did you know?
What is egg freezing?
This is where a woman’s eggs are collected and frozen. When she is ready to conceive, she can thaw, fertilise and implant the resulting embryos through the IVF process. Egg freezing circumvents the issue of declining egg quality over time, a problem all women encounter.
Why do women freeze their eggs?
You are born with all the eggs you will ever have. As you become older, the number of eggs and their quality will decline. The chances of pregnancy fall after the age of 35, and more steeply after 40 years old. Men, on the other hand, are able to make new sperm at the same quality throughout their lives. In fact, the oldest man on record to father a baby was in his 90s!
A common medical reason for egg freezing is to safeguard against medical treatments that might affect the ovaries.
For example, a woman might consider freezing her eggs prior to undergoing cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy and/ or radiotherapy, just in case the treatment has an impact on her ovaries.
Some women may be carriers of genetic conditions that would predispose them to risk of future cancer, for example breast cancer, and their doctors may recommend removal of their ovaries to reduce the risk of cancer developing. Freezing their eggs before their ovaries are removed lets them retain the option of conceiving even the surgery.
Not everyone is ready to start a family when they are at their peak fertility. Some women therefore opt to have their eggs frozen so that they can try for a baby later on, even after their natural fertility has declined. This is commonly referred to as social egg freezing.
Presently, social egg freezing is not permitted in Singapore. There is a possibility of this changing, however, as the government is currently reviewing their stance. Unfortunately, it is not clear if or when this ban will be lifted.
In contrast, social egg freezing has now become commonplace in many large American companies, ever since the American Society of Reproductive deemed that freezing a woman’s eggs should no longer be considered “experimental” in 2012. Tech giants, such as Apple, Google and Facebook, now offer egg freezing as part of employee medical benefits.
The process: How does egg freezing actually work?
The process of egg freezing is the same as the first part of an in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) cycle.
The woman undergoes a series of injections with fertility drugs for about 2 weeks. During this time, she will be monitored with regular ultrasound scans and blood tests to determine her response to the medicines.
When the eggs are deemed mature, the woman is prepared for egg collection.
Finally, the eggs are collected in the operating theatre, with the patient under sedation or a general anaesthetic.
After the eggs have been collected, they will be carefully examined by embryologists, and mature eggs will be frozen.
The majority of Assisted Reproduction centres now use the ultra rapid freezing method known as vitrification that will freeze the eggs at -197 degrees Celsius in under one minute. Compared to the older method of slow freezing, vitrification has a far superior post-thaw survival rate for eggs of over 90% compared to 60%.
When is the best time to freeze my eggs?
35 years or younger is the best time to freeze your eggs. This is because there is a decline in fertility after age 35, where both the quantity as well as the quality of the eggs will fall.
Does freezing my eggs improve my chances of having a baby?
Egg freezing gives you the option to use younger, healthier eggs when trying to get pregnant later on in life.
However, egg freezing does not guarantee having a baby from those eggs. There are many steps between freezing eggs and giving birth, hence egg freezing cannot guarantee you a child. However, it does help pause the clock for women who are not yet ready to try for a baby.
Researchers have developed calculators that estimate the number of eggs required in order to have at least one good quality embryo (POSEIDON group ART calculator) or the chances of having a live birth based on age of egg freezing and number of eggs frozen. Click here to try it out. (Brigham and Women’s Hospital calculator)
What kind of medical reasons permit me to explore egg freezing in Singapore?
The most common medical reason that permits egg freezing is a cancer diagnosis, where your specialist discusses treatments such as chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. As these treatments could potentially have an adverse effect on your fertility, freezing your eggs before undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy is permitted.
Every patient is different, and we recommend you speak to your doctor about whether you qualify for egg freezing in Singapore.
Does ACRM do egg freezing?
Yes, ACRM has the facilities to perform egg freezing. You can get in touch with us directly for more information, or talk to your doctor about a referral.
How much can I expect to pay to freeze my eggs for medical reasons in Singapore?
A cycle of egg freezing in Singapore is estimated to cost about $10,000.
Where can I go to get my eggs frozen outside of Singapore?
Several countries offer social egg freezing. Regional countries include Thailand and Malaysia. Spain, the UK, Australia and the USA are other examples.
How much can you expect to pay to freeze your eggs for social reasons overseas?
Charges vary widely. For example, egg freezing costs approximately RM22,000 in Malaysia, and A$11,000 in Australia.
Did you know?
ACRM’s founder, Prof Christopher Chen, was the first person in the world to successfully freeze a human egg.
Prof Chen was working in Adelaide, Australia when he and his team froze human eggs and successfully fertilised the eggs after thawing. The fertilised eggs resulted in a twin pregnancy with successful birth. This was first reported in the prestigious medical journal, the Lancet, in 1986. Link to article abstract.
His success in freezing eggs paved the way for egg banks to be started all over the world.
Dr Lim Min Yu, ACRM’s medical director, was recently interviewed on Channel News Asia on his views on egg freezing.
At ACRM, we believe that you should have as much information as possible in order to make an informed decision about your reproductive options. This means knowing about the success rates, costs and side effects of options such as egg freezing.
Feel free to contact us for more information regarding egg freezing, we are here for you.