What is social egg freezing, and does it guarantee pregnancy?
Today, egg freezing in Singapore is a popular fertility treatment offered to women with medical conditions that affect their ability to conceive naturally (eg. thyroid, cancer, endometriosis). However, it remains that not many countries allow for the use of this method for healthy, fertile women who are seeking it for other reasons such as their careers, lack of a partner, or even educational pursuits.
After years of deliberation, the government has decided that from 20231, all women aged 21 to 35, regardless of their marital status, will be allowed fertility treatment in Singapore to freeze their eggs for non-medical reasons.
Would you consider it? Does social freezing, or elective egg freezing, guarantee pregnancy? Are there any risks, and what is the process like? Read on to find out.
What is egg freezing?
Egg freezing, also known as mature oocyte cryopreservation, is a method that saves a woman’s ability to get pregnant in the future. Eggs harvested from patients’ ovaries are frozen, unfertilised, and stored for later use. Once thawed, a frozen egg is combined with sperm in a lab and thereafter implanted in the uterus.
Social egg freezing means storing the eggs of a healthy, fertile woman so that she may choose to become pregnant later in her life. Social egg freezing is ideally performed on younger patients in their 20s. But in reality, it is mostly performed on women above the age of 352.
What is the process like?
Before beginning the egg-freezing process, patients undergo screenings and tests that usually include:
Ovarian reserve testing
To determine the quantity and quality of your eggs. Your results can help predict how your ovaries will respond to fertility medication.
A blood test and ultrasound of your ovaries
To get the big picture of your ovarian functions.
Infectious disease screening
To detect infectious diseases such as HIV.
Following this, patients will then start to take synthetic hormones to stimulate their ovaries to produce multiple eggs, instead of just one egg a month. Medications your doctor might offer include:
- Follitropin alfa or beta (Follistim AQ, Gonal-f)
- Menotropins (Menopur)
- Leuproline acetate (Lupron Depot)
- Cetrorelix (Cetrotide)
After the procedure, regular ultrasound scans and blood tests will be conducted to determine if a patient is responding well to treatment.
Once a patient’s eggs are mature, they will be administered a final injection. Eggs will then be extracted while the patient is under sedation or a general anaesthetic. Typically, patients can resume normal activities within a week of an egg retrieval procedure.
Does egg freezing guarantee pregnancy?
The chances of pregnancy range from 30 to 60%, depending on your age at the time of egg freezing. Live birth success rates go down as age goes up.
Age impacts egg freezing success rates in two ways.
First of all, women have a lower egg supply as they get older.
Secondly, as women age, a higher proportion of their eggs will be genetically abnormal. What that means is that each egg will have a lower chance of becoming a healthy baby.
A 2016 study3 of IVF cycles using frozen eggs found that for women aged 30 and below, every egg retrieved had a 8.67% chance of resulting in a child, but for women over 40, that dropped to less than 3%.
When it comes to fertility, age presents a double disadvantage: As women age, they need to freeze more eggs to up their chances, but struggle with retrieving fewer eggs per cycle. This is why multiple cycles are more common for older clients.
Are there any risks of egg freezing?
While no research to date has shown a link between babies having birth defects and egg freezing, as with every medical procedure, egg freezing does have rare risks, such as:
- Conditions resulting from fertility drug use (eg. ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome)
- Egg retrieval procedure complications
- Bleeding, infection or damage to the bowel, bladder or a blood vessel
- Older women have higher miscarriage rates, mainly due to having older eggs
- Emotional risk; fertility treatments can take an emotional toll on patients
Can I use frozen eggs for IVF?
The short answer is yes. In Singapore, there is no time limit on how long eggs frozen for medical reasons can be kept frozen. And as freezing hits the “pause” button, eggs will remain as young and healthy as they were at the time of freezing.
Apart from the obvious time factor, here’s what else you should know about egg freezing:
- There is no need to synchronise the donor and recipient’s cycles
- Patients will know how many eggs are available before beginning a cycle
- A shorter time frame of procedure is required as eggs have already been retrieved
- Cost per treatment cycle is reduced when using frozen donor eggs
Based on preliminary data from many studies, women up to 38 years of age have a 75% egg thaw rate and thereafter, a 75% fertilisation rate. This means that if 10 eggs are frozen, 7 are expected to survive the thaw, and 5 to 6 are expected to become embryos.
How much does egg freezing cost in Singapore?
The estimated cost of each egg freezing cycle is roughly $10,000.
This includes the fees for your fertility specialist, anaesthetist fee, operating theatre, recovery room charges, laboratory charges, and the freezing and storage of your embryos for a time period.
Whether you’re looking to freeze your eggs for medical or personal reasons, we understand that this is a big decision. Our medical team provides not just fertility treatment, but guidance for those hoping to one day have the family they dream of. Contact us today.
- Borovecki, A., Tozzo, P., Cerri, N., & Caenazzo, L. (2018). Social egg freezing under public health perspective: Just a medical reality or a women’s right? An ethical case analysis. Journal of public health research, 7(3), 1484. https://doi.org/10.4081/jphr.2018.1484