Social egg freezing is perceived by a lot of women as some form of biological insurance. Technically referred to as elective oocyte freezing (EOF), this is a go-to option for some women. At least those who choose to start a family later on in life. Freezing their eggs and keeping it safely tucked away in a clinic guarantees that they can have babies later on.

This is one of the options Singaporean women are starting to consider. This is especially concerning how marriage and childbirth are panning out in the country. Apparently, the process helps women delay childbirth in order to re-arrange their priorities in life and postpone having a family of their own until they meet their own “Mr Right.”

Marriage and Childbirth for women in Singapore

There are a number of reasons why egg freezing in Singapore is becoming more and more popular. One glaring reason for this is that women choose to get married later in life. The Department of Statistics Singapore reported that there is an increase in the number of people who have chosen to marry late in life over the past ten years.

This might not seem to be that big of a deal. But when you start to consider other factors such as childbirth, this decision ripples out to a lot more areas. In fact, statistics point to a decline in total live births in the country. It has been on a two-year decline since 2014 picking up only so slightly in 2016. This is also what Prof. Jean Yeung, Director of the Centre for Family and Population Research for the National University of Singapore, pointed out. Apparently, as women marry late, birth rates have been hit as well.

Why are Singaporean women marrying late?

Social egg freezing is becoming more and of an option for women because they have chosen to put in the back seat their plans to start a family at a young age. You cannot really blame them. They intend to make themselves financially secure first – which is a smart move. Nobody wants to start a family only to fight about money.

Starting a family should always involve practical considerations such as economy and expenses. With the high cost of living in Singapore, many people are delaying marriage.

Once you move past the romantic side of everything, you will start to see the financial side. Let us start with the cost of getting married. It can be very expensive and that is just to kick-off your union. You would have to start considering how to get a house, fit a bigger expense budget in both of your incomes and even how to reach your long-term goals as a couple.

Apart from that, women are marrying late because nobody meets their standards. Women with higher educational attainment and income are finding it hard to find Mr Right. At least, if they want to find a man matching their achievements.

This is not to say that lesser-educated women tend to compromise. It is just that women with higher education have fewer options when it comes to their love life.

Another reason why women marry later in life is that they prioritize their career more at present. They believe that the more stable and secure they are, everything will fall into place. This includes even plans for having a family. However, there is a biological clock to consider that is why they are looking to freeze their eggs.

Social Egg Freezing Perceived As A Biological Insurance

The Ministry of Health policy

Despite the logical benefits of social egg freezing, it remains illegal in Singapore. Of course, there are exceptions. There are a number of what is referred to as Licensed Assisted Reproduction (AR) Centers in Singapore. These clinics are the ones allowed to perform elective oocyte freezing on women.

The only time a woman is allowed to go through with this procedure is when their fertility is threatened by a medical treatment or procedure. This includes radiotherapy and even chemotherapy. With ovarian cancer as one of the top ten cancers affecting Singaporean women, the government is lenient enough to allow social egg freezing to give them an option to bear kids. Although the procedure carries risks, it is still an option for some women.

But what are the risks involved?

Some of these risks involve overstimulation of the ovaries, infection, and even bleeding. Women also need to know that age-related complications will still be a cause for concern for. The older you get, the more delicate your body becomes. It might be harder to complete the term of a pregnancy as compared to those who got pregnant at an early age. Other ailments like hypertension and even the onset of diabetes can be a cause of complications.

These are just some reasons why the government does not allow social egg freezing. However, they are constantly studying global developments in the field of elective oocyte freezing. This will help them move forward and craft relevant government position on the issue. They are careful to weigh not only the medical but also the social factors.

One thing is for sure, the government takes this matter very seriously. A ministry spokesman tells about prosecution and fines and even suspension or license termination for facilities offering social egg freezing without medical grounds.

Population impact

One of the reasons why this procedure remains illegal is the population problem in Singapore. Asian Parent shares how the late founding father Lee Kuan Yew stated that one of the threats to Singapore’s survival is a low fertility rate. This is already a call to boost the national population. This is one of the reasons why family-friendly campaigns are being rolled out for Singaporeans. This includes baby bonuses, paid paternity leaves, and even educational campaigns.

Despite all these, a lot of people are still choosing to start a family at a later stage in their life. If you also start to factor in how life expectancy in Singapore seems to be on the rise, there might come a time when there are more senior citizens than young professionals. This is not uncommon in developing countries. These are the nations where people choose to focus on careers than start a family early in life.

Neighbouring countries report an increase of Singaporean women freezing their eggs

As the practice of freezing their eggs is prohibited in the country, Asia One reports that women are flocking to other countries to freeze eggs. These countries include Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, and even the United States. These are some of the most common destinations that have seen an increase in their medical tourism. 

Five years ago, Dr Helena Lim of the KL Fertility Centre in Kuala Lumpur never had any Singaporean client. Currently, they are averaging two women looking at social egg-freezing treatments in Singapore. This would cost a minimum of S$5,000 for the process and over S$300 for storage every year. The same goes Sunfert International Fertility Centre also in Kuala Lumpur.

There are also some women who choose to go to Australia. Costs could set them back an astounding S$11,300 for the process and a yearly S$500 storage fee. Even with the high cost, there are still Singaporeans going to Australia to freeze their eggs. From a few clients a year, Melbourne IVF clinic Vitrus Health reports several women from Singapore coming in every month.

Possible changes in the policy moving forward

Singapore, much like Switzerland, is just one of the few countries that allow egg freezing. Of course, it should be supported by a medical need. However, as the Ministry of Health previously mentioned, they will be looking at the global medical landscape. That is an indication that there is hope for Singaporean women. This is because Policy Design shares that there are other countries responding positively to elective oocyte freezing.

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