Tatler’s POV is our column where we give you our take on hot societal issues of the moment.
After years of back and forth, the Singapore government has finally given the green light for women to freeze their eggs for non-medical reasons regardless of their marital status.
Under the Assisted Reproduction Services Regulations, women aged between 21 and 35 can undergo elective egg freezing from as early as 2023. That said, only legally married couples can use their frozen eggs to try for a baby through in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).
This is good news for women who have been considering this option because this procedure was previously only obtainable by going abroad.
However, as a young woman myself, my question is, why did it take so long to get the law approved locally?
We all know that egg freezing is an expensive and invasive procedure that can be very difficult both emotionally and physically. While current evidence shows that there is no increased risk of abnormalities between the use of frozen and fresh eggs, according to Associate Professor Sadhana Nadarajah, the head and senior consultant at the Department of Reproductive Medicine in KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), there are certainly still disadvantages to this type of reproductive assistance.
“Egg freezing involves stimulating the ovaries with hormones to produce multiple eggs, similar to the initial stage of IVF, and the eggs are then retrieved using a needle and subsequently frozen in sub-zero temperature until such time as needed for an assisted reproduction procedure," explained Professor Sadhana.
“As it is an invasive procedure, there are surgical risks. Cost for the procedure, treatment and even recurring costs for storage are involved. It is also important to note that there is also no guarantee in conception,” she continued.
“The success rate of pregnancy using frozen eggs is dependent on the number and quality of eggs. For example, for a 34- or 35-year-old woman, 10 to 15 frozen eggs will give a pregnancy success rate of about 75 per cent to 80 per cent.”
Professor Sadhana added that while a woman’s eggs may not age, she will be and is still at risk of developing medical conditions such as fibroids, endometriosis, high blood pressure and diabetes that may complicate the pregnancy.
Aside from these risks, there is also a 10 per cent chance of an egg not being viable after freezing, according to Professor Sadhana.
Considering the dangers and risks associated with elective egg freezing, it’s clear that this is not a choice most would undertake without thoughtful considerations first; which is why it is great that the choice has been taken out of the law’s hands and returned to women, where it belongs.
However, besides looking at the medical benefits of women being able to make this choice on their own, there are also many societal benefits that may not have been considered when the law was being made and then changed in my opinion.
After all, we rarely discuss how removing the pressure from young women to settle down, marry and have children quickly due to fears about their biological clock can benefit them and society as a whole.
It is my belief that without the pressure of needing to have children at a young age, we may, as a society, start to see healthier marriages between more mature and financially stable individuals which could reduce divorce rates, abuse rates, allow for children to grow up in healthier homes and overall empower women with more choices.
1. It could help reduce divorces
It’s not uncommon to see that most aspire to marry young. Whether it’s because of societal expectations or the innate desire to be connected with someone as you grow, one thing remains constant—that is, a woman’s biological clock.
One of the most common reasons why many women marry at a younger age is so that they can be young mothers, bounce back from pregnancy easier and have the best chance of getting pregnant without fuss or complications.
In a survey conducted by Today last year, it was found that out of the 536 female respondents, 61 per cent were concerned about health issues related to pregnancy and childbirth. Marrying young in order to preserve fertility is a major concern for young women. However, marrying younger has also been linked to an increase in divorces which can be problematic.
“I think it has more to do with the maturity level of the person going into marriage. At a younger age, if the person has not really experienced much of life or has been quite sheltered, it can be tough to navigate the issue of marriage or a long-term relationship and the responsibilities that come with that decision,” explained Padma Jairam, a counselling psychologist at Padma Jairam Counselling. “Sometimes I think the marriage may turn rocky more so because the couple may not know what questions to ask before committing.”
If women can choose to freeze their eggs and are financially able to, they may also feel less pressure to settle down earlier in life and have more time to focus on other responsibilities in life first, for instance, fostering healthy romantic relationships with their partners.