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From fewer divorces to a generation of kids that are emotionally and physically more secure, here are some of the ways elective egg freezing can impact society as the uptake increases among women

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).

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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.

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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.

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2. It will likely reduce the risk of domestic abuse

Considering that marrying later in life may also improve the chances of settling down with a suitable life partner, this may also reduce the number of women finding themself in unfortunate domestic situations.  

According to the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) in 2020, a whopping 13 per cent or 905 of their helpline calls pertained to marital issues and divorce.

On January 21, 2021, the Singapore Police Force also, for the first time in history, reported that they received 5,135 reports for family violence-related offences in 2020. Of course, this does not include the many who may have had more psychological or ‘invisible’ abuse inflicted on them. 

“I think marrying at an age where the emotional maturity is quite low, may increase the risk of abusive behaviour of some sort simply because they may not understand that their behaviour constitutes abuse,” said Padma. “The couple may also not know how to manage tough challenges, especially those that entail understanding each other’s emotions and behaviours.”

Additionally, financial difficulties tend to be the biggest precursor to marital problems and abuse which can be eliminated with older and more financially secure partners. 

“With financial problems statistically being a major reason for divorce, it is likely that younger marriages would be financially less stable. You could postulate that less stable relationships, due to immaturity and more financial problems, could be a factor in tensions resulting in abuse,” shared Laura Hwang, the Chair of the Maintenance Support Central Committee at the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO).

Now that women can freeze their eggs, they may also use the opportunity of getting ‘extra time’ to learn how to make more informed decisions about marital life and not rush into anything. 

3. Children often benefit from having more mature parents

In the same survey by Today, it was found that 69 per cent of both men and women are most concerned about the cost of living when it comes to having children. 47 per cent of female responders, in particular, said that they were concerned about the potential impact on their career progression should they have a child. 

Now that women can freeze their eggs, those who choose to do so will be able to feel comfortable waiting for the right partner and marrying later which will also mean that they are more mature and stable both financially and in their careers for when they do have a child. 

“Older parents may mean more financial, emotional and social stability, which can aid parenting," said Assistant Professor Shannon Ang who teaches Sociology at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

In a Dutch survey done in 2019, the behavioural patterns of 32,892 Dutch children between the ages of 10 to 12 with parents ages 16 to 68 were studied and it was found that kids with older parents have less disobedience and aggression issues. Older parents were also more likely to have fewer substance abuse issues, and fewer mental health problems and were thus able to provide a more favourable environment for their children.

“Assuming older couples are more mature in the sense of having lived more and perhaps experienced a plethora of life-changing events, the child will probably benefit from those experiences and having parents who may be able to guide the child in navigating through life," said Padma. “It also gives the parents the time to ensure they are financially stable before the child comes into their lives. This may reduce the anxiety and stress in the marriage and family as a whole.”

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4. It will likely aid in empowering women

One of the biggest benefits of allowing women the choice to freeze their eggs more freely is the empowerment that comes with it. While the procedure continues to be fairly new and hence, extremely expensive and inaccessible to many, just having an option available for women in Singapore is indeed a big deal.

“The changes in the egg freezing law will perhaps reassure many women that the biological clock does not have to be a death knell,” said Padma. “I think anything that gives women a choice can be liberating and empowering. The ability to make a choice and not feel cornered is such a powerful feeling.”

The choice to freeze one’s eggs gives women the chance to pursue their career ambitions and to settle down with the right person rather than feel forced to marry for the sake of having children early.

As we move forward, we certainly hope that more ways will be found to subsidise the costs of egg freezing for women who wish to carry out the procedure because when the uptake increases, so will the societal changes that come with it.


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