Obstetrician & Gynaecologist
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In recent years, the option of elective egg freezing has gained prominence as an effective method for preserving fertility in women.
With advancements in reproductive technology, egg freezing, also known as oocyte cryopreservation, has become an increasingly viable option for women who wish to delay childbearing for various reasons.
In Singapore, egg freezing for medical reasons is allowed. From July 2023, elective egg freezing is also allowed for women aged 21 – 37, regardless of marital status.
Learn more about egg freezing and how it may help you in your family planning. As every woman’s health condition is different, it is also important to always consult your doctor to find out if egg freezing is a viable option for you.
Egg freezing involves the extraction and preservation of a woman's eggs for future use.
The eggs are collected through a process known as ovarian stimulation, where hormone medications are administered to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Once the eggs have matured, they are retrieved and cryopreserved by rapidly cooling them to sub-zero temperatures. This freezing process halts biological activity, effectively preserving the eggs until they are ready to be used.
Egg freezing involves several steps, including:
During ovarian stimulation, hormonal medications are administered to encourage the development of multiple eggs in the ovaries. This process typically involves self-administered injections and regular monitoring. While some women may experience mild discomfort, such as bloating or breast tenderness, it is generally well-tolerated.
Egg retrieval is performed under sedation or anaesthesia, so you should not feel any pain during the procedure itself. However, some women may experience mild discomfort or cramping afterward, which usually subsides within a few days.
It's important to remember that pain tolerance can vary among individuals, and personal experiences may differ. Your healthcare provider will guide you through the process and address any concerns you may have.
Several factors contribute to a woman's decision to undergo egg freezing. These may include:
In general, women in their 20s to early 30s should still be relatively fertile with good numbers of healthy eggs. As women get older, the egg numbers and egg quality will decline resulting in lower success rates later when the eggs are thawed for fertilisation. Hence, the younger the woman is when she freezes her eggs, the better the success rates later when they are used.
In Singapore, starting from 1st July 2023, women aged between 21 and 37, regardless of marital status, will be able to legally freeze their eggs through elective egg freezing, which is carried out for non-medical reasons.
The age limit of 37 instead of 35 years as originally intended is backed by evidence stating that the success rates from egg freezing and the following usage of these eggs are relatively stable for women up till the age of 37 years old.
There is no current scientific evidence to suggest that egg freezing itself causes cancer.
However, certain conditions, such as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), can occur as a result of ovarian stimulation during the egg freezing process. OHSS is a potential side effect characterised by enlarged ovaries and fluid accumulation in the abdomen. Although rare, severe cases of OHSS may require medical intervention.
Egg freezing is primarily intended to preserve a woman's fertility for future use. The process involves retrieving mature eggs and freezing them for potential future use in assisted reproductive techniques like in vitro fertilisation (IVF). By freezing eggs at a younger age, women can potentially increase their chances of having a biological child later in life, even if their fertility declines.
Important to note that fertility is influenced by multiple factors, including age, overall health, and individual circumstances. While egg freezing can be a viable option for preserving fertility, it does not guarantee future pregnancy or eliminate the risk of infertility due to other factors.
Certain factors may make a woman unsuitable for egg freezing:
It is important to consult with a fertility specialist who can assess individual circumstances and provide personalised guidance on whether egg freezing is a suitable option.
While egg freezing is generally considered safe, it is important to be aware of potential risks and considerations, such as:
Egg freezing has evolved over the years. Its success depends on diverse factors such as the age of the patients at the time of freezing, the total number of oocytes frozen, and method of cryopreservation.
Age at freezing seems to be a critical factor for success rates.
Depending on a woman’s age and ovarian reserve, on average, one egg retrieval cycle would result in the collection of 10 – 15 eggs.
Of these, 90% will survive the freeze-thaw process. Around 50 – 70% will fertilise successfully with sperm, of which 40 – 50% will develop into good quality embryos. Around 50% of these good quality embryos will result in a pregnancy. Hence, more than one egg retrieval cycle may be needed to yield a good chance for one pregnancy.
In one study published in 2016 that involved a total of 1,283 vitrified oocytes warmed for 128 autologous IVF treatment cycles, the success rate of live birth per thawed oocyte was shown to be reduced with increasing age (7.4% for < 30 years, 7.0% for 30 – 34 years, 6.5% for 35 – 37 years and 5.2% for ≥ 38 years).
In another research paper published in 2022, a team of experts from NYU’s Grossman School of Medicine and Langone Fertility Center revealed that the proportion of patients who ultimately had a baby after going through the whole process of freezing and using their eggs was 39% – and the success rate was heavily influenced by the patient’s age.
In conclusion, egg freezing offers women in Singapore the opportunity to preserve their fertility and exercise control over their reproductive timeline. It allows for family planning flexibility, providing women with the option to pursue personal and professional goals before starting a family. While egg freezing is not without risks, advancements in technology and the availability of support services have made the process safer and more accessible than ever before.
Mount Elizabeth Fertility Centre (MEFC) is an established fertility treatment facility in Singapore that provides comprehensive care with expertise in modern fertility technologies and protocols. Learn about our services, and consult one of our fertility specialists today.