The timing of when to have children is a highly personal choice. What’s different today as compared to the past, is how medical and technological advances have eased the process of conceiving and made a more flexible timeline possible. These advances have provided tools to assess your health and fertility, and facilitate conception through such methods as In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF).
Recently, Singapore also announced the introduction of elective egg freezing, which will allow women to freeze their eggs for non-medical reasons from 2023 onwards.
What’s the catch? These check-ups and procedures all come at a price – and a pretty high one.
Regardless of where you are in terms of planning for a family, acquainting yourself with the costs involved as early as possible can help you make the necessary financial preparations.
If you’re aiming to conceive naturally, the results of a fertility test can be a helpful aid. Fertility tests enable couples to evaluate their chances of conceiving, and gain insight into whether they need to make lifestyle changes or seek medical assistance.
The general recommendation is for couples to go for a fertility test after a year of trying if the woman is aged 35 or younger, or after six months if the woman is older than 35.
The assessment usually includes components such as a pelvic ultrasound scan, pap smear, egg reserve blood test and semen analysis. A fertility specialist will then review and walk couples through the results.
Private hospitals and fertility centres (such as Raffles Fertility Centre and Thomson Fertility Centre) offer assessment packages that cost around S$400 to S$500.
You can also opt for a check-up at a public hospital – KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Singapore General Hospital and National University Hospital provide fertility assessments. As these hospitals don’t offer standard packages, prices will vary depending on which tests are deemed necessary; you can get a referral from a polyclinic for subsidised rates.
Egg freezing procedure
If you’re not looking to have children anytime soon, or if you’ll be receiving medical treatment that could affect your fertility such as chemotherapy, you may opt to freeze your eggs.
Egg freezing is a process of extracting your eggs for storage and use later on. As the quality of a woman’s eggs generally declines significantly after age 35, it can be helpful in preserving good quality eggs when you’re younger.
As per the Assisted Reproduction Services Regulations under the Healthcare Services Act, women in Singapore aged between 21 and 35 can choose to freeze their eggs starting early next year. Legally married couples can then use the frozen eggs for IVF treatments.
Before the extraction, the doctor may run tests to assess how your ovaries would respond to the process, and to screen for certain infectious diseases.
The egg freezing procedure involves three key steps:
- Synthetic hormones prompt your ovaries to produce multiple eggs (rather than the typical single egg that’s produced every month)
- Doctor retrieves your eggs while you’re under sedation
- Freezing of eggs at sub-zero temperatures
The entire process typically costs around S$10,000 to S$12,000, including the fertility specialist’s, anaesthetist’s and laboratory fees.
Each cycle produces around 10 to 15 eggs, not all of which may be viable after the freezing and thawing process. To increase your chances of having usable eggs, you would need to go through a few retrieval cycles, usually two to three.
There are also costs involved for storing your eggs; eggs can be stored indefinitely until they are to be used. The rate for this usually starts at around S$500 per year.
Egg transfer and assisted fertility treatment
When you are ready to use your eggs, they undergo a process of thawing and transfer.
Your doctor would then commence the assisted fertility treatment, such as IVF, Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT) or Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT).
The IVF process kicks off with the retrieved eggs being inseminated and fertilised, and hence developing into embryos. Following which, the embryos are incubated for a few days before being placed in the womb. A blood test is used to confirm whether the pregnancy is successful around two weeks later.
In terms of cost, you’ll need to fork out anywhere from S$12,000 to S$20,000 for each IVF cycle at private hospitals, depending on the treatment needed. Factors such as the age of the patient determine this.
At public hospitals, each cycle is slightly cheaper at around S$10,000 to S$15,000. The Ministry of Health also offers co-funding for assisted conception procedures at public hospitals. At least one partner in the couple must be a Singapore Citizen for them to receive the subsidy.
The subsidy amount depends on the nationality of the other partner, and whether the procedure is carried out using a fresh or frozen embryo, or if it’s via Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) – where the sperm is placed directly into the uterus. The maximum subsidy one can get is S$7,700 per cycle, if both parties are Singapore citizens and carrying out a fresh ART cycle.
While IVF and other assisted fertility treatments can be pricey, the government allows you to use MediSave to partially pay for the treatment, up to a maximum of S$15,000 per patient. You can tap on S$6,000 for your first cycle, S$5,000 for your second cycle, and S$4,000 for any subsequent cycles.
Read more: How to Invest as a Couple in Singapore
There are multiple medical procedures available these days to assist those who prefer to start a family at a timing of their choosing. Fertility assessments can help you make informed decisions regarding a viable schedule and strategy for family planning. And egg retrieval – followed by assisted fertility procedures – is now within reach more than ever before.
Just make sure to note the costs involved (and subsidies!) so that you can save and invest towards making your family-related goals a reality.