SINGAPORE: A researcher at the National University of Singapore (NUS) has warned of the many side effects that come with egg freezing, cautioning that the procedure does cannot fully make up for delaying childbirth.

Dr Natalie Lim Sheng Jie, a Research Fellow at the Department of Microbiology And Immunology at NUS’ Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, shed light on the risks of egg freezing in a forum letter published by the National broadsheet on Thursday (4 Apr).

Dr Lim revealed the complexities and challenges posed by the egg freezing process, noting that despite efforts to preserve eggs using cryoprotectants, the inherent properties of eggs, including their large size and high water content, make them susceptible to structural damage during freezing.

Moreover, the removal of cumulus cells, which naturally act as a filter for sperm selection, further complicates the fertilization process post-freezing.

Dr Lim also highlighted the limitations of current storage methods, revealing that while eggs are stored in liquid nitrogen, they continue to age slowly, thereby diminishing their viability over time.

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This aging process, compounded by the impact of freezing on gene regulation and developmental competency, poses significant concerns regarding the success rates of egg freezing and subsequent embryo development.

Asserting that there is a misconception surrounding technology’s ability to compensate for delayed childbirth, Dr Lim stressed the importance of acknowledging the inherent limitations of fertility treatments.

She cautioned against solely relying on medical interventions to address the challenges of postponing parenthood, emphasizing the need for a holistic approach to family planning.

Dr Lim’s insights into the potential hazards of egg freezing has sparked discussions online on the implications of fertility preservation, particularly in Singapore, which struggles with a record low birth rate.

Elective egg freezing is legal in Singapore under the Assisted Reproduction Services Regulations of the Healthcare Services Act. Women aged between 21 and 37, irrespective of marital status, can opt to freeze their eggs for various reasons, including medical and non-medical.

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However, the utilization of frozen eggs for fertility treatment is restricted to legally married couples.