Higher subsidies for fertility treatments

SINGAPORE - Couples looking to science to help them conceive will get more help financially, with increased subsidies for fertility treatments.

The subsidy will now also be made available to couples who already have children, and will cover in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment using frozen embryos. Before, only treatment using fresh embryos was covered.

IVF cycles sometimes yield extra embryos. These spare embryos are frozen and can be thawed to be implanted later in what is known as a frozen cycle.

The improved Assisted Reproduction Technology co-funding scheme is for up to three rounds of IVF treatment in public hospitals.

The subsidy will now cover up to 75 per cent of treatment costs for Singaporean couples undergoing the procedure. Singaporeans married to permanent residents will be eligible for a 55 per cent subsidy, while those married to foreigners will get 35 per cent.

Ms Sandy Tan, 36, who declined to use her real name, said it means an additional option for those like her who have already exhausted one cycle of fertility treatment.

"The subsidies cover only up to three cycles, so if they now cover frozen cycles, it means we have three more chances," said the scientist, who just had her embryos transferred on Monday at the National University Hospital in her second round of IVF treatment.

She did not get pregnant after the first round last year.

Others, like Ms Joanne Wee, wondered if limiting it to public hospitals would only disadvantage those who are already trying to battle time.

The 39-year-old marketing executive put off having a second child for eight years, only to find that age had caught up with her, making conception difficult.

"Cost is definitely a factor," she said.

Her first round of IVF last year in a private hospital cost her and her husband $15,000. But she did not get pregnant.

"The subsidies will be helpful to those who are not in such a rush. I'm turning 40 later this year, so I cannot wait any more," she said, adding that the wait at public hospitals was longer than at the private hospitals.

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