In 2016, a fertility awareness campaign organised by I Love Children (ILC) drew negative feedback from the public. Despite this, it continues to run again this year with the inclusion of increased fertility health checks compared to last year, for couples that are keen.

Campaign allegedly “offensive and distasteful”

The voluntary welfare organisation carried out the first part of their campaign in 2016 that featured advertisements at MRT stations. These posters displayed cartoon sperm and eggs next to slogans like “Can your egg and sperm wait?” and “Is your egg reserve low?” with the provision of fertility information.

The Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) and numerous netizens were outraged with this campaign – claiming it was “scare-mongering” and involved “intrusive badgering”. Some members of the public called the campaign “offensive and distasteful”, while others said it was “patronising and condescending towards all women”.

The campaign this year is also set to entail similar colourful visuals on buses and in train cabins. Besides that, road shows will be held in shopping centres in July whereby doctors and fertility experts will give talks on a variety of topics. These include in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and bedroom intimacy.

On top of that, the number of free fertility health checks offered during the campaign period will triple in number, from 150 last year to 450 this year. Thomson Fertility Centre and Mount Elizabeth Hospital will be conducting these checks. From a global perspective, experts note that one out of six couples face conceiving issues – a trend observed similarly in Singapore.

The earlier the health check, the better

ILC President Joni Ong commented on the controversy sparked from 2016’s campaign saying, “Whether it is positive or negative publicity, it is good that people start talking (about the issue). But we recognise that (whether to) have babies is a personal choice, and (the campaign’s) target audience is people who already want to have babies.”

She added that work can wait for those hoping to conceive. As she continued, “But our bodies can’t. The longer one waits (to get checked), the more psychological and emotional pain (one may have to bear).”

When speaking at the campaign launch, Dr Loh Seong Feei, IVF clinician and medical director of the Thomson Fertility Centre, said that the authorities “can be more proactive” in their policies. This is in conjunction with the efforts to boost the fertility rate here that dipped to 1.2 in 2016.
For example, government co-funding for IVF and other assisted reproduction technology treatments can be extended to private hospitals. This enables more people to seek appropriate treatment besides tackling the increased patient load at public hospitals.

Patients seeking fertility aid overseas

Moreover, Dr Loh stated that the legalisation of egg freezing could give single women a better chance of conceiving if they opt to marry later.

Currently in Singapore, just women with medical needs such as cancer patients, who have to undergo chemotherapy that will severely affect their fertility, are permitted to freeze their eggs. Thus, more single Singaporean women are opting to travel to Malaysia, Thailand and Australia for the purpose of preserving their fertility.

“Infertility may be a personal issue, but people facing this problem can also rally together, form a support group as they do in other countries, to push for more,” added Dr Loh.

Dr Suresh Nair, Mount Elizabeth Hospital’s fertility specialist, commented on a genetic test to assess an embryo’s health. “Our government is doing its best to get pre-implantation genetic screening (PGS) to the restructured hospitals, then to the private hospitals. This has already been done mainstream in many other countries... Many countries in the world are proving that PGS is a safe technology,” remarked Dr Suresh.

As the procedure is not available in most Singaporean hospitals, patients have been advised to seek PGS overseas. In 2016, the Ministry of Health proclaimed that they would clinically review PGS and its ethical effects. MIMS

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