Parliamentary reply by Minister Indranee Rajah on support for Singaporeans to conceive
FOURTEENTH PARLIAMENT OF SINGAPORE
TUESDAY, 6 JULY 2021
Dr Lim Wee Kiak:
To ask the Prime Minister whether there are plans to review existing policies to provide further support for Singaporeans who wish to conceive but are unable to do so under current conventions.
Ms Indranee Rajah (for the Prime Minister):
Most Singaporeans want to get married and have children, and supporting them to do so remains a national priority. Clinical evidence indicates that the likelihood of successfully conceiving and carrying a child to term decreases as people get older, even with the use of Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART). For ART treatments performed between 2015 and 2019, success rates exceeded 24% for women aged 34 and below, fell to about 17% for women from ages 35 to 39, and declined further to about 7% for those aged 40 and above. To strengthen the chances of conception, we continue to encourage couples to marry and start families early, as well as to seek treatment early if needed.
Nonetheless, we recognise that the circumstances for each couple are unique. Each will have their own reasons for trying to conceive at an older age. We have progressively enhanced our schemes to support married couples who have difficulty conceiving.
With medical advancements having improved the safety of ART procedures, and reduced the medical risks for women over 40 undergoing ART, we removed the age limit for women to undergo ART treatments, as well as the cap on the number of ART cycles they can go through, last year.
We also recognise that a key concern for some couples is the affordability of fertility treatments. The ART co-funding scheme was first introduced in 2008 to help defray the costs of ART treatments at public Assisted Reproduction centres. Today, couples are eligible for co-funding of up to $7,700 per fresh ART cycle, as compared to $6,300 previously. Co-funding for Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI) was also introduced in January 2020. Couples can also withdraw up to a lifetime limit of $15,000 from their own, or their spouse’s MediSave Account to offset the out-of-pocket payment for Assisted Conception Procedures. In the past, only couples where the women are aged below 40 were eligible for ART co-funding, for up to six cycles. Since last year, women aged 40 and above are able to receive co-funding for two of the six co-funded ART cycles, as long as they have attempted Assisted Reproduction or IUI procedures before age 40. This strikes a balance between providing support to couples with parenthood aspirations and ensuring that public funds are used in a targeted way.
Our ongoing Emerging Stronger Conversations on “Building a Singapore that is Made For Families” include engagements with couples with fertility issues, doctors and other fertility experts. These conversations are part of our continued efforts to better understand what Singaporean couples are experiencing, so as to improve our support for marriage and parenthood. Participants have highlighted the need for earlier and better awareness of fertility health facts, and the need to strengthen societal support for couples, both men and women, undergoing fertility treatments. We will factor in their feedback as we review our overall support for fertility health in Singapore.