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Get a health check before embarking on your family planning journey

Consulting the experts at a fertility centre can help you make the right decisions for your family planning

Get a health check before embarking on your family planning journey

Professional advice can help a couple on their pregnancy journey. Photo: Shutterstock

Singapore’s fertility rate saw a drop to a historic low of 1.1 in 2020 – a trend mirrored in many developed societies, as couples marry and form families later in life.

According to Dr Andrew Kan, a fertility specialist at Virtus Fertility Centre, there are several main causes of infertility in Singapore that are also commonly found in other developed countries like Australia and the United Kingdom. These include ovulation factor infertility, tubal factor infertility, uterine factor infertility and male factor infertility.

“Five to 10 per cent of infertility cases have unexplained causes,” he added. “But being unable to identify a cause for infertility does not necessarily mean that the couple has no problem.”

While some may assume that artificial reproductive technology (ART) such as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) can help couples – including older ones – have a baby, many might not realise that IVF and other tools are not always successful.

For couples who intend to have children, it’s best to start thinking early about family planning and to undergo a fertility health check at the very start of their journey, so that any possible fertility issues can be uncovered and addressed. While a successful conception, pregnancy and delivery take around nine months, the journey to having a baby starts far earlier than that.


Virtus Fertility Centre is part of Virtus Health, the largest ART healthcare provider in Australia and has been helping couples in Singapore with fertility treatment for over six years since it opened here.

Dr Liow Swee Lian, the scientific director of Virtus Fertility Centre, said that its large network of international and local fertility experts will ensure that couples enjoy an individualised approach to their treatment.

Dr Liow Swee Lian examining blastocysts, a structure with an inner cell mass that subsequently forms the embryo. Photo: Virtus Fertility Centre

“There will also be continuity of care if the couple relocates to another country where Virtus Health IVF clinics are available, whether due to job placement or for further treatment not available in their country of origin,” he added.

At Virtus Fertility Centre, couples are handheld through every stage of the journey and process of IVF treatment, from medication to monitoring, egg collection and embryo transfer.

This patient-centric approach is intended to clarify misconceptions and alleviate anxiety, said Dr Liow. “Couples who have decided to seek IVF treatment are often anxious about their fertility issues. A majority would have sought information on fertility issues from social media and the Internet, which may cause confusion and exacerbate their anxiety.”

To better support couples, Virtus Fertility Centre offers a private counselling service delivered by a team of fertility coaches for all IVF patients prior to hormone stimulation and just before embryo transfer. This pre-IVF counselling covers information on finance and consent, a discussion with a clinical embryologist as well as emotional support.

There is also a specialised counselling option for those undergoing donor programmes and genetic testing.

“Entering an IVF cycle in the right mental and emotional state is important, and does ultimately affect the chance of the couple’s success at the end of treatment,” said Dr Kan, who pointed out that many couples decide after one or two unsuccessful IVF cycles to stop trying due to the mental and emotional strain.

Citing studies of large registry IVF statistics across the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, Dr Kan said: “Even up to six cycles, there is still a respectable pregnancy rate. Thus, here in Virtus Fertility Centre, we place an extraordinary emphasis on the mental and emotional health of the couple, with our dedicated fertility counsellors.”


In addition to taking a holistic approach to fertility, Virtus Fertility Centre also deploys innovative technology to ensure the best chances of a successful outcome.

This includes embryo selection aided by artificial intelligence (AI) to optimise the odds of successful conception, as well as the use of electronic ID tagging to digitally track every egg, sperm and embryo within the Virtus Fertility Centre laboratory. By tagging every container and vessel with a radio frequency ID tag, Virtus Fertility Centre ensures that the risk of human error is minimised and samples are correctly linked to each patient.

Using radio frequency ID, all sample-moving activity is detected and monitored in the IVF laboratory. Photo: Virtus Fertility Centre

Dr Liow explained that embryo selection is commonly done by an embryologist who assesses the morphological integrity of the cells within an embryo at a specific point in time. The process can be subjective, with different embryologists issuing different grades to the same embryo. Using technology like a time-lapse incubator enables more precise embryo grading, as video recordings of the embryos throughout development can be reviewed and scored.

“The process of reviewing and scoring embryos increases the already heavy workload in the IVF laboratory,” he explained. “The incorporation of AI in the time-lapse incubator has hastened and improved the process of embryo selection and pregnancy outcome.”

With all the advances of technology, starting early on the family planning journey is still the most important step that a couple can take.

Said Dr Kan: “It is important for couples who want a child to go for a fertility health check as early as possible – even before you actually start trying, because it enables both early diagnosis and treatment if needed. Early detection means lots of options are available and treatment is much easier. A good example is the Anti-Mullerian Hormone blood tests, which checks a woman’s ovarian reserve or the number of eggs that she has. If this is known early, couples can consider treatment options like starting a family earlier than planned, undergoing fertility treatments such as IVF, or embryo freezing if they are not ready to start a family right there and then.”

Equip yourself for your family planning journey with Virtus Fertility Centre.