Since its inception, SGH’s O&G department has been constantly looking for ways to make care of women safer and better.

Unlike early maternity clinics (left), consultation rooms of today boast the latest facilities. In the mock-up (above), the patient can be moved to different positions in the state-of-the-art examination

Singapore General Hospital’s (SGH) Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (O&G) may only have been formed in 1986, around the time when the various high-rise blocks were erected to form the restructured SGH. But its role in caring for women and providing maternity services goes much further back.

Indeed, it was in 1865 that the first female patients were hospitalised at SGH — five years after the hospital had moved for the fifth time to the Kandang Kerbau district — for gynaecological complaints and childbirth. As demand for O&G services increased, special postgraduate courses in obstetrics were offered to medical officers for the first time in 1934. It was only in 1946 when the maternity wing was closed following World War II that O&G patients were seen at the Kandang Kerbau Hospital (renamed as KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital). This continued till 1986 when O&G returned to SGH.

Once it was set up, the department hit the ground running. As part of Singapore’s flagship general hospital, the department under its first head, Professor Charles Ng, introduced state-ofthe-
art facilities and services, such as continuous foetal monitoring during labour, ultrasound scanning, and endoscopic or keyhole surgery. O&G was the first SGH department to perform keyhole surgeries, with those skills later taught to general surgeons.

Good antenatal care brought down the number of obstetrics related emergencies at the time, and over the years, research and technological advances enabled pregnancies to become even safer. The department’s latest initiative is its Centre for High-Risk Pregnancies (CHiRP) for women with existing complex conditions. They are looked after closely throughout their pregnancy by a team that includes not just their obstetrician, but also cardiologist, rheumatologist, endocrinologist, or haemotologist, depending on the condition.

For instance, women with diabetes must be extra vigilant with their blood sugar control. Otherwise, they may suffer a miscarriage, premature delivery, or even stillbirth. Those with a heart condition may not even survive their pregnancies if not cared for carefully.

As the specialists are operating within SGH or SingHealth’s national centres on SGH Campus, they see these high-risk patients jointly at the one-stop CHiRP. Patients avoid making several trips to see diffferent specialists. More importantly, the specialists have a common understanding of the patient’s status as they are in constant communication, and can respond quickly to any critical changes.

Apart from CHiRP, the department also offers other  multidisciplinary services. Jointly run by urogynaecologists, urologists, and colorectal surgeons, the SGH Pelvic Floor Disorder Service helps women with urinary incontinence and pelvic floor dysfunction, such as urogenital prolapse and posthysterectomy vaginal vault prolapse.

Another is its Centre for Assisted Reproduction (CARE) for both men and women with fertility problems. The team of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF)-accredited specialists, nurses, embryologists, and sonographers work together to offer cutting-edge medicine for the patients’ fertility and IVF journey. Fertility preservation methods, including storage services for semen, oocytes, embryos, and ovarian tissue, are available for patients about to undergo treatment that may affect their fertility, such as chemotherapy.

Research, not surprisingly, forms the cornerstone of the department’s work. Studies include cervical cancer detection and treatment, the use of acupuncture in fertility treatment, ovarian transplant in women undergoing chemotherapy, and the increased risks of multiple Caesarean deliveries.