More women needed for pre-pregnancy study

Only 37 subjects have conceived; KKH clinic offers screening at discount to new sign-ups

Doctors at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) know a woman's health can affect her child's, even before it is conceived. But seven months after embarking on a study to find out the specifics of this link, they have hit a snag.

Only 277 women have signed up to join the study; of these participants, only 37 have become pregnant so far. The plan is to recruit 1,000 women by next year, with around 400 becoming pregnant.

To encourage more to take part, KKH launched a Preconception Health Clinic in August. It offers screening tests to all women planning to have a child soon, but is open to everyone - not just those who sign up for the study.

However, the public screening rate is $349. Those in the Singapore Preconception Study of Long-term Maternal and Child Outcomes (S-Presto) pay only $107.

PLANNING A HEALTHY PREGNANCY

We need to educate women about pre-pregnancy health, but there isn't a dedicated clinic toget it sorted out. We'll be able to pick up obvious problems with fertility, for example, and refer them earlier for appropriate care.

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR JERRY CHAN, KKH research centre director, on raising public awareness about such issues.

The clinic was established partly to raise general awareness about the importance of pre-pregnancy health, said Associate Professor Jerry Chan, the director of KKH's research centre.

"We need to educate women about pre-pregnancy health, but there isn't a dedicated clinic to get it sorted out. We'll be able to pick up obvious problems with fertility, for example, and refer them earlier for appropriate care," he said.

KKH has a sub-fertility clinic, but it is only for women who have already spent some time trying for a child. Other screening tests that the hospital offers focus more on general health and well-being.

The new clinic's screening package includes womb and ovary imaging, as well as blood tests to establish ovarian health and screen for infectious diseases.

Apart from undergoing blood tests, women enrolled in S-Presto must answer in-depth questionnaires about their lifestyle and even emotional health.

Their children too will be closely tracked, up to the age of two.

Enrolled Nurse Nur Sastri Majid, 27, signed up for the study after being encouraged to do so by a friend in April last year. Her daughter - the first baby born under the study - arrived on Dec 31.

"My friend encouraged me to sign up, and I was planning to have a child, so I thought why not give it a try," she said. "So far, they've done some home visits to take hair samples from her and check her height and weight."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2016, with the headline 'More women needed for pre-pregnancy study'. Print Edition | Subscribe