Talking About Sex, The Medical Way

IMG_5362An interview with Profs. P Ganesan Adaikan and Ng Soon-Chye

by Sharon Chua

Photo by Elmer Silo Gono

More often than not, talking about sex is quite a taboo. People are simply uncomfortable talking about it for reasons that could be cultural, or medical.

But to Prof. P Ganesan Adaikan and Prof. Ng Soon-Chye, sex talk is part of the cause. Sincere IVF Center Medical Director Prof. Ng is also a senior O&G at the clinic’s Women Center. On the other hand, Prof. Aidakan is a sexologist consultant at the Men Center. Both encourage more people to talk about sex with more openness especially when it is already affecting both their personal and professional lives.

“Interpersonal couple relationship plays an important role in contributing to sexual problems. These aside, there are socio-cultural factors, like lack of common sexual knowledge, bags of misconception about sexuality, trauma/sexual abuse and so on contributing to sexual concerns,” said Prof. Adaikan.

Proper sex education, according to both sexperts, will make our lives so much easier and happier.

At their clinic, Prof. Adaikan and Prof. Ng are finding an increased awareness and positive outlook on sex among their patients.

Prof Ng also sees patients needing IVF and Assisted Reproductive with issues in sexual concerns.

Comprehensive healthcare for women and men

The Sincere IVF Center opened its doors in 2013 to cater to women, especially those with fertility issues. Later, they provided healthcare services for men that included launching a highly specialised laboratory that provides a series of comprehensive sperm tests to help physicians in the treatment of infertile males.

Today, the healthcare brand is offering comprehensive care and treatment to patients with focus on sexual and reproductive concerns. It is a one-stop shop for family healthcare as well as fertility solutions.

The clinic has expanded in Xiamen. Soon clinics in Chengdu, and Medini will be launched.

“We want to give access to people who need specialised medical care. Prevention or early detection can be achieved so as to give treatment to more people,” said Prof. Ng.

At Sincere Medical Specialist Center for Women, there are women gynaecologists. This is to ensure that women feel at ease during their consultations. Also, the healthcare brand only have senior doctors on board to make sure that patients are well taken care of.

Experts in the fieldIMG_5392

Prof. Adaikan’s expertise include evaluation of male and female sexual difficulties, counselling and sex therapy for individuals and couples, sexual rehabilitation for regaining intimacy, interventions for unconsummated marriages, sexual concerns addressing fertility, and behavioural and lifestyle therapies among others.

In the earlier years of his career, Prof. Adaikan was an invited French Government Exchange Fellow at the Centre for Study and Research on Impotence in Paris with Dr. Ronald Virag in 1985. Through his relentless contributions, Prof. Adaikan became a world renowned expert in sexual medicine; some of his pioneering contributions include the physiopharmacology of penile erection and pharmacological treatment for erectile dysfunction. He has won several international awards including the prestigious Ginestie Prize, Prague (1986) and Emil Tanagho Prize, Cairo (2006) from the International Society for Sexual Medicine (ISSM), American Medical Systems–Excellence in Impotence Research Best Paper Award, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (1997) from the Asia-Pacific Society for Sexual Medicine (APSSM) and the Benjamin Henry Sheares Memorial Lecture Award and Gold Medal (1987) from the Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of Singapore.

Prof. Adaikan was the team lead and head of the Sexual Medicine Section in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology (OBGYN), Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University Hospital (NUH) and National University of Singapore (NUS), foreseeing the academic and research pursuits of his staff and post-graduate students. One of his noteworthy research led to Singapore and USA patent filing and approval for a pro-endogenous compound in the treatment of priapism.

He is a member of the American Board of Sexology (USA), holds a Master of Science in Medicine for Pharmacology of Human Penis from the University of Singapore, and a widely recognised author and lecturer in Singapore and abroad.

On the other hand, Prof. Ng focuses on general gynaecology and obstetrics as well as infertility treatment for both females and males.

An internationally-renowned specialist in the area of reproductive medicine, Prof. Ng graduated from NUS in 1974. He obtained the specialist degree in obstetrics and gynaecology and became a member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) of London in 1981.

IMG_5369Prof. Ng started his first in-vitro fertilisation program in Singapore in 1982 which resulted in Asia’s first test-tube (IVF) baby, delivered in May 1983. He went on to develop the first SUZI (sub-zona insemination) baby in the world in 1989. This was a revolutionary technique at that time, whereby weak sperm was injected directly under the shell (zona pellucida) of the egg, to enable fertilisation. The baby born was the first in the world from a micro-injection technique. In 1993, he did the first ICSI baby in Asia, which was an extension of the SUZI technique, whereby the sperm is injected directly into the egg proper.

Prof. Ng served at NUS from 1977 to 2003 and concurrently in the NUH from 1986 to 2003 (from 1977 to 1985, he was in the University Unit of the old Kandang Kerbau Hospital or KKH). He obtained his professorship in December 1993, and from 1997 to 2001 became the Chairman of the Department of O&G in NUS and Chief of O&G in NUH. He was also chairman of the Committee of O&G, Graduate School of Medical Studies in NUS from 2000 to 2002, during which period he was in charge of the O&G post-graduate training.

Prof. Ng is also a known author and lecturer in his field.

Challenges

While Prof. Adaikan and Prof. Ng are clearly making their mark with the Sincere Healthcare Group, the sexologists admit that managing the clinic and their patients are not completely without challenges. Even in their field of expertise, with its rapid growth, it has its ups and downs.

“It’s understandable that some patients will demand for higher successful rate for IVF. But we try to manage their expectations. We also have to deal with price comparisons as there are many O&G doctors and clinics in Singapore. Knowledgeable patients, who “Google” and research a lot, have to be properly managed as well. Usually, they scare themselves with comments on websites before understanding their own situation,” said Prof. Ng.

There are no guarantees in IVF, especially for people with conditions related to genetics, age, and lifestyle, among others. Prof Ng also explained the need for patients to be educated that IVF cannot magically solve their infertility problems just like that. We also ensure that we are on the cutting adge of developments in embryology and we are the only private IVF centre that has the Embryoscope (an important Time-Lapse assessment incubator). “All of them come in with hope, but they have to understand that the risk is there and success is not guaranteed,” he said.

Patients who are less receptive can be a struggle, too. “They just want us to solve their problems and to see results,” Prof. Ng said.

Meanwhile, Prof. Adaikan said that new research in the field of sexual medicine, both basic and clinical aspects, are moving on rapidly around the world. Consequently, the developments in the area of male sexual dysfunctions are moving well with many positive outcomes. Problems related to female sexual dysfunctions however are lacking behind. “There is much to be done in the field,” he said.

Prof. Adaikan added further that premarital counselling is yet to be fully accepted by couples.

“I feel that premarital counselling, particularly in the area of relationship and sexual intimacy could be an essential component to consider by aspiring couples. Clinical prevalence of unconsummated marriage is about 10% of all sexual concerns. The cause could be from both couples or from one of the partners,” he explained.

He added, “Many young married couples I have seen are too busy with their career and have ‘no time’ for intimate relationship. Lack of desire or libido could simply be due to couple misunderstanding, work stress or hormonal upheaval. Few years of misunderstandings and drifting of the partners could easily lead to separation. Couples who sense such scenario should seek professional support and counselling as soon as possible to avoid disruption of relationship, regain intimacy and family bonding.”

Perks of the jobIMG_5377

Despite the challenges, Prof. Adaikan and Prof. Ng remain positive, enjoying their work while focusing on the care of their patients. After all, seeing happy patients is what makes their day.

“I enjoy working with patients who are committed and motivated to change; they make my work more fulfilling,” Prof. Adaikan said.

Thinking about his reason for choosing his field is what keeps Prof. Ng going.

“I decided to go into O&G because it gives you such a happy feeling to deliver the babies, unlike say, oncology where the outcomes are usually more depressive. O&G is a good mix of medicine and surgery. It remains a fascinating and truly a journey of discovery for me,” he enthused.

When asked what advice they can give to aspiring sexologists?

“Sexuality is the basis of life in the planet. I jovially tell my colleagues that without sex there is no obstetrics and gynaecology. It is important to be sex positive so that it is easier for you to speak to your patients with sexual concerns,” Prof. Adaikan said.

Any words of advice to patients on getting pregnant?

“The most important thing to remember is not to wait too late to see a doctor, especially for females. Even if you freeze your eggs, you must freeze early to maintain the age of the eggs,” Prof. Ng concluded.

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