Held from 14 – 15 September 2022, the inaugural ACRLE conference attended by Guest-of-Honour, Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Social and Family Development, brought together collaborative efforts with scientists, clinicians, epidemiologists, social scientists, policymakers, and advocates to find ways to improve and lengthen female reproductive health and longevity, help women to preserve and improve their reproductive systems for conception and general health, potentially enable women to conceive safely in their later years, and educate the general public on reproductive equality.

Themed ‘The Science and Art of Reproductive Ageing’, it aimed to focus on an interdisciplinary approach to understand the science and art of reproductive longevity and equality through 4 key strategic tracks: Ovarian biology and senescence, Translational and clinical studies, Population health studies and Public education and advocacy.

“Ageing is the main risk factor for many chronic diseases. In women, the first organs to age are her ovaries, and ovarian ageing in women results in reduced reproductive lifespan and health-span which will lead to infertility, as well as an increase in chronic diseases such as cardiometabolic diseases, neurocognitive decline, osteoporosis, and frailty,” said Dr Huang Zhongwei, Deputy Director of NUS ACRLE,and a fertility specialist and consultant with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the National University Hospital.

“Research has shown that ovarian health and age of women are influenced by an array of biological, environmental, and social factors that can potentially benefit from interventions. From adopting preventive health behaviours such as avoiding smoking, to addressing societal demands such as the expectation of working and managing a child with little support, many factors that influence women’s reproductive health can be addressed through science and advocacy,” added Dr Huang.

One of the conference highlights included the Panel Discussion on Women’s Health and Equality, which featured medical and social science experts including Associate Professor Shefaly Shorey from the Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies (NUS Nursing), Dr Tan Poh Lin, Assistant Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and Dr Yeung Wei-Jun, Jean, Provost-Chair Professor of NUS Medicine and the Department of Sociology at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Discussions surrounded uncovering the bio-psycho-social factors affecting women in their reproductive choices, and life decisions.

Other notable speakers discussing female reproductive health and equality issues included Dr Li Ling-Jun, Assistant Professor at the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology in NUS Medicine, who shared about Epidemiology and the major risk factors of female infertility in Asia. Drawing in social and cultural perspectives, Dr Adelyn Lim, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Sociology at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, focused on the expectation of compulsory reproduction that women are subjected to, and the forms of social control over female sexuality and reproduction.

In conjunction with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) awareness month in September, there was a dedicated session held to shine light on PCOS in Asian women and how it affects their reproductive and general health as well as their life-course living with PCOS. Dr Huang, hinging on his expertise and research in PCOS discussed the Asian perspective of PCOS, shedding light on risk factors and the need to determine Asian- and ethnic-specific thresholds to diagnose the condition.

“Women drive the future of the world. Human capital is the world’s most precious asset and women play one of the most important, if not the most important role in society by being the bearers of the next generation. We have a duty to ensure that the emotional, physical and reproductive health of women are kept in an optimal state to ensure our future. With the cross pollination of ideas, concerted efforts and active involvement from all stakeholders, the goal of pushing the frontiers of reproductive ageing research, clinical and epidemiological studies, as well as the health education and advocacy of reproductive equality, is attainable, and we are confident that we can bring about change to create a positive impact on women’s life, now and in the future,” said Professor Chong Yap Seng, Dean of NUS Medicine.