Many women who enter the menopause stage find themselves in an unexpected state of suffering — hot flashes, night sweats, thinning hair, vaginal dryness, incontinence, and belly fat (or wryly called menopot), among other conditions. They know it is coming, but that does not make it any easier. And more often than not, they don’t address it. In fact, it’s rarely spoken about in Singapore.
Why is it still not a mainstream conversation, I ask Cheryl Han, baffled. After all, menopause has been around since time immemorial. Han, the managing director and co-founder of Orchard Clinic, a women’s wellness clinic specialising in postpartum and menopause support and care, doesn’t have a definitive answer but feels that embarrassment plays a significant part.
What the 40-year-old does have an answer to are measures to prevent and manage the conditions. Through Orchard Clinic, she is determined to rewrite the narratives surrounding this often stigmatised phase in a woman’s life. Serving menopausal women wasn’t actually part of the original plan, though.
A new focus
Orchard Clinic sprouted from Han’s quest to find meaning after being retrenched in 2019 from DHL eCommerce, where she had been the head of marketing and communications for five years. Harnessing her keen interest in women’s wellness, Han founded Orchard Clinic with a business partner in 2020 after engaging in extensive conversation hours with close friends.
Originally, the clinic aimed to spotlight issues surrounding a woman’s pelvic floor, influenced by Han’s prior experience incorporating pelvic floor strengthening into her yoga classes. Besides offering yoga and pilates classes, Han introduced a machine designed for pelvic floor enhancement. “You just have to sit on the machine; no exercise or movement is needed. We saw quite a bit of good results after that. But still, not a lot of people understood what this was like — not a lot of people even knew what the pelvic floor was.”
Amid her struggle with the unfamiliarity posed Han started to observe a significant number of postpartum women seeking help for pelvic floor issues, prompting a strategic shift in Orchard Clinic’s focus toward providing postpartum solutions, including addressing pelvic floor concerns and incontinence.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic served as a fortuitous turning point. During the pandemic-induced hiatus, Han and her team utilised the time to refine their direction, enhance training, revamp the website and expand the clinic’s offerings. “It was a good time for us — it worked well for us to have this time to ourselves to really build up knowledge in a very short time.”
Han’s proactive measures played an essential role in creating an environment where postpartum women felt at ease seeking assistance. Substantial capital, the exact amount undisclosed, was invested in procuring additional machines.
Upon the clinic’s resumption of operations, there was a notable uptick in traffic — a clear response to the burgeoning demand for such services. Han attributes this surge to a shift in consumer awareness: “When we started to change the understanding in the consumer’s mind, that we were offering postpartum programmes, customers came in. That’s when Orchard Clinic introduced more postpartum treatments. And we started being known as a postpartum centre.”
From postpartum to menopause
Han would likely have continued on this route if not for a woman in her 70s who, visiting the clinic, had felt out of place among the younger clientele and staff. She cautiously inquired if continence treatments were suitable for someone of her age. This encounter prompted Han to relook the clinic’s atmosphere to welcome women of all ages. “That’s how we came to include menopausal treatments,” reveals Han, adding that it was a diversification that unfolded organically.
Han passionately talks about the challenges faced by menopausal women, shedding light on issues like incontinence and pelvic floor weakness. She shares anecdotes of women coping with these conditions and emphasises the impact on their quality of life. “Incontinence is not life-threatening, but you get more conscious; you might even stay at home because you’re embarrassed,” she explains.
With enthusiasm, Han introduces the clinic’s latest addition, the Pelva, developed by a Korean gynaecologist. “The probe inserted into the vagina allows you to see your muscles working. You can actually measure the pressure of a squeeze and assess the pelvic floor strength accurately.” Han believes that the Pelva will play a crucial role in evaluating and treating pelvic floor issues.
The human connection
Still, Orchard Clinic and its offerings go beyond machines. The programmes encompass custom plans, complimentary yoga and pilates sessions, nutritional guidance, and a supportive community. Han emphasises the community aspect: “When our customers come for classes, they meet other women who are going through the same phase in life. That’s when the community comes alive as they talk to each other and find strength in each other. There are the exercise elements, but there’s also that social community element,” Han notes.
“So, when they come in, it’s not like there’s nobody to talk with. I and the team are around to give them advice as well.”
Similarly, for postpartum care, Han ensures her customers receive multifaceted support.
“What they are also looking for is to get back their self-confidence. Every woman who walks through our doors has a unique journey. It’s not just about confronting physical ailments; it’s about acknowledging the emotional and psychological aspects that come with specific life stages.”
Han’s approach doesn’t simply focus on physical symptoms; it’s about empowering women to navigate these transformative phases in their lives with resilience and confidence. Orchard Clinic has evolved into a haven for women seeking understanding, guidance, and a sense of community.
Looking back in wonder, Han is awestruck at how the business has grown. All she had wanted was “to do something simple to help women and to start small. It’s grown bigger than what I expected.” Today, Orchard Clinic can be found in Bukit Timah and Marine Parade. She says with a hint of disbelief, almost as if it were a dream, “When I started Orchard Clinic, my primary goal was to ensure I had a salary for myself.”