Al­lowed 2nd child, older Chi­nese par­ents turn to IVF

Business Mirror - - THE WORLD -

BEI­JING—China’s de­ci­sion to al­low all mar­ried cou­ples to have two chil­dren is driv­ing a surge in de­mand for fer­til­ity treat­ment among older women, putting heavy pres­sure on clin­ics and break­ing down past sen­si­tiv­i­ties, and even shame, about the is­sue.

The rise in in- vitro fer­til­iza­tion ( IVF) points to the lost dreams of many par­ents who long­wanted a sec­ond child, but were pre­vented by a strict pop­u­la­tion-con­trol pol­icy in place for more than 30 years. That, in turn, is shift­ing pre­vail­ing at­ti­tudes in China re­gard­ing fer­til­ity treat­ments— for­merly a mat­ter of such sen­si­tiv­ity that cou­ples were re­luc­tant to tell even their par­ents or other fam­ily mem­bers that they were hav­ing trou­ble con­ceiv­ing.

“More and more women are com­ing to ask to have their sec­ond child,” said Dr. Liu Ji­aen, who runs a pri­vate hos­pi­tal in Bei­jing treat­ing in­fer­til­ity through IVF, in which an egg and sperm are com­bined in a lab­o­ra­tory dish and the re­sult­ing em­bryo trans­ferred to a woman’s uterus.

Liu es­ti­mated that the num­bers of women com­ing to him for IVF had risen by 20 per­cent since the re­lax­ation of the pol­icy, which came into ef­fect at the start of the year. Be­fore, the av­er­age age of his pa­tients was about 35. Now most of them are older than 40 and some of the women are fast ap­proach­ing 50, he said.

“They have a very low chance to get preg­nant, so they are in a hurry. They re­ally want to have a child as soon as pos­si­ble,” he said.

Chen Yun is 39 and was in the hos­pi­tal wait­ing to have the pro­ce­dure for the first time. She and her hus­band al­ready have a 7- year- old son and their fam­i­lies are en­cour­ag­ing them to have a sec­ond child.

“We are com­ing to the end of our child­bear­ing years. It may be dif­fi­cult for me to get preg­nant nat­u­rally be­cause my hus­band’s sperm may have a prob­lem, so we want to re­solve this prob­lem through IVF,” she said.

Chen said she hoped hav­ing a brother or sis­ter would make their son hap­pier, more re­spon­si­ble and less self- ab­sorbed.

“We had sib­lings when we were chil­dren. I had a younger sis­ter and we felt very happy when play­ing to­gether,” she said. “Now that ev­ery cou­ple has one child, two gen­er­a­tions— par­ents and grand­par­ents— take care of the child. They give the only child too much at­ten­tion.” If her son has a younger brother or sis­ter to look out for, he may not “think too much about him­self like a lit­tle em­peror,” Chen said.

Over the past two decades, IVF tech­nol­ogy has de­vel­oped rapidly in China, where about 10 per­cent of cou­ples are es­ti­mated to need the pro­ce­dure to con­ceive.

In 2014 700,000 women had IVF treat­ments, ac­cord­ing to the health commission’s Women’s and Chil­dren’s Depart­ment, which said in a state­ment that de­mand for all types of fer­til­ity treat­ment had risen fol­low­ing the pol­icy re­lax­ation, in­clud­ing the use of tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine.

“Cur­rently, fer­til­ity cen­ters at renowned med­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions in Bei­jing and Shanghai and oth­ers are un­der in­creased pres­sure for treat­ments,” the depart­ment said.

Pre­vi­ously, China l imited most ur­ban cou­ples to one child and ru­ral cou­ples to two if their first was a girl. There were ex­cep­tions for eth­nic mi­nori­ties, and city dwellers could break the pol­icy if they were will­ing to pay a fee cal­cu­lated at sev­eral times a house­hold’s an­nual in­come.

While au­thor­i­ties credit the pol­icy in­tro­duced in 1979 with pre­vent­ing 400 mil­lion ex­tra births, many de­mog­ra­phers ar­gue the fer­til­ity rate would have fallen any­way, as China’s econ­omy de­vel­oped and ed­u­ca­tion lev­els rose.

In­tended to curb a surg­ing pop­u­la­tion, the pol­icy has been blamed for skew­ing China’s de­mo­graph­ics by re­duc­ing the size of the fu­ture work force at a time when chil­dren and so­ci­ety face in­creas­ing de­mands from the grow­ing ranks of the el­derly.

It also in­flated the ra­tio of boys to girls, as fe­male fe­tuses were se­lec­tively aborted, while com­pelling many women to have forced abor­tions or give up their sec­ond chil­dren for adop­tion, leav­ing many fam­i­lies dev­as­tated.

The Na­tional Health and Fam­ily Planning Commission said last Novem­ber that 90 mil­lion women would be­come el­i­gi­ble to have a sec­ond child fol­low­ing the pol­icy change. Au­thor­i­ties ex­pect that will add 30 mil­lion peo­ple to the coun­try’s la­bor force by 2050. Those pro­jec­tions could be overly op­ti­mistic, since many younger Chi­nese see small fam­i­lies, as ideal and would be re­luc­tant to take on the cost of rais­ing a sec­ond child. When the pol­icy was changed in 2013 to al­low two chil­dren for fam­i­lies, in which at least one par­ent was an only child, it spurred fewer births than au­thor­i­ties ex­pected.

Also un­der pres­sure are China’s sperm banks, which al­ready suf­fer short­ages ow­ing to a re­luc­tance to do­nate among young Chi­nese men un­will­ing to fa­ther chil­dren they won’t know or fear­ing their off­spring may turn up at their door one day de­spite donor con­fi­den­tial­ity.

“The re­lax­ing of the one- child pol­icy cer­tainly gave an im­pe­tus to the de­mand for sperm as more women, usu­ally aged around or above 35, came for as­sis­tance,” said Zhang Xin­zong, di­rec­tor of the Guang­dong Sperm Bank in south­ern China.

Calls have also gone out for a loos­en­ing of China’s adop­tion law, which cur­rently states that only cou­ples with no chil­dren can adopt, while also al­low­ing cou­ples with one child to adopt a dis­abled child or an or­phan.

The Min­istry of Civil Af­fairs didn’t re­spond to a ques­tion on whether the law would be changed, and it couldn’t say whether the num­ber of cou­ples seek­ing adop­tion had risen since the pol­icy change. It said there were 109,000 chil­dren avail­able for adop­tion in the cus­tody of gov­ern­men­tal in­sti­tu­tions, 90 per­cent of whom were dis­abled and 60 per­cent se­verely dis­abled.

Zhang Ming­suo, a pro­fes­sor at Zhengzhou’s Univer­sity’s School of Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion, said few Chi­nese cou­ples were will­ing to adopt dis­abled chil­dren “be­cause they worry about the pos­si­ble heavy med­i­cal ex­pense.”

AP/ANDY WONG

CHIL­DREN play on bars be­fore at­tend­ing a class at the I Love Gym cen­ter in Bei­jing.

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