More couples undergoing fertility treatment to have second child

By Li Lei in Changsha Source:Global Times Published: 2019/5/16 16:41:42

A profile of a pregnant woman in East China's Shandong Province. Photo: IC

Introduction of second-child policy in 2016 has seen spike in couples undergoing IVF treatment

Modern assisted reproductive technology has made the process much less painful for women seeking to have another baby

Costs for IVF can often be prohibitive for most families, costing between 30,000 and 40,000 yuan ($4,362 and $5,816) for each round

Medical terms such as zygote, oestrogen, and ovulation can often be heard among the residents of Shangmayuanling community, which is located next to two renowned in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment hospitals, Xiangya Hospital Central South University, and the Reproductive & Genetic Hospital of CITIC Xiangya, of Changsha, Central China's Hunan Province, the leading fertility center in China. 

Since China introduced its second-child policy in January 2016, more middle-aged couples with just one child have been visiting the two hospitals to undergo IVF treatment.

Along a wet and crowded tarmac road, hundreds of home inns can be seen deep in the Shangmayuanling community, and most of them have names implying a successful pregnancy or warm family home. Couples from all over the country hoping to conceive via IVF in the two hospitals choose to lodge here, as it can cost as cheap as 30 yuan a day.

Final hopes

Cheng Yujuan, 35, and her husband live in a 10-square-meter remodeled chamber on the top floor of a four-story old building.

"Under my doctor's recommendation, my husband and I came here last week and did the preliminary examination at the reproductive medicine center of Xiangya Hospital Central South University," Cheng told the Global Times.

Cheng and her husband are both farmers from a remote village in Southwest China's Yunnan Province. They had been planning to have another child since their son was 5 years old after China adopted the second-child policy in 2016. However, all the attempts failed, with Cheng suffering several miscarriages due to an oviduct problem. 

"We always wanted two children," Cheng told the Global Times, adding, "We want to give our son a sibling, a pal in his childhood, and when they grow up they can support each other."

Before coming to Changsha, Cheng and her husband had gone through three rounds of IVF at the local hospital, which had cost them all their savings, as one round of IVF costs between 30,000 and 40,000 yuan. They pinned their last hopes on Changsha, living in the cheapest inn they could find with money they had borrowed.

Liu Minxia, 56, has been running the home inn with her husband for 13 years. Liu solicits customers at an intersection between the two hospitals every day with her peers, and her husband is in charge of the reception work.

"They come and stay for a week or two for examination and ovulation induction medicine, and come back after a period of time for another round of examination and egg retrieval," Liu told the Global Times.

Liu said that some couples succeed at the first attempt, while others conceive after two, three or even more rounds of IVF. Some couples keep trying and come every year.

Liu and her husband also give tips to newcomers on how to register from a smartphone app, and care about their treatment process. "We also feel glad when they get a good result from the hospital," said Liu.

Cheng told the Global Times that since the introduction of the second-child policy, a number of her friends have also been trying to conceive via assisted reproduction therapy.

Deng Huanhuan, 37, a Changsha resident, had a son in 2011. She told the Global Times she and her husband had been busy taking care of their son, as he was in poor health for eight years because he was born prematurely. "When the time was eventually right to have a second child, we missed our best physical condition to have one," said Deng.

Deng chose to undergo IVF therapy at the reproductive medicine center of Xiangya Hospital Central South University because her oviducts on both sides had been excised after two ectopic pregnancies in 2018, which meant Deng was unable to have a baby.

"For a family and a mother, I think it's a joy to have two children," Deng told the Global Times. "Our country now has a healthy pension system, and we don't need a second child to support us when we are old, instead we want to create a better future for them."

Deng and her husband could not accept the idea of IVF to begin with. After the two surgeries and their son's strong desire for a sibling, they decided to give it a try.

Deng told the Global Times that many of her friends want to have two or more children, "It is true that more children mean a greater financial burden, but the happiness and joy that a child brings to a family is far greater than the burden, and that joy would incentivize them to make more efforts," Deng said.

"It might be hard and painstaking to go through the process of having another baby at such a risky age. We are trying our best to bring a new life to this world no matter what it takes," Deng said.

Deng and her husband are optimistic about the future, believing their problem can be solved by modern medical technology.

The doorway to a home inn named "Home for Mothers-to-be" near two leading IVF treatment hospitals in Changsha, Central China's Hunan Province. Photo: Li Lei/GT

Medical support

Li Yanping, director of the reproductive medicine center at Xiangya Hospital Central South University, told the Global Times that the center has seen a 5 percent increase in the number of women older than 35 who want to conceive via assisted reproductive therapy since 2016.

The average age of women receiving assisted reproductive therapy has also gone up from 30 to 35.

According to Li, women older than 35 tend to have lower fertility due to the recession of their physiological functions. Additionally, negative emotions and pressure of slipping from their prime childbearing years can also have an effect on pregnancy.

"In addition to the above-mentioned reasons, the decreasing quality and quantity of the ovum is a reason for the high miscarriage rate among pregnant women older than 35, which in turn brings greater mental stress and leads to a higher miscarriage rate," said Li.

Li told the Global Times that oviduct diseases are the top factor for female infertility followed by polycystic ovary and ovulatory dysfunction, while half of dysgenesis cases are a result of male genital disease.

In the past 30 years, assisted reproductive technology has seen significant development in China, as it is much less painful and also increases the fertility rate.

"Before, it was difficult to predict ovulation time, which would bring more difficulties in collecting ova," Li told the Global Times. "Now, ovulation time can be precisely predicted through down-regulation medicines."

"It was painful for women to muscle inject progesterone every day for two straight months. Now the medicine can be taken orally or made into a pessary," said Li.

Li Qinghua, 37, gave birth to a son five years ago after undergoing IVF at the reproductive medicine center. She was told the process would be painful, and didn't expect the current technology to make it much easier than before.

Now she is planning to have another child with the embryos she had frozen five years ago. "Now that the policy allows us to have two children, and society is in a time of prosperity, we are confident in the future," Li Qinghua told the Global Times.

Remarkable progress has also been made in terms of laboratory research. Sperm quality was another factor that influences the success rate. "It was difficult for poor-quality sperm to unite with an ovum before, while under the current technology, a live sperm is enough to make a germ cell," Li Yanping told the Global Times.

Endometrial disease is another major issue in the reproductive sector. "Many women who undergo IVF therapy suffer from endometrium damage due to multiple abortions," according to Li Yanping.

The reproductive medicine center is currently seeking a solution to the problem through Embryo Stem Cells Transplantation (ESCT). "There have been successful individual cases indicating that ESCT can help endometrium-damaged patients to conceive. We are planning to apply it clinically after a series of strict experiments," according to Li Yanping.

The plan is currently being deliberated by the national health authorities.


Newspaper headline: Yearning for life


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