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Fertility drugs lead to twin birth boom
By Wu Jiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-02-13 05:24

NANJING: There has been a sharp rise in the number of twins being born in the city because more women have started taking fertility drugs, according to doctors.

The women are taking the medicine because they have problems conceiving or because they want to circumvent China's restrictions on the number of children they can have.

Over 300 twins gather in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province in this November 12, 2005 photo. [newsphoto]
Statistics from the Maternal and Child Hygiene Hospital in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu Province, show that more than 10 pairs of twins, plus a set of triplets, were born in the hospital during the seven-day Spring Festival holiday.

And 90 sets of twins and triplets were born in the hospital last year. The usual annual figure is just 20 sets.

Hospitals in other major cities across the country have also reported similar increases.

According to Gu Lin, director of the Nanjing hospital, the reason for the increase is that more women are taking fertility medicine to help them become pregnant.

"The majority of these women have difficulty in getting pregnant because of physical or psychological problems. But they don't know that the medicine can also lead to them having twins."

He said fertility medicines were only recommended for women who have problems with ovulation or their ovaries. If the drugs are not taken correctly there can be side effects for both the mothers and children.

"Mother bearing twins may suffer from premature delivery and other problems. And the abnormality rate of these children is very high so we are very cautious about prescribing these drugs," Gu said.

However, reports from major pharmacies in the city say no prescription is needed to buy these medicines.

"We are warning customers of the possible dangers of taking the drugs, but some other chemists may not," said a worker the Baixin Pharmacy in Nanjing.

He said foreign, imported fertility medicines, which are believed by customers to be more efficient although they are more expensive, are always in demand.

Women from rural areas and some well-off urban families who want more children, a dream impossible under the country's present family planning policy, are the two main groups of people who take the medicine.

The Ministry of Health issued a document in January 2005 prohibiting healthy women using fertility medicine.

But an official from Nanjing Municipal Bureau of Health said that as these medicines are not specially protected, both hospitals and pharmacies have the right to sell them.

"The only way to control the sale is by forcing chemists to ask for prescriptions before selling the drugs," he said.

(China Daily 02/13/2006 page3)

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