CHINA / National

Praying for children, couples turn to test tubes
By Wu Jiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-06-26 05:58

NANJING: For Ji Weiying, a 37-year-old woman from East China's Shandong Province, leaving home and spending the summer in a poorly equipped rental house in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province, is not a happy experience.

Having passed her prime reproductive period, Ji wants to get a test tube baby in an operation at Gulou Hospital, one of the two hospitals in the province authorized to conduct this procedure.

"Life here is hard, but I can get through it for the sake of my baby," said Ji.

Ji is not alone in the small Yuansheng compound, which is located near the hospital.

The couples staying in this compound all suffer from sterility and have come from all over the country in one final effort for a baby. Local people call Yuanzheng "the village of child-praying people."

"It is estimated that there are 200 to 300 women living here every day, some accompanied by their husbands," said a staff member surnamed Wang with the community commission of the district.

According to Sun Haixiang, director of the Medical Centre of Reproductivity with Gulou Hospital, compared with the 2-5 per cent sterility rate 20 years ago, the rate has soared to around 10 per cent. This has led to a sharp rise in the number of patients to his centre in recent years.

"The demand for artificial insemination and test tube babies is rising as people learn that these operations ensure a higher rate of success than other methods," said Sun.

Statistics show that Sun's centre conducted 350 test tube baby operations in 2003, rising to 760 in 2005.

Sun said that only 40 per cent of all sterility cases are caused by genetic diseases. But food additives, environmental pollution, radiation, unhealthy lifestyles and emotional stress all affect people's reproductive capacity.

"Therefore, we often recommend our patients take traditional Chinese or Western medicines for some time before they decide to have operations such as artificial insemination. But most of them insist on having the operation immediately," said Sun.

According to Sun, the whole process of artificial insemination might take up to a month, covering physical checks and post-operation observation periods.

"The hospital doesn't provide beds for these women. So most of them rent houses near the hospital," said Sun.

For ordinary families the financial burden is heavy.

"It cost us three years' hard work to get 20,000 (US$2,500) to 30,000 yuan (US$3,750) for the procedure next month. I really hope it can succeed as life here is so expensive," said Ma Hui from Ma'anshan, Anhui Province.

(China Daily 06/26/2006 page3)