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Waiting for a baby

By Yang Wanli and Tang Yue (China Daily)

13:38, January 03, 2012

Egg traders negotiate through agencies in a hotel lobby in downtown Beijing on Oct 22. (Photo:China Daily)

Dreams of childless couples are difficult to fulfill as egg donations strictly limited, report Yang Wanli from Beijing and Tang Yue from Tianjin.

It is 6 am in a Beijing winter, and dozens of people are waiting outside Peking University Third Hospital to make appointments. "We've seen many doctors in Hebei but got nowhere. This is our final hope, and we have to line up earlier to see a chief physician," said a young man from Hebei province who was lining up outside the hospital for the first time with his wife. He had been there since 4 am. Unlike at other hospitals, couples here are all lining up for one thing - help getting a baby. This is an increasingly common scenario as the incidence of sterility in China has grown from 3 percent in the 1970s to about 15 percent in 2009.

As China's renowned hospital for treating sterility, Peking University Third Hospital receives more than half of Bejing's couples with fertility problems seeking help, as well as from many from other provinces.

More than a thousand couples visit the medical reproductive center every month and about 8,000 tried in-vitro fertilization in the hospital last year.

Some couples, though, will have to rely on a third person to realize their dreams.

"About two or three in 100 couples we received need to get another's sperm or egg," said Liu Ping, deputy director of the hospital's reproductive center.

"Although there are several sperm banks nationwide, most of them fall short of demand."
Five hundred couples are still on the center's sperm waiting list. Liu said that they have to politely refuse more patients, who would just end up hopelessly waiting.

The Ministry of Health began allowing sperm banks to open in 2001, setting a maximum of one per province or autonomous region. Today, 10 operate nationwide. All are State-run, but demand exceeds supply.

The situation for egg banks, on the other hand, is bleaker.

Peking University First Hospital, which generated media attention for its egg freezing technology and once planned to build an egg bank, is stopping the service.

A press official surnamed Sun said that the Ministry of Health released regulations on egg donations in 2006 - including many "strict" rules with concerns of higher standards for facilities and moral principles - which led to the hospital halting the plan.

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