“Breaking the IVF Ban: China’s Growing Demand for Fertility Treatments”

2023-05-06 21:43:00

HONG KONG/BEIJING (Archyde.com) – The case of 33-year-old Chen Luojin could offer a breakthrough in China’s efforts to put the brakes on its shrinking population.

If IVF is liberalized across the country, demand for IVF in China, already the world’s largest market for fertility treatments, could grow even further, raising expectations among investors. FILE PHOTO: A hospital specializing in fertility treatment in Beijing April 6, 2023. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

In February, the city of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province where Mr. Chen lives, legalized birth registration for children born out of wedlock. Unmarried women are now eligible for maternity leave and child benefits, which were previously reserved for married couples.

Importantly for Cheng, the city government also allowed in vitro fertilization (IVF) in private medical facilities, and she is now 10 weeks pregnant.

Ms. Chen, who is involved in logistics work, said, “I can’t say that becoming a single mother makes everyone happy, but I’m happy to make the decision. Just like getting married, whether or not to marry is a personal decision. I chose IVF. I know a lot of single women who do.”

In March, Chinese government advisers proposed allowing unmarried women to use egg freezing and IVF treatment, out of concern for a rapidly aging society with a declining population for the first time in 60 years. .

If IVF is liberalized across the country, demand for IVF in China, already the world’s largest market for fertility treatments, could grow even further, raising expectations among investors.

“If China changes its policy and allows single women to have children, it could lead to an increase in IVF demand,” said Yves Leipens, Asia-Pacific business development director at INVO Biosciences. The company is currently awaiting regulatory approval to deploy its IVF technology in China, and last year signed a partnership agreement with a company in Guangzhou.

But Ripens warned that a sudden pick-up in demand would exacerbate China’s supply constraints.

China’s National Health Commission (NHC) did not respond to a request for comment on the IVF ban, but many young women are putting off plans to marry or have children, marrying because of the high cost of education and childcare. I agree that the rate is declining.

When the NHC’s Sichuan branch approved child registration and IVF in February, it said it was aimed at encouraging long-term, balanced population progress.

Shanghai and Guangdong also allow registration of children born out of wedlock but continue to ban single women from using IVF.

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Most IVF clinics in China, which were running at full capacity before the coronavirus outbreak, are likely to face the same situation again, said Leipens. Although there are no specific estimates of how many people would like to have IVF but can’t, some women in treatment said they wait hours to see a doctor.

“There are very long queues at the hospital,” said a 34-year-old married woman undergoing IVF in Chongqing, Sichuan province.

According to academic journals and industry experts, China’s public and private hospitals and clinics provide about one million rounds of IVF treatment cycles annually. Other foreign countries usually 1.5 million rounds. Treatment costs are regulated in China at $3,500-4,500, about a quarter of what they are in the United States.

There are 539 public and private IVF facilities in China. The NHC plans to install one facility for every 2.3 million people by 2025, and if this is achieved, the number of facilities will exceed 600.

According to a survey, China’s IVF market, including treatment, pharmaceuticals and related equipment, will reach 85.4 billion yuan by 2025, nearly double the current 49.7 billion yuan.

Vivian Zhang, managing director of Merck China, which supplies products and services to IVF centers in China, says even less economically affluent inland cities are opening up fertility facilities similar to those in Beijing and Shanghai. “I’m very optimistic” about the future of China’s IVF market given the huge unmet demand in the sector, he said.

Given the male-dominated social structure in China, the prejudice against single women’s pregnancy, and the lack of comprehensive surveys, even if the government’s policy on IVF changes in the near future, overall demand and the subsequent pace of demand growth will likely continue to decline. Hard to grasp.

But there are clues.

Camila Cazo of Recharge Capital, which invests in fertility clinics and technology, said 500,000 IVF cycles are provided annually to Chinese women outside of China. This corresponds to one-third of IVF cycles outside of China.

The average success rate for IVF cycles in the United States is 52%. In China, however, the success rate is just over 30%, due to the high stress women are under and the rising average age of childbearing, said Lin Haiwei, director of a fertility hospital in Beijing.

Population experts say China has other factors that deserve more attention: stagnating incomes, high education costs, inadequate social safety nets, and gender inequality. He also argues that this will not lead to a solution to the declining population.

Even so, if the ban on IVF is completely lifted, it is likely to have a certain impact.

Lin estimates that around 300,000 children have already been born through IVF in China, accounting for about 3% of all newborns.

“I believe that soon there will be policies related to this that will satisfy many people who want children,” he said.

While it is true that more and more women in China have given up or postponed childbirth in recent years, overall there are still many women who want to become mothers.

Joy Yang, a 22-year-old university student from Hunan who majors in international finance, said when she first heard about IVF on TV, she wanted the ban to be lifted all over China. If that happens, you can have a child without looking for a partner, depending on the financial conditions.

“There are quite a few women who don’t want to get married but still want children. I might choose IVF,” she said.

(Reporters Farah Master, Xiaoyu Yin)

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