In China, An IVF Clinic Grapples With Huge Demand Treating infertility has become a booming business in China, a country known for its one-child policy. One American-backed in vitro fertilization clinic in Shanghai can hardly keep up with demand, with patients filling the waiting rooms and spilling over into the stairwells.
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In China, An IVF Clinic Grapples With Huge Demand

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In China, An IVF Clinic Grapples With Huge Demand

In China, An IVF Clinic Grapples With Huge Demand

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

Unidentified Woman #1: (Foreign language spoken)

ANDREA HSU: There's an electronic board on the wall, but instead of destinations and times, it flashes the names of patients, telling them which room to go to and which doctor to see.

WEIPENG ZHAO: In the morning time and the afternoon time, every day is very crowded.

HSU: He remembers talking to the company's founder, Joe Schulman, about China's economic growth.

ZHAO: He said, why we don't go to China? I say, yes, you have to go. This is opportunity.

HSU: Given the extreme measures China had taken to slow its population growth, this came as a surprise to many.

ZHAO: Because they're saying this is a family planning country. You want doing the infertility treatment? No.

HSU: Still, by the mid '90s, there was government support for IVF, the idea being every family should have one child. And thus, an industry was born.

CHEN HUA: (Foreign language spoken)

HSU: Chen Hua is an obstetrician-gynecologist here. She sees about 40 patients a day.

HUA: (Through Translator) We have many families in China who are childless, so they need a child even more.

HSU: Thirty-four-year old Wang Zhongqing has tried for several years to get pregnant. She's gone to three different hospitals but was told her case was too complicated. She desperately hopes she'll get help here.

WANG ZHONGQING: (Through Translator) Not having a child, you feel the pressure. My classmates' children are so big already, 8 or 9 years old.

HSU: And pressure from family is the greatest of all.

ZHONGQING: (Through Translator) They're always pushing: Go get looked at. How come you haven't gone yet? They're so anxious.

HSU: Unidentified Woman #4: Okay. We're finished.

HSU: One floor up, lab technicians finish the first of 15 egg retrievals they'll do this morning. Within minutes, they're on to the next patient.

ANDY DORFMANN: It's actually a terrific lab back here.

HSU: Andy Dorfmann is director of the embryology lab back home in Virginia. Many of the Chinese techs have trained in his lab, and he comes to Shanghai a couple times a year to make sure they're on track.

DORFMANN: Unidentified Woman #5: Three.

DORFMANN: Three, OK.

HSU: The Shanghai lab is largely the same setup as the one in the U.S. but with six times the volume. So the embryologists are extremely careful about double-checking names.

DORFMANN: The pace here is so high, and the number of patients that they're seeing, the throughput is so high.

HSU: When the Chinese staff go to Virginia, they can hardly believe what they see. Han Jinlan is an OB-GYN. She ran the day-to-day operations at JIAI until last year.

HAN JINLAN: (Through Translator) Last time I went to America, there were at most two patients sitting on the sofas. Only when one left did the next one go in. They weren't all standing in a line.

HSU: In Shanghai, on the other hand, the lines keep getting longer and longer.

JINLAN: This pay-for-performance would have been unthinkable in Weipeng Zhao's time as a surgeon in China. Today, it's part of his strategy for keeping JIAI competitive, as IVF centers pop up all around.

ZHAO: Last month, I showed our board member the one Shanghai map. We are in the Shanghai downtown area. Surrounding us, 10.

HSU: Ten more IVF clinics in Shanghai alone. Throughout China, there are now several hundred government-licensed clinics. Some of them with newer, more spacious facilities.

ZHAO: The patient always criticize us: Hah, you are joint venture medical center, but you don't have the VIP service. Yes, we don't have yet. We don't have the space.

HSU: Andrea Hsu, NPR News.

BLOCK: And our series continues online with The Baby Project. Nine women from across the United States are blogging about their final weeks of pregnancy, and later this summer about their first few weeks of parenthood. You can meet them at npr.org.

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