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Test tube baby boom
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Test tube babies are no longer considered extraordinary arrivals by residents of Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, after a spike in the number of such births during the past decade.

The number of test tube babies born in Guangzhou last year was at least 10 times greater than a decade ago, according to Long Xiaolin, a senior doctor of the Reproductive Department from No 3 Hospital affiliated to Guangzhou University of Medical Science.

Zheng Mengzhu (L), China's first test-tube baby, now 20, kisses professor Zhang Lizhu, 87, who helped her mother fall pregnant via in vitro fertilization - at a ceremony last month in Beijing.

A test-tube baby is a term that refers to a child conceived through in vitro fertilization, a medical technique in which a woman's egg is placed with her husband's sperm in a laboratory environment to promote fertilization.

According to Long, his hospital alone welcomed more than 1,200 little miracles into the world last year, with an average of three test-tube babies born a day.

In contrast, only about 100 were born annually at Long's hospital in the late 1990s.

The stigma once associated with artificially conceived children has receded, Long said.

Earlier this month, a local grandmother even contributed a story to a local newspaper to share her happiness.

"'My grandson is a 'high-tech product'," the grandmother was quoted as saying by Long.

Chen Cuilan, a local white-collar worker, said she didn't care if her future child was a test-tube baby or not.

"I may also seek test-tube conception or in vitro fertilization if I fail to become naturally pregnant in the future," the 30-year-old said.

Long attributed the increase of test-tube baby birth to the change of local residents' traditional attitudes.

Most of the couples used to secretly arrive in the hospital to consult doctors for test-tube babies 10 years ago as many people felt ashamed to be infertile, Long said, adding that some even used an alias.

Long said the delay of marriage and child rearing, increased work pressure, serious environmental pollution and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases had all have increased infertility.

But he said that test-tube baby technologies are only supplementary treatment method for the infertility.

(China Daily, March 12, 2008)

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