2,000 bereaved mothers conceive again in Sichuan

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More than 2,000 women who had a child killed or disabled in southwest China's May 12 earthquake of 2008 have had another baby or become pregnant again, local authorities said Monday.

The bereaved mothers, who mostly conceived from the ages of 35 to 40, received free reproduction services, including counseling, health checks and delivery services, funded by governments at all levels, according to the Sichuan provincial population and family planning commission.

Mianzhu City, which lost more than 10,000 people in the quake, piloted the free reproduction service program at the end of June 2008.

"The disaster plunged many parents into deep sorrow. We want to help them move on to rebuild their homes," said Wang Mei, director with the city's population and family planning bureau.

Of the 896 Mianzhu women who wanted to have a second child in the wake of the disaster, 489 had given birth and 109 had conceived, Wang said.

In late July, the Sichuan Provincial People's Congress passed a regulation, exempting parents who lost their only child or whose children were disabled in the quake from the country's one-child laws.

Of the 68,712 people confirmed dead and the 17,921 missing after the May 12 disaster in Sichuan, 5,335 were schoolchildren, according to data given by the provincial government in May 2009.

"I have overcome the distress and had my second baby without being charged one yuan," said 43-year-old Huang Changrong, who lost her daughter but had an 11-month-old boy.

The birth was risky for a mature mother like Huang, who had her son delivered by cesarean section.

Huang said she suffered a bleeding and saw her baby after spending three days in coma.

Qu Mingxiang, 35, who lost her 12-year-old daughter, became pregnant seven months ago after surgery to separate her oviduct from the abdominal cavity.

However, others who received the same surgery have not conceived. Medical experts say the surgery has a success rate of only 30 percent.

The optimum age for pregnancy was 24 to 30. But besides physical challenges, some mothers also suffered mental stresses, Wang said.

"They have not got over the past and they worry about the future as well," she said, adding that 80 percent of households in Mianzhu were repaying loans for new homes.

"There are still more than 200 bereaved women in their forties failing to conceive naturally in Mianzhu. Our program allows them to try test-tube conception or receive artificial insemination twice for free," she said.

China's "one-child policy", aimed at curbing population growth, took effect as a basic state policy in 1982, and became the law on population and family planning in December 2001.

Most urban couples can have only one child, while rural couples are allowed to have two children if the first is a girl.

More than 10,000 families with one or two children born under the family planning law lost children in the quake, according to the provincial population and family planning commission.

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