The story appears on

Page A5

May 27, 2013

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Metro

Experts push for the creation of egg banks

SHANGHAI residents Yang Chenggong, 35, and his infertile wife Li Yan have been waiting for more than a year for a donated egg. In China, egg banks don't exist and channels for obtaining ova for in vitro fertilization are very limited.

"I have set a deadline for ourselves," Yang, a small businessman, told Shanghai Daily. "If we don't receive a donor egg within two years, we plan to adopt."

The couple had been trying to have a child since they married seven years ago. When their efforts failed to bear fruit, they sought medical advice and Yang's wife was diagnosed with blocked fallopian tubes and poorly developed follicles. They were told the only way to have their own child was use of a donated egg and Yang's sperm. Their names went on a long list at Renji Hospital in Shanghai.

Many experts in the field of reproductive medicine are urging China's national government to adopt regulations for creation of egg banks. Without those regulations, such banks can't officially be opened. As a result, anxious couples have only two options: the black market in fertile eggs or donations from couples who have conceived through IVF treatment and have eggs left over.

Health officials estimate about 10 percent of Chinese couples suffer some kind of reproductive problems in a country where not having children still raises eyebrows. Oddly enough, sperm banks are legal but egg banks are not.

Renji Hospital hosts Shanghai's only sperm bank and is expected to become a repository for eggs should those banks be legalized. In fact, the hospital is already doing some of the technical preparation in anticipation of that happening. It already is freezing eggs from women for their own IVF treatment.

"Building an egg bank is much more difficult than a sperm bank because of the high technical requirements," said Dr Zhao Xiaoming, director of Renji Hospital's reproductive health center. "Egg volume is 180 times that of sperm and eggs contain much more water than sperm. That means a lower rate of successful thaw."

She added that storing eggs involves a dehydration process and requires care to reduce injury to the egg and ensure a frozen egg can be restored for fertilization.

About 10 women at the hospital have conceived by having their own eggs frozen until their husbands' sperm contribution was adequate to the task.

She said an egg bank, if opened, could serve egg donors, wives wanting to store their own eggs for reproductive therapy and even single women who want to preserve their eggs as an "insurance policy" against disease, accidents, aging or other factors that might inhibit reproduction when they are ready.

Black market

Zhao recounted the case of a young single woman who was suffering from leukemia and wanted to "bank" her own healthy eggs ahead of chemotherapy treatment. Had she been a single man, sperm could have been stored.

"We have received many inquiries from such women who want to store eggs before medical procedures that expose them to radiation or toxicants," Zhao said. "We have to turn them down."

Zhao also laments the cases where middle-aged couples have lost their only child and could have had another if eggs had been stored years earlier.

More than 100 such couples have registered for donated eggs, and only about 10 have received them, she said.

Where legal roadblocks frustrate public demand, a black market springs up.

Flyers on walls around universities advertise for young female students willing to earn some money by donating eggs. It's believed that some medical or quasi-medical personnel are involved in the egg collection. Small unlicensed hospitals, usually outside Shanghai, are often willing to use the clandestine eggs in providing IVF treatment. The whole process can cost an infertile couple at least 100,000 yuan (US$16,130).

In Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, the health authority in November cracked down on an illegal human egg trading facility, whose agents collected eggs from young women and sold them for more than 200,000 yuan each.

Young women selling their eggs could earn 20,000 yuan to 50,000 yuan according to age, height, looks and education.

Yang and his wife said they have no intention of using underground sources.

"There are sperm banks where healthy men can donate sperm to infertile couples," he said.

"Why can't there be official egg banks for women to give couples like us a chance to have our baby?"

Meanwhile, Yang still feels tugs of emotions when he hears a baby cry.

"I am waiting, still waiting," he said.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend