Surrogacy businesses in China are expecting a new wave of customers following the Chinese government's announcement that it would end its decades-long one-child policy and allow all couples to have a second child, the Global Times learned on Tuesday.
The Communist Party of China Central Committee announced on October 29 at the end of a four-day plenary session in Beijing that the country will ease its family planning policy and allow all couples to have two children in order to help deal with the aging population.
This historic move overturns rules that have limited urban Chinese to one child and restricted the number of children rural Chinese can have since the 1970s. But it has come too late for older parents - those in their late 30s and 40s - who have longed for a second child but have stopped being physically able to have them at the same time as they have been given the legal green light to do so.
Those who are determined to give their child a sibling are considering alternative methods.
A week after the announcement, several surrogacy agencies reached by the Global Times said there has been an increase in the number of people reaching out to them about having a second child through a surrogate mother.
Surrogacy involves having a woman carry and give birth to a baby on behalf of a couple, either using the couple's sperm and eggs or donated material to create a child through in-vitro fertilization.
"There are three types of customers; the first type is those who are too old to risk giving birth to a child or due to the fact that the eggs of those aged over 35 have a bigger chance of having chromosomal abnormalities. The second type is those who have problems with the womb," said a staff member of a Shanghai surrogacy agency, surnamed Li.
"The third type is those who want to decide the gender of the embryo," Li said.
Surrogacy was officially forbidden in China after the government ruled in 2001 that no medical organizations or personnel are allowed to be involved in any form of surrogacy. Any violators face a fine of up to 30,000 yuan ($4,730) and have to bear criminal responsibility.
However, many surrogacy agencies continue to operate, with many of them arguing that the law only banned hospitals and medical organizations from engaging in surrogacy but did not ban surrogacy organizations or agencies.
These organizations and agencies charge from 350,000 to 2,000,000 yuan for their whole package, from medical checks to delivering the baby.
Despite these organizations and agencies claiming that surrogacy is safe, experts do not recommend women over 35 using their eggs for surrogacy.
"The success rate when using the egg of a woman aged below 35 is 80 percent, and it drops to 60 percent afterwards and even lower after 40 years old. Even if the egg and sperm have been fertilized and implanted into the surrogate mother, there is still a risk of miscarriage," a doctor surnamed Fang, who has been working for eight years at a surrogacy company based in Guangzhou, explained.
Li Mei, the head of the advanced laboratory of the Reproductive Hospital affiliated to Shandong University, said that the issues around surrogacy are what led the government to ban it.
"Surrogacy had led to many conflicts before it was banned, such as surrogate mothers refusing to give the child to the intended parents and the parents not enjoying sufficient legal protection. Also, surrogate mothers' welfare is not safeguarded as they have to bear all the risk of giving birth," Li said.
Meanwhile, parents who look to having a second child are also facing a dilemma as many of them have passed their "golden age."
A father from Jiangsu Province surnamed Wang, aged 37 said that he and his wife want to have a second child but at the same time they are worried it might be hard for them to take care of a second baby.
"It is about responsibility, money and time. We both have jobs and our parents are too old to help us with the child. Also, we are worried that our income will not always be enough to support us. By the time the child is 20, we will be 60 years old," he explained.