Older Chinese couples seeking second child face challenges

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Beijing, Jan 6 (IANS) As an increasing number of couples, many past their reproductive prime, seeking to have a second child under China’s new two-child policy, are facing challenges including poor sperm quality, the media reported on Wednesday.

According to official estimates, 60 percent of the couples who are newly eligible for a second baby are 35 years of age and above, and many of them are visiting fertility specialists for advice or assistance, the China Daily reported.

Physician Long Wen, who works for the fertility centre of Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University in Hubei province, said that more than half of his male patients had “substandard” sperm quality.

Long said he usually sees about 80 visitors a day, and that his check involves sperm quantity and quality in the semen.

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The revelation came as China’s State Council issued a resolution on Tuesday on implementing the universal two-child policy and improving family planning services to carry out the new law.

The resolution stipulates that the past family planning policy, which limited most Chinese couples to one child, was in line with the nation’s practical situation at the time. It calls for streamlining the administrative procedures related to reproduction and optimising the distribution of public services and resources, such as child and maternity healthcare, child nursing, primary and middle schools and related social welfare programmes.

Meanwhile, Long said that less than 30 percent of the males aged 40 and older who consulted him had quality sperm. Those working in the fields of information technology and the media were most susceptible to low quality, mainly due to lifestyles of little exercise, sitting for long periods, a heavy workload and smoking, he said.

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The number of those consulting him who want a second baby has increased substantially after the policy change, and half of the mare at least 40 years old, Long said.

Those 35 or older are at elevated risk of infertility and pregnancy complications, medical experts warned, saying that the reproductive prime is from ages 24 to 28.

Qin Lang, a physician at the Reproductive Medical Center of the West China Second University Hospital in Chengdu, Sichuan province, said that among all the couples age 30 and older who consulted him, more than half of the men had substandard sperm quality.

Despite the lack of a national survey on sperm quality, China has seen an increasing reproduction problem, with the infertile population exceeding 50 million. Half involve infertile husbands with low sperm quality, according to official estimates.

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