The rise in in vitro fertilization points to the deferred dreams of many parents who long wanted a second child, but were prevented by a strict population control policy in place for more than 30 years.
That, in turn, is shifting prevailing attitudes in China regarding fertility treatments — formerly a matter of such sensitivity that couples were reluctant to tell even their parents or other family members that they were having trouble conceiving.
"More and more women are coming to ask to have their second child," said Dr. Liu Jiaen, who runs a private hospital in Beijing treating infertility through IVF, in which an egg and sperm are combined in a laboratory dish and the resulting embryo transferred to a woman's uterus.
Liu estimated that the numbers of women coming to him for IVF had risen by 20 percent since the relaxation of the policy, which came into effect at the start of the year.
Before, the average age of his patients was about 35. Now most of them are older than 40 and some of the women are fast approaching 50, he said.
"They have a very low chance to get pregnant so they are in a hurry. They really want to have a child as soon as possible," he said.
Chen Yun is 39 and was in the hospital waiting to have the procedure for the first time.
She and her husband already have a 7-year-old son and their families are encouraging them to have a second child.
"We are coming to the end of our childbearing years. It may be difficult for me to get pregnant naturally because my husband's sperm may have a problem, so we want to resolve this problem through IVF," she said. Read more: