Healthcare

Family planning

End of the One-Child Policy stirs IVF demand

Chinese-Baby-w

IVF: big business in China

Search for the name “Wei Zexi” on Baidu and most of the results are negative headlines about the search engine itself. This became the case after Wei Zexi, 21 year-old college student from Shaanxi, died in 2016 from a rare form of cancer after undergoing expensive experimental treatment from a hospital that topped the results list of a Baidu search (see WiC324).

Three years on, the same Baidu search with Wei’s name is finally generating some good news: Wei’s parents have had another child.

One of the search results leads internet users to a Beijing News article, where Wei’s mother reveals that her son’s dying wish was for his parents to have another son so that his brother could take care of them in their old age on his behalf.

After his tragic death, his parents decided to have another child. And the Wei family’s wish came true this month after the hospital group Incinta announced that the couple, 51 and 49, had successfully conceived through in vitro fertilisation (IVF), a process in which eggs are fertilised outside of the body, at one of its fertility clinics. The mother delivered the child in May, becoming the oldest woman to have given birth in the local hospital in Xianyang in Shaanxi.

According to Incinta, which sponsored the Wei family’s IVF treatments, the journey to conception was a long one. The mother had been trying to conceive through IVF technology since 2016. But due to her age there were many unsuccessful cycles. She finally conceived in late 2018. Incinta’s post came with a picture of the Wei family, reporting that the child is very healthy.

“All we want is for the child to be safe. The rest I’m not going to think about too much,” Wei Haiquan, the father, told Jian Shi Ju, a healthcare blog.

Incinta is a medical company focused on assisted reproduction. Founded in 2014, it says on its website that it now operates several reproductive health clinics in China, southeast Asia and north America. It also has strategic agreements with “some of the best public hospitals” in China to develop IVF technology. The company also helps couples that want to seek fertility assistance outside of China, where many feel they can find higher-quality care.

IVF has become big business in China. After the Chinese government called a halt to its One-Child Policy in 2015, many women previously barred from having another baby now desperately want one.

According to a report by PEDaily.cn in June, Incinta has received fresh financing from a group of private equity investors. With the funding, the company says it plans to invest in up to five more reproductive centres.

In the same month, Jinxin Fertility successfully raised HK$3 billion ($385 million) in an initial public offering in Hong Kong (see WiC458). The Sichuan-based fertility clinic says revenue went up 102% to Rmb791 million ($111 million) in the first half of this year. Adjusted net profit, too, was up 32.4% year-on-year to Rmb257 million. Its share price has risen over 40% from its IPO level.

Zhong Yong, the chief executive of Jinxin, told CBN that China’s fertility business is still very fragmented. “In the domestic fertility market, most of our M&A targets are private institutions. However, they account for only 10% of the market. Most of the IVF in China is done in public hospitals. Some don’t even have the capacity to perform 1,500 egg retrievals a year,” observed Zhong.

With China’s infertility rate expected to climb from 15% in 2016 to 18% by 2023, demand now far outstrips supply. It is estimated that only 460 hospitals in China are licenced for IVF treatment, with the most prestigious public hospitals having waitlists that approach a year. “Only half a million infertile couples have received help using assisted reproductive technology, accounting for 7% of 8 million infertile couples. That ratio was 31% in the US during the same period,” reported the Jian Shi Ju blog.

Meanwhile, for Wei’s parents, perhaps they can find comfort that while the death of their first child led to a transformation in the way Baidu sells healthcare ads, their new-born boy now gives a lot of infertile couples greater hope of having their own children…


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