A return to motherhood at 60

Updated: 2013-12-24 01:12

By Wang Zhenghua (China Daily)

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Woman uses in vitro technology to give birth after losing her daughter

A return to motherhood at 60

In December this year, Sheng plays with her daughter, who looks for her in their kitchen in Hefei. Photo by Wu Fang / For China Daily

A hospital that helped a 60-year-old woman become a mother again said it has seen a steady stream of women who want to become pregnant after the death of their only child.

In May 2010, the No 105 Hospital of the People's Liberation Army in Hefei, Anhui province, helped Sheng Hailin give birth to twin daughters after in vitro fertilization, also known as test-tube baby technology.

Sheng, who became perhaps the oldest pregnant woman in China, lost her only daughter in 2009.

She is not alone. An estimate based on figures provided by the National Health and Family Planning Commission suggests that each year, about 76,000 families across the country lose an only child.

Demographer Yi Fuxian said that in the foreseeable future, there may be as many as 10 million Chinese families in that category.

A chief physician at one hospital's fertility clinic who asked not to be identified said,"In recent years, we have seen a steady rise in the number of parents who have lost an only child coming to consultation about having another baby."

The doctor added that the public is not widely aware of current advancements in reproductive technology; otherwise, even more people would be seeking assistance.

The women seeking the consultations have moved past their prime childbearing years and may be 35 or older.

Sheng was much older. Now 63, the retired medical worker and her husband had pinned their hopes on their first daughter, who was born in 1980.

But in the spring of 2009, the daughter, then in her late twenties, died along with her husband of accidental gas poisoning.

The loss sent Sheng into deep mourning. But on advice from family and friends, she decided to try again. She was 60 years old.

"To survive and free myself of the loneliness, I decided to have another child in my old age," she said.

After consulting several fertility experts, doctors at the hospital agreed to help Sheng.

After three months of medication and injections, Sheng resumed ovulation and her monthly menstrual cycle — prerequisites to implantation. Three fertilized eggs were then moved into her body.

During the pregnancy, she endured hemorrhages, body pains and other discomforts, but on May 25, 2010, she gave birth to twins — Zhizhi, who weighs 1.85 kg, and Huihui, 1.45 kg.

To support the two new members of the family, the now 63-year-old Sheng had to restart her work and travel across China giving lectures, leaving her young daughters with two baby sitters.

"For the baby girls, I have given out all I have," Sheng said, adding that expenses surpass 10,000 yuan ($1,600) a month.

"I hope the two children can live in comfort before their adulthood and receive regular education like other children." Sheng said.

She has not forgotten her first child and tells her toddlers stories about their sister.

"I am trying to tell them why I brought them to the world — to let them know the truth from childhood. They will understand me when they grow up."

Ma Chenguang in Hefei contributed to this story.

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