China marks 30th anniversary of its first ‘test tube’ baby

World Today

It’s been 30 years Chinese doctors delivered the country’s first ‘test tube’ baby. Since then, in-vitro fertilization (IVF) has helped many childless couples become parents. Many others are now trying to have a second child, and the country’s reproductive centers are busier than ever. 

CGTN’s Sun Tianyuan talks with one of the country’s top doctors in the field.

Peking University Third Hospital–the cradle of China’s modern assisted reproduction technology. The hospital continuously explores ways to help infertile couples become parents, dating back to when family planning was a national policy in China. Practicing at the hospital since 1985, Dr. Liu Ping has witnessed China’s fertility technologies advance from day one. As the Deputy Director of the Reproductive Medical Center at the hospital, she oversees those developments.

“Peking University Third Hospital has always followed industry leaders closely,” said Dr. Liu Ping. “Over the past 30 years, we have gradually mastered assisted reproduction technology, practically from zero. Now we’re on a par with the world’s top hospitals.”

Thirty years of technological leaps and bounds overlapped with China’s reform and opening-up.

“The reform and opening-up provided an opportunity, a window for China to learn cutting edge technologies and exchange innovative ideas with other countries,” said Dr. Liu Ping. “It helped us overcome challenges, gain experience, cultivate talent and eventually establish our own system and treatment methods.”

In 1978, Louise Brown, the world’s first tube baby, was born in England. Ten years later, Liu’s mentor, Dr. Zhang Lizhu delivered the Chinese mainland’s first one. Zhang’s patient was 38 years old with a five percent success rate – almost a miracle – for women her age.

In 1988, Zheng Mengzhu was born in this hospital. The nation cheered as she came into the world. At 30 years of age, Zheng has come back to the hospital, but this time, to work. Zheng didn’t want to speak to CGTN herself, but Dr. Liu says she’s a valued member of the hospital.

“I think this is a familiar place for her–she’s emotionally attached to it,” said Dr. Liu Ping. “Zheng interned here back in college, and has been working at the hospital since graduation.”

Zheng is just one of many cases. Last year, the hospital conducted 30 thousand treatments–ten times that of a comparable center in the U.S. Now with the universal second-child policy in full swing, more couples, with first child or not, will seek solutions in both science and faith.

CGTN’s Mike Walter talks with Dr. Xi Chen, Assisstant Professor of Public Health at Yale University, on the trends driving the increase of IVF in China.