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Motherhood And Human Reproductive Technology in HK

Many women feel that becoming a mother is one of the most significant events of their lives. However, to be able to give birth and nurture the next generation is a privilege that one should not take for granted. This article gives an overview of some key statistics relating to birth rates and human reproductive technology (“HRT”) and the related law.

Statistics from the Census and Statistics Department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region show that the number of births has dropped over the years. In 2017, there were 56,500 births, and this has dropped to 37,000 in 2021 and 32,500 in 2022.[1]

Based on the Hong Kong Monthly Digest of Statistics December 2020 Feature Article on Fertility Trend in Hong Kong, 1981 to 2019 report (“Fertility Trend Report”)[2], the figures showed that fertility rates in younger age groups declined during 1981 to 2019, with the age specific fertility rate of women in the age groups of 15 to 19 and 20 to 24 decreasing 83% and 84% respectively during those 38 years. The figures also showed that fertility rates in older age groups increased by 45% and 89% for women in the age groups of 30 to 34 and 35 to 39 respectively from 2003 to 2019. The Census and Statistics Department suggested that this may be related to the trend of marriage postponement of Hong Kong women.

Indeed, the Fertility Trend Report found that there was a significant increase in the proportion of women who have never been married, and this trend permeated through all age groups studied. According to the Fertility Trend Report results, the percentage of such women in the age group of 40 to 44 increased from 3% in 1981 to 17% in 2016. The Fertility Trend Report further noted that from past experience, babies in Hong Kong were mostly born to married women.

The age range for marriage is also increasing as compared to the age in 2017. Table 3.4 of the Hong Kong Annual Digest of Statistics 2022 Edition[3] showed that the median age of first marriage amongst men in 2022 was 32.1 whereas for females it was 30.6.

From the numbers, one can argue that there may be a correlation between late marriages and late pregnancies. Page 7 of the Hong Kong Annual Digest of Statistics 2022 Edition[4] provides a table which we excerpt below:

The 2021 column figures in the table show that most of the mothers were pregnant during the age range of 30 to 34. The second most common age range for pregnancies was between the ages of 35 to 39.

With more women in their 30s contemplating marriage and pregnancy, discussions about egg freezing have become increasingly popular. It is therefore important to understand the laws relating to reproductive technology procedures.

Hong Kong’s reproductive technology procedures and centers licensed to conduct the relevant activity (“Licensed Centers”) are governed by the Human Reproductive Technology Ordinance (Cap 561) (“the Ordinance”).

Under Section 15 of the Ordinance, “no person shall provide a reproductive technology procedure to persons who are not the parties to a marriage”. However, single females can freeze their eggs in Hong Kong under the exceptions in Section 15 of the Ordinance. The egg storage period for a person who intends to undergo HRT procedure is generally up to 10 years.[5]

There is a significant increase in the number of eggs stored by the Licensed Centers, with statistics showing 5692 eggs stored in 2020 rising to 12047 eggs in 2021.[6] Based on these figures, the egg freezing option appears to be gaining traction for those who contemplate having children later in their lives.

As of 1 May 2023, Hong Kong has 16 Licensed Centers for HRT treatment providing various services.[7] With these technologies and services in place, more women can give themselves the opportunity to have children in the future.

Disclaimer: This article does not represent the views of any organisations or institutions affiliated with the author. This article is for reference only based on information available as of 12 May 2023 and does not purport to offer advice in any form (including but not limited to legal advice and medical advice) and it does not purport to provide complete statistics and coverage of the related rules and information. Please consult professionals for advice.


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