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27 Jan 2003 10:59
Affluent Asian couples finding it tough to make babies will soon get help from a Singaporean “sex guru” offering a novel program to ease a severe decline in the island’s fertility rates.
Dr. Wei Siang Yu, a flamboyant physician-entrepreneur, has put together a comprehensive package of services from traditional counselling to “love boats” and luxury-resort holidays, all with the sole intention of procreation.
The cost of a baby-making holiday is about 1 000 Singapore dollars (US$570) per night for a full-package retreat, ideally just before the woman is about to ovulate.
Wei is working with fertility clinics and high-end resorts to offer a full suite of services, including fertility seminars on cruise ships.
For the baby-making retreat, to be launched next month, couples will be ferried by yacht to a luxury resort in nearby Indonesia’s Bintan and Batam islands, where they will be offered privacy and sensual stimuli.
“There will be good nutrition, and lots of aphrodisiacs,” Wei said in a media briefing held aboard a yacht anchored off Singapore.
A sex counsellor will be on standby if they need advice in the resort, but if they want more privacy they can consult via mobile phone messages.
SMS or short messaging service via mobile phone is very popular among Singaporeans, and Wei, an unmarried 33-year-old Australian-educated doctor with a striking fashion sense, has tapped into the craze.
His US-based company Meggpower.com, co-funded by American and Asian partners, can alert women ahead of their ovulation through short messages on mobile phones to encourage them to make love during the optimal period.
Clad in a grey-and-turquoise checked suit with matching shoes and tie, his brown and yellow plastic spectacles perched atop a receding hairline, Wei said many childless Singaporean couples are not biologically infertile, but simply need to get away from it all.
The Singapore government is alarmed over the trend of couples marrying later and having fewer babies, which has brought the fertility rate below the level at which the population will naturally replace itself.
In the long term this means the population will become significantly older, resulting in higher social welfare costs and lower productivity.
Wei said Singapore is simply “too stressful” and “mundane” for making babies, and the trick is for the couple to be in a relaxed setting three to four days before the woman ovulates.
“What we want to encourage is continuous daily copulation before ovulation to pack enough sperm,” said Wei. “The moment the egg comes out, the sperm captures the egg and fertilises the egg.”
Wei works closely with the Singapore Planned Parenthood Association (SPPA), which used to be known as the Family Planning Association of Singapore.
Singapore’s old family planning program—which urged couples to stop at two children—became too successful.
Now the mantra is to have three or more children, if you can afford it.
Wei is also targetting couples in Japan, which is also facing the danger of a graying population, as well as newly affluent mainland Chinese who want to have “quality” babies since they are restricted to one child.
Wei promises that his retreats “will be pretty discreet.”
The ideal setting is a resort villa with its own private pool, keeping the couple away from fellow holidaymakers -â€’ especially noisy kids—who might spoil the mood. Massage and aromatherapy will be offered to help the couple relax.
Unfortunately, there will be no refunds if the holiday produces no baby, Wei said, noting that In-vitro Fertilization (IVF) â€’- the so-called test-tube baby process—only has a 30 to 40% success rate.
Wei has a flair for marketing—he hosts a popular radio show, and he promotes himself as an “international sex and fertility guru”—and statistics indicate his business may have some promise.
According to a 2000 census, among the younger age groups, proportionately more persons were remaining single than 10 years ago. Each woman who had been married had an average of 2,5 children, compared with 2,8 children in 1990.
Almost half of married women below 30 years of age and 14% of those aged 30-39 had yet to have children in 2000.
The numbers prompted the government to announce family-friendly policies, including the provision of more child care facilities as well as financial incentives that came to be known as a “baby bonus.”
Time will tell if the measures will reverse the fertility decline. In the meantime, Wei is preparing for the first customers of his fertility retreats. - Sapa-AFP
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