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Photograph: Hoang Dinh Nam/Getty
When Hai overheard her mother-in-law telling her husband to have an extramarital affair so he could have a son, she decided to take action.

"I was very scared that one day he would leave me for another woman," says the 36-year-old teacher. "On many occasions my in-laws even hinted that I was not a good wife and that I was an obstacle in his life."

Hai, already mother to two daughters, suggested to her husband that she underwent IVF treatment. It is illegal to use IVF for gender selection in Vietnam so the couple chose a hospital in Thailand. They paid $20,000, spent the whole of November in hospital and are now expecting twins.

The timing was crucial. Their offspring will be born under the sign of the golden dragon which, for men, is the most auspicious animal in the Chinese zodiac. Hai went to Bangkok with two other couples, both seeking IVF treatment to have baby boys born in this year. The sign is especially cherished because it only comes around every 60 years.

Many believe that...