Mid­wife: More mums are opt­ing for nat­u­ral births

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - China - By TIAN XUEFEI and ZHOU HUIYING in Harbin PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY Cheng Si contributed to this story. Con­tact the writ­ers at zhouhuiy­ing@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

In her 31 years as a mid­wife at the Red Cross Cen­tral Hos­pi­tal of Harbin, Hei­longjiang prov­ince, Xiao Yan has wit­nessed sev­eral changes in the way women choose to give birth.

She re­mem­bers in the late 1980s when al­most all ex­pec­tant moth­ers would opt for a nat­u­ral birth.

“It seemed much eas­ier for women to de­liver nat­u­rally then,” she said.

“Most of them were thin and un­der 30. Fur­ther­more, daily man­ual la­bor made them phys­i­cally fit.”

How­ever, as the coun­try em­braced re­form and open­ing-up, and liv­ing stan­dards be­gan to im­prove, Xiao no­ticed that the av­er­age woman’s body also un­der­went change.

“As time went by, we saw more over­weight women whose ba­bies were also much big­ger,” she said.

“Be­cause of this, it be­came pop­u­lar for women to give birth by Cae­sarean sec­tion around 2000.

“As they were lim­ited to one child, women would opt for C-sec­tions be­cause they are more con­ve­nient and carry a re­duced risk for the new­borns.”

This changed again with the ad­vent of the sec­ond­child pol­icy, which was fully im­ple­mented at the be­gin­ning of last year. Since then, Xiao has ob­served a no­tice­able in­crease in the num­ber of car­ries a baby in her arms in a ward of the Red Cross Cen­tral Hos­pi­tal of Harbin. women opt­ing for nat­u­ral births.

“Now, due to the sec­ond­child pol­icy, women have been con­sid­er­ing the risks as­so­ci­ated with C-sec­tions more care­fully,” she said.

It is the job of mid­wives like Xiao to care for pa­tients through­out a preg­nancy. They are trained to help de­liver ba­bies and to in­ter­vene in high-risk sit­u­a­tions.

“If a woman is cared for by a pro­fes­sional mid­wife and re­ceives proper treat­ment, the chances of any com­pli­ca­tions are much re­duced in the event of an emer­gency,” Xiao said. “It’s es­pe­cially im­por­tant for moth­ers who are hav­ing their sec­ond child to have a mid­wife on hand.”

Con­ven­tional wis­dom among many Chi­nese holds that if a woman gave birth by C-sec­tion the first time, then she must do so again the sec­ond time round. But this is not al­ways the case, ac­cord­ing to Xiao.

“In fact, there is a very high suc­cess rate for nat­u­ral births among moth­ers who are hav­ing their sec­ond child,” she said, adding that the most im­por­tant fac­tors are main­tain­ing a bal­anced diet, get­ting suf­fi­cient ex­er­cise and avoid­ing overeat­ing.

“A nat­u­ral birth is good for both mother and baby, and can also re­duce the risk of life-threat­en­ing com­pli­ca­tions.”

As an ad­vo­cate of vagi­nal birth, Xiao has also in­flu­enced some of her for­mer pa­tients to pro­mote nat­u­ral de­liv­ery among their rel­a­tives.

“I can’t re­mem­ber how many ba­bies I have de­liv­ered over the decades, but I know it can’t be fewer than 10,000,” she said.

“Some of the moth­ers have since told me that their daugh­ters or daugh­ters-in­law also chose to have a nat­u­ral de­liv­ery be­cause of their ex­pe­ri­ence.”

The hos­pi­tal in which Xiao works has 26 mid­wives on staff, yet still finds it­self short­handed some­times, es­pe­cially since the sec­ond-child pol­icy came into force.

“Last year, more than 10,000 ba­bies were born in our hos­pi­tal,” she said. “There were some­times a dozen women wait­ing in the de­liv­ery room all at the same time.”

The ma­jor­ity of China’s ex­ist­ing mid­wives grad­u­ated from tech­ni­cal schools, but Xiao ex­pects there to be more with uni­ver­sity or col­lege de­grees in fu­ture.

“Mid­wives are com­monly re­garded as nurses rather than as an in­de­pen­dent pro­fes­sion in China, and we lack enough op­por­tu­ni­ties for ca­reer ad­vance­ment,” she said.

“I hope this can be re­solved so that more ob­stet­rics grad­u­ates choose mid­wifery and help end the mid­wife short­age.”

In the shorter term, Xiao said her hos­pi­tal is look­ing to es­tab­lish an out­pa­tient ser­vice for ex­pec­tant moth­ers.

“As far as I’m aware, it will be the first one in the city and that’s quite sig­nif­i­cant,” she said. “It will pro­vide more op­por­tu­ni­ties for preg­nant women to com­mu­ni­cate with ex­pe­ri­enced mid­wives and re­ceive proper guid­ance about nat­u­ral birth.”

Xiao Yan

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