It’s a Boy!

Giv­ing birth in China has its mo­ments

ChinAfrica - - LIVING IN CHINA - By Han­nah Ry­der

when I found out I was preg­nant, the first thing on my mind was not how I was go­ing to ac­tu­ally de­liver my child. But it prob­a­bly should have been. After 10 years of be­ing mar­ried, my hus­band and I were def­i­nitely ready to have a child, but we were still wor­ried about whether we would re­ally have the time and money to bring up a child. And for me, the preg­nancy process it­self seemed daunt­ing - how would I change? Would I ever go back to “nor­mal?”

These were im­por­tant ques­tions, but liv­ing here in China - a coun­try still de­fined as a de­vel­op­ing coun­try de­spite the sky­scrapers - the de­liv­ery it­self should have oc­cu­pied my mind too.

Ac­cord­ing to the UN, in 2015, around the world, 303,500 women died dur­ing child­birth and 2.7 mil­lion ba­bies died within the first month of their life. A to­tal of 99 per­cent of these women live in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. Thank­fully for me and my son-to-be, China was amongst the safest for de­liv­ery. In the same year, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion sta­tis­tics, for ev­ery 100,000 births, 27 women passed away in China. The ma­jor­ity of women in China are able to de­liver in a hos­pi­tal, al­though there are large in­equities. There are cer­tain ru­ral ar­eas - es­pe­cially in west and cen­tral China - which have much higher rates of death from child­birth. Chi­nese women who are mi­grants to large cities also suf­fer dis­pro­por­tion­ately due to their lack of ac­cess to in­sur­ance and other ma­ter­nal health en­ti­tle­ments.

I was lucky not to be one of these women. As a for­eigner liv­ing in China my­self, my work at the UN at the time had cov­ered me for ma­ter­nity in­sur­ance, mean­ing I had ac­cess to some top pri­vate in­ter­na­tional hos­pi­tals and VIP sec­tions at pub­lic hos­pi­tals in Bei­jing for the de­liv­ery - ac­cess worth over $6,000. I even ex­plored the pos­si­bil­ity of hav­ing a wa­ter birth but found out that the only hos­pi­tal in Bei­jing that of­fers this was a fairly small pri­vate hos­pi­tal in the south, sev­eral km away from my home and I was wor­ried about com­pli­ca­tions if I had to sit in Bei­jing’s traf­fic.

So, I con­tin­ued to visit the larger in­ter­na­tional hos­pi­tal that my in­sur­ance provider rec­om­mended, and got more and more ex­cited as the due date neared. Lit­tle was I to know that there was an­other chal­lenge I should have pre­pared my­self bet­ter for.

For ma­ter­nal health, China is known around the world be­cause of its high rate of cae­sarean or c-sec­tions. C-sec­tions are not dan­ger­ous in them­selves, but there is ev­i­dence to sug­gest they are as­so­ci­ated with child­hood obe­sity, post­par­tum de­pres­sion, and other prob­lems. In 2010, a study by the UN sug­gested that al­most half of all births in China were by c-sec­tion, com­pared to around 18 per­cent around the world. There are other de­vel­op­ing coun­tries where c-sec­tion rates are high - for in­stance Brazil and Egypt, but the is­sue here is the vol­ume - in China that’s around 8 mil­lion ba­bies de­liv­ered by c-sec­tion.

As a re­sult, in re­cent years, the Chi­nese Gov­ern­ment has put in place sev­eral poli­cies and pro­grams to try to bring the rates down. Sta­tis­tics from China’s health author­ity show that China’s c-sec­tion rate has dropped to 35 per­cent. Nev­er­the­less, I ended up be­ing one of those 35 per­cent. My doc­tors had ex­pected a nor­mal de­liv­ery - my baby was not in a breach po­si­tion and there were no other ab­nor­mal signs. But in the end after a painful 12 hours of la­bor, all the wa­ter sur­round­ing my baby had drained out of me and he was un­able to get out eas­ily. So he started to suf­fer and the doc­tors rushed me to the emer­gency room. I re­quested for the doc­tors to al­low my hus­band to be with me as the doc­tors de­liv­ered the boy, and as soon as we both heard him cry we were re­lieved and happy be­yond words.

To­day we are lucky to have a healthy amaz­ing son who is learn­ing to speak Chi­nese flu­ently as we bring him up here… but that’s an­other story for an­other day.


* The writer is a Kenyan-bri­tish diplo­mat, econ­o­mist and writer liv­ing in Bei­jing * Com­ments to niyan­[email protected]­

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