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May 19, 2014

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One-child policy change worsens midwife shortage

ZHANG Cuiqiong, 46, who has worked as a midwife for more than 20 years, is gearing up for the busiest year ever, as China’s relaxation of its one-child policy will intensify an already severe midwife shortage.

“I have seen a midwife help deliver 22 newborns in one single day in my hospital. And the record will surely be broken soon,” said Zhang, who serves at the No. 2 People’s Hospital of Guangdong Province.

The Province is expected to see a big baby boom after relaxing its birth control policy in late March to allow couples to have a second baby if either parent is an only child.

With a population of more than 100 million, Guangdong is the country’s most populous province. About 150,000 households there are qualified to have a second child.

It is forecast that the southern province will see the number of babies born increase by 10,000 to 15,000 in 2014.

“The years 2015 and 2016 will be the peak of the baby boom, with an increase of about 70,000 and 89,000 newborns respectively,” said Chen Yiping, deputy director with the Guangdong Provincial Health and Family Planning Commission.

Last November, the Communist Party of China decided the country would loosen its family planning policy first introduced in the late 1970s to rein in the surging population.

China has a midwife gap of 800,000, based on a ratio of 1,000 fertile women to one midwife in developed countries, said the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

Statistics from the commission showed that among 16 million newborns born every year in China, 160,000 died, and an additional 5,000 mothers-to-be died during delivery.

“If a woman can receive care from professional midwives and proper treatment in emergency situations, the death rate would be reduced by 75 percent,” said Lai Xuemei, matron of the Obstetrical Department of the First Affiliated Hospital of Jinan University in Guangzhou.

Jiang Mei, an expert on obstetrics with the Maternal and Child Health Care of China Association, said China has a scarcity of midwives with degrees.

Next year, six universities and colleges are to offer bachelor’s degrees for midwives.



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