Know the options available to you when the time comes for the birth of your baby, and find out about postnatal care in China…
Expectant parents need to choose what type of hospital the birth should be in. The main decision is between a Western-style hospital or a Chinese hospital. The best way to choose a hospital is to get a recommendation from someone who has given birth locally. The minimum stay in hospital is three full days.
Most of China's major cities have hospitals where some staff speak English and the facilities and treatment are very similar to those found throughout the Western world. These hospitals are more expensive. People who live in an area without such a hospital may still opt to give birth in one of the major cities, but should expect to be there for a few weeks prior to and following the birth.
It is also possible to give birth in a Chinese hospital; people should choose one which they are comfortable with. Cultural differences mean that expectant parents may need to be forceful to ensure that they get what they want. In Chinese hospitals men are not usually allowed in the delivery room. It is advisable to check a hospital's view of pain management and natural childbirth; caesarean sections are very common in China (between 40 and 50 percent of births). Those wanting a vaginal birth should inform the hospital as doctors and nurses tend to favour C-section delivery. C-section delivery costs more in a private hospital - around triple the fee of a vaginal birth.
What to take to hospital
Chinese hospitals differ from those in the West and not everything that people might expect to be provided is available. It is advisable to take the following when giving birth in a Chinese hospital:
- Food for the mother and their spouse, partner or friend. Many Chinese hospitals do not provide food
- Bed linen, clothes and toiletries (including a towel and toilet paper)
- Breast pads
- Hospital records and health insurance information
- Entertainment (books, DVDs, music, magazines)
- Nappies and clothes for the baby; five days' worth is advisable
- Blankets and towels for the baby
- A baby bath and wipes
Women are entitled to paid maternity leave in China. The current entitlement is 90 days of leave following the birth. Specific local regulations may allow for leave to attend hospital appointments and up to ten weeks of leave before the birth. Longer maternity leave, improved working conditions and further healthcare benefits are currently being discussed by the Chinese government.
Post Natal Care
Healthcare provision varies across the country so healthcare provided for children depends on the place of residence. In Shanghai, for example, there is a government-run fund which covers medical expenses, including the cost of medicines. It is open to all children, including children from overseas whose parents work in Shanghai. The Shanghai branch of the Red Cross Society of China operates the fund and the Shanghai Health Bureau and Shanghai Education Commission are also involved. This scheme is open to children from one month old, and parents must pay a small premium.
There are no compulsory vaccines in China. In the first six years of life a child in China following the standard schedule will be vaccinated against:
- Hepatitis A and B
- Measles, mumps and rubella
- Encephalitis and meningitis
See a full schedule of childhood vaccines in China at the Having a Baby in China website.
Vaccinations can be done at a local community hospital. Registration for the vaccination program can be done before a birth certificate is issued at the Maternity and Aftercare department. To be issued with a vaccination booklet the following are usually required:
- Document pack containing the baby’s information issued on discharge from hospital
- Passport or some other identification
- Parents and child’s names
- Address and contact telephone number in Chinese
- Marriage books (if married to a Chinese citizen) to verify name if unable to write Chinese