Pregnant In China: 15 Fascinating Things They Do Differently

China is one of the biggest power countries in the world that is neck in neck with the United States and will probably take over the world in due time. The Chinese have a much different way of childrearing compared to the United States. There are more rules and regulations that must be followed if one chooses to become a parent in the People's Republic of China. Business Insider points out a few differences in parenting styles between Chinese and American parents. Many involve the way that they socialize right down to the way children are raised.

Handling the process of pregnancy is no different and many expats who live in China have a hard time adjusting to the new culture because there are a different set of norms and rules to play by. There are different sets of rules and regulations that westerners have to adhere to if they plan on procreating in mainland China. Just like any other experience of living abroad, having to go through a pregnancy is an adjustment. In fact, it's an adjustment on top an adjustment because having a child is an adjustment in that of itself.

China has a reputation for having hard-lined policies that have become so personal as to telling people how to plan their families. It is safe to say that China is certainly not a free country. Here are 15 facts about being pregnant in China.

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15 Since Men Outnumber Women, Many Chinese Men Stay Single

single men
Daily Mail

In the Chinese culture, there is much pressure for young people to get married and start a family. How is this possible for young men if there is such a huge shortage of women to choose from? Unlike the United States, the dating game has the ball in the women's court because they are the ones who have more options. According to Newsweek, young urban women in China are putting off marriage, working longer than they might have in the past and earning more. This is simply because they can - regardless of what their grandchild-desiring parents might say.

Historically, China has been a patriarchal culture but now the tables have turned and that has backfired on men.

Though this one-child policy motivated many families to have sons over daughters, it has now empowered women in the dating world at least. This gender inequality has also caused a staggering increase in divorce in China, especially in big cities like Shanghai. Nationwide, the divorce rate rose from just over 1 percent of couples in 2003 to 2.57 percent in 2013, the last year for which complete data is available, according to Newsweek. Though divorce is still more unlikely in rural areas, divorce rates for Beijing and Shanghai are now up by over 30 percent.

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Wall Street Journal

14 There Are Always Big Baby Booms During The Year Of The Dragon

year of the dragon
CBS News

Back in 2012, China saw a huge baby boom during the Year of the Dragon. That year, in particular, broke many records not only in China but all throughout Asia in general. According to CBS, a poll in Hong Kong showed that 70 percent of couples that wanted children born under the dragon sign, while South Korea, Vietnam, and China all report similar enthusiasm about dragon-year childbearing.

The dragon is the only mythical creature among the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac signs and is regarded as the symbol of the most might and intelligence. In ancient China, the dragon was associated with the emperor. Due to the Chinese cultural preference to males, boys born under the Year of the Dragon are said to especially be successful and wealthy. Traditionally, it is believed that female dragons, while wise and talented, will face some difficulties in their lives, particularly in the area of romance according to BBC.

During the previous Year of the Dragon in 2000, Hong Kong saw an increase in the number of births by 5%, according to the official data. "When the dragon wants to do something, there will be no stopping him,'' said Master Wong, president of the Malaysian Fengshui Association said in an interview with BBC. ''I should know; I'm a dragon too.''

year of the dragon

13 Women In Labor Are Often Denied Epidurals

Epidurals are a type of anesthesia that is injected into a woman in labor as a spinal anesthesia, which is the most popular method of pain relief during the labor process for pregnant women. According to AmerianPregnancy.org, more than 50 percent of women in America who are giving birth at hospitals use epidural anesthesia. However, in China, epidurals are simply not standard procedure. In the United States, you practically have to beg to NOT be given one. This is another part of dealing with the pregnancy that expats are shocked about when they give birth in China.

If you do your research, there is a perfectly good reason as to why the Chinese health practitioners are not fans of epidurals. Though it can make the birthing process less painful, it also prolongs the birthing process because you literally cannot feel the lower half of your body. Many women find that epidurals also make pushing more difficult to the point where additional medications might be needed or even a C-section. This is because epidurals can not only slow down the labor process, but they can stop it entirely.

Though many expats will find the labor process more painful after being denied epidurals, it also makes for a more natural birthing process.

Four pregnant women relax in a coffee shop during a support group meeting at a shopping center in Shanghai on July 30, 2011. China's one-child policy was introduced in 1979 to curb population growth in the nation of more than 1.3 billion people, but has become increasingly unpopular as the country's population ages. Critics blame the policy for creating gender imbalances -- sex-specific abortions are common and female infanticide and the abandoning of baby girls have also been reported. AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

12 The Controversial One Child Policy

one child policy

When someone thinks about having a baby in China, the first thing that pops into your head is the one-child policy. Although this policy never applied to expats, this harsh policy that dictated personal family planning lasted for 35 years. The one-child ban was lifted in 2015, but the Chinese government managed to prevent 400 million births according to allthatsinteresting.com.

The one-child policy was enacted in 1980 in order to prevent the overpopulation of China.

According to the Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, “one child for one couple is a necessary choice made under China’s special historical conditions to alleviate the grim population situation.”

However, there were a few exceptions to this law. According to the Immigration Office, the policy was really meant to control the massive population growth in urban localities. After all, China is the most populated country in the entire world, accounting for over 20 percent of the world's population with 1.27 billion people, according to the China.org. Though many would view the Communist government as being invasive for telling its citizens how to plan their families, this was their method of controlling the overpopulation.

Although the one-child policy has been lifted, it still has had a great impact on China for future generations.

one child policy

11 The One-Child Policy Has Created A Shortage Of Women

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This one-child policy gave a huge backlash with some sociological consequences for China. Since so many families would have rather had sons over daughters during the one-child policy, this caused many families to do what they could in order to have a son. Sometimes that meant giving up their daughters for adoption or in extreme cases, deserting their infant girls in order to have a son in their place.

According to Marie Claire, the cultural preference for boys in China has created a severe gender imbalance to the point where unmarried men will outnumber unmarried women by 40 million. This has also led to so-called "bachelor villages" in rural communities full of single men that have never even had a girlfriend in their life.

The Chinese have traditionally believed that daughters are "spilled water" - that is, a waste because only sons can carry on the ancestral line and provide for their parents. When ultrasounds came along in the '80s, that were able to determine whether or not the baby was a boy, it led many women to end their pregnancies after they found out that the fetus was female. Today, 35 to 40 million women are "missing" from China's population. Many demographic experts believe that this surplus of young men will cause a rise in violence and social instability.

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10 Birth Tourism From China To The US Is Common

birth tourism
LA Times

Birth tourism is a thing for Chinese citizens. In fact, there are "maternity hotels" where tourists pay up to $80k in order to give birth in the US, according to Newsweek. In January 2018, feds raided these maternity hotels that were housing Chinese tourists who came to Los Angeles just to give birth in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security stormed 20 locations around Orange County seeking operations who pay "handlers" between $40-$80k to advise Chinese women on obtaining visas by flying through airports disguising their pregnancies.

Even though it is not illegal for foreigners to have babies in the United States, birth tourists lie to immigration officials about their reasons for travel, according to an official cited by NBC. Because of this, the feds did not arrest the women staying in these maternity hotels, but they would use them as witnesses to prosecute the "handlers" of these operations.

Birth tourists want to give birth in the United States so that their unborn children can gain citizenship by unfairly gaming the immigration system. There are many Chinese listing sites that show several hundred maternity hotels in Southern California.

"China has developed very quickly," said a Chinese immigrant who declined to provide her first name. "But … Chinese people still have this perception of America as a dream place to live, that it is bigger, better, stronger."

birth tourism
CNN Money

9 There Were Exceptions And Loopholes To The One-Child Policy

one child policy
South China Morning Post

Exceptions to the one-child policy rule were made for couples living in agricultural and pastoral areas, as well as sparsely populated minority areas like Tibet and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Also, if parents had the first child with disabilities, then they were allowed to have a second child. Prior to the lift of the ban in 2015, the Chinese government announced that couples were allowed to have two children if either parent was an only child in 2013. Also, if a woman had twins or triplets, then she wouldn't be penalized in any way. So technically, this policy should have been called the "one birth per family rule" rather than the "one-child policy rule".

The law was put into place in 1980 in order to curb the then-surging population that would have limited the demands for water and other resources. Other exceptions included ethnic minorities that were not of the country's ethnic Han majority, according to CBC. Rural couples were allowed to have one more child if their firstborn was a girl because that meant more help on the farm. As time went on, there were more exceptions being put into place and government incentives to follow the one-child policy. For example, the government would ensure better healthcare to families of only one child and lower the salaries of people by 15 percent if they had more than one child.

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8 Chinese Hospitals Tend To Be Extremely Crowded

crowded hospitals
The Telegraph

Before we start getting into how horribly crowded Chinese hospitals are, take note that this typically applies to the local hospitals, not the international or private hospitals. If you are strapped for cash and cannot afford more customized care for the delivery of your baby, just be aware that local hospitals will make you get in line to wait your turn. However, most expats opt for the smaller private hospitals so that they can get individualized attention and care for their newborn.

The common folk Chinese locals, however, do not get that luxury for when they need medical attention for when a woman goes into labor. According to Reuters, even the largest hospitals in China cannot keep up with the ever-increasing demand for healthcare as a result of a growing population. Though there is improved health insurance, the aging population has made for more crowded hospitals. In response, some of the country's largest hospitals are adding beds by the thousands.

China now has 16 public hospitals with more than 3,000 beds. NewYork-Presbyterian, the largest hospital in the United States according to Becker’s Hospital Review, has 2,478 beds. This means that the larger hospitals in the big cities see people packed in the waiting rooms like sardines.

crowded hospitals
Peace And Freedom

7 Babies Born In The Year Of The Dragon Are Said To Be The Luckiest

year of the dragon

There are 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac which change on a yearly basis. In other words, your 12th, 24th, and 36th birthday and so on, are repeats of your Chinese zodiac sign.

The Year of the Dragon is considered to be the luckiest of all the signs and there are big celebrations for when it comes around for the Chinese New Year. According to cits.net, the Dragon is said to be the mightiest of all the signs. They symbolize dominance, ambition, authority, dignity, and capacity.

People born under the Year of the Dragon prefer to play by their own rules and they are usually successful.

The years of the Dragon in recent history have been 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, and 2012 with the next one coming up in 2024. Some famous people born under the Year of the Dragon have been Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Martin Luther King, John Lennon and Bruce Lee, just to name a few. Dragons have a tenacious and fiery personality that guides them through life and makes them the most desirable out of all the Chinese zodiac signs.

How does this pertain to being pregnant in China? This is because the Chinese wish to have dragon babies and plan accordingly.

year of the dragon

6 Men Are Typically Not Allowed In The Delivery Room

delivery room
South China Morning Post

In many hospitals, men are not allowed in the delivery room, which comes as a cultural shock to many expats. According to blogs written by expats living in Shanghai and Beijing, many of them talk about their husbands not being allowed in the delivery room. Instead, only nurses accompany you during labor without any sort of 3rd party or distraction. However, the westerners who push their doctor often relent.

This is typically the case with public hospitals. In private or international hospitals, expats can be expected to have more options when it comes to the birthing process. However, if a pregnant western woman plans on giving birth somewhere local, she needs to be warned that she might be giving birth without her significant other to bear witness.

Men not being allowed in the delivery room was actually common in the United States back in the '60s, when fathers were expected to be less "hands on".

Though our cultural expectation has shifted since then, the Chinese cultural expectation has not. Having the father present during the labor process is an emotional experience for many but this doesn't always carry the same weight in other parts of the world. Giving birth is seen as something that belongs solely to the woman in China.

delivery room

5 Pregnant Chinese Women Typically Have A Support System Of Older Females

Since China has such a collectivistic attitude when it comes to family, Chinese women usually get the help of their mothers and mothers-in-law with the baby. They especially need this after giving birth for the first time and are unsure of how to be a parent. Expats typically don't have their moms or mothers-in-law around when they give birth in a Chinese hospital, so not having family there can make them emotional.

Having a new baby is a family affair and extended members of the family are all involved. You will see waiting rooms filled with pregnant women, their moms, husbands, and mothers-in-law, according to mintmochamusings.com. In fact, many Chinese doctors promote confining new mothers with their baby where they don't even leave the home for a month, according to China File. This is a crucial time to have your mother and mother-in-law around for help when it comes to the basic needs of the baby.

Since the one-child policy has become so ingrained into Chinese culture, having a baby has been a once in a lifetime opportunity for a long time for many families. This means that they take having a baby more seriously than other cultures around the world.

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4 Pregnant Women Are Encouraged To Have C-Sections

c section

In China, c-sections are common and many women plan ahead to have them when they go into labor. In the United States, people tend to look down on them and the women who have them. In fact, China has the highest c-section rate according to slate.com.

Between 2007-2008, 46 percent of babies born were through c-section, which is the highest documented rate in the world.

There are a few reasons for this. One, the Chinese have a bigger aversion to risk than Americans and if they know that they are getting a c-section than they can be more assured that the delivery process will go as planned. Second, the one-child policy encouraged many Chinese women to get c-sections because you can't do much damage to your body if you only have one. Women who plan on having multiple pregnancies are discouraged from having c-sections the first time around.

Luckily, there are perfectly competent doctors in China who know what they are doing should you decide to go down that route. After all, with the most heavily populated nation in the world, they have had plenty of experience helping women give birth. Don't be surprised if a doctor in China encourages you to have a c-section rather than a natural birth.

3 Chinese Labor Law Takes A Humane Approach Regarding Pregnant Employees

labor law
Higher Learning

There are many horror stories in the United States about pregnant employees being terminated out of the blue with "paper trails" of frivolous reasons as to why they were terminated. Believe it or not, China has strict labor laws that protect pregnant women from such terminations. Though technically it is also illegal in the United States to fire someone just for being pregnant, many HR departments manage to find little legal loopholes around it.

China does not take kindly to such practices.

According to the Special Rules on the Labor Protection of Female Employees, female employees are entitled to the following special leaves: a total of 98 days of maternity leave (including 15 days before birth), additional special leave for "late" childbirth, additional 15 days of special leave for a "difficult" childbirth, an additional 15 days of special leave for each additional child (twins, triplets, etc.), 15 days of special leave for an employee who miscarries less than four months pregnant, and 42 days of special leave for an employee who miscarries when more than four months pregnant.

Additionally, Chinese employers also must provide at least one hour per day during normal working hours for female employees to breastfeed. This requirement applies to the baby is one year old, according to chinalawblog.com.

Though China has had its fair share of flack when it comes to the way they treat their factory workers, they are much more lenient and generous for time off for pregnant women.

labor law

2 Nurses Aren't Expected To Take Care Of The Baby After Birth

chinese nurse
Getty Images

Nurses aren't expected to be as "hands-on" for taking care of the baby after the woman has given birth. This is due to the above reason that it's already assumed that extended (typically female) family members will be there to help out after the baby is delivered. At local Chinese hospitals, you cannot expect the nurses to take care of your baby after you have given birth, according to Rosie in BJ (Blogspot). They will only attend to the basic tasks and often only when prompted to do so.

However, this might not be the case in the event that you give birth in an international or private hospital.

It is wise for expats to have a friend or family member around to take care of you because you can't depend on the hospital staff to be there for you 24/7. After giving birth, the baby will be in the room with you and someone must always be around to help feed, change and hold him or her. The nurses will not be around for those moments of critical need at local Chinese hospitals.

Luckily, there are nurses for hire if you need some extra help. You can find these hire-for-help nurses at around 200 RMB per day ($30 USD). They are called Hugong in Chinese and you can ask the hospital staff about arranging one prior to your due date.

chinese nurse
South China Morning Post

1 Don't Expect Care In A Hospital Without Paying First

When you are pregnant in China, it is better to plan out the birthing process before you even go into labor. Unlike the American healthcare system, where you can just get the insurance to (hopefully) come through for when your big day comes, it does not work like that in China. Before any of the fun action can happen, patients need to pay upfront first. Expats cannot expect care in a Chinese hospital without paying or putting down a sizeable deposit first, according to Rosie in BJ (blogspot.com).

With many expats, they pay as they go incrementally which ranges between 1000 or 2000 RMB (USD $150-$300) when they check in.

Other patients have been asked to deposit 5000rmb (USD $800) into a patient account before giving birth. The cost of the birth will vary widely depending on whether you decide to opt for a local hospital or an international or private hospital.

At a standard local hospital, a vaginal delivery is 2500 RMB (USD $400) and a c-section is twice that. You can be sure that you will be paying at least double those figures at a private hospital that is considered "the best of the best." In larger more urban cities, the cost is typically more than that.


References: Newsweek, LA Times, allthatsinteresting.com, Marie Claire, china.org, BBC, CBC, AmericanPregnancy.org, slate.com, Rosie in BJ, cits.net, China Highlights, CBS, BBC, Reuters, chinalawblog.com, China File

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