Caixin
Sep 29, 2016 06:09 PM

China's Maternal Mortality Rate Rises 30 Percent In First Half

(Beijing) — The number of women dying due to complications linked to pregnancy or childbirth rose 30.6 percent in the first half compared with the same period last year, as hospitals struggle to cope with an increasing number of pregnancies after China relaxed its one-child policy nearly three years ago.

China's maternal mortality rate rose to 18.3 deaths for 100,000 live births in the first six months, the National Health and Family Planning Commission said Wednesday.

The sharp increase in maternal deaths is likely linked to many women above the age of 35 attempting to have a second child after authorities eased the then-strict family-planning rules, said Duan Tao, director of Shanghai First Maternity and Infant Hospital Corp. Pregnant women older than 35 have a greater risk of developing complications such as hypertension and cardiovascular diseases, he said.

The number of births has risen steadily since November 2013, when authorities allowed couples in which at least one parent was a single child to have a second baby. The Communist Party scrapped the three-decade-old one-child rule completely in October 2015, allowing all couples to have a second child to minimize the economic fallout from an aging population and a dwindling workforce.

The number of newborns rose 6.9 percent in the first six months, and 2 out of 5 of the births was a second child, according to Health News, a newspaper affiliated with the Family Planning Commission. We had used financial instruments before, but it had been more like dipping a toe in the water. This was jumping in at the deep end: a 16 billion euro guarantee from the European Union's budget, complemented by 5 billion euros from the European Investment Bank's capital in turn, to trigger more than 315 billion worth of investment in Europe.

Hospitals, which were already understaffed, are now struggling to cope with the rising number of pregnancies, Duan said.

Contact reporter Li Rongde (rongdeli@caixin.com); editor Poornima Weerasekara (poornima@caixin.com)

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