Article by Gary Wood
Giving birth in China is something which needs to be booked well in advance and if you have connections in the hospital sector, you are already onto a winner! Relationships, or guanxi (关系), are an integral part of Chinese society and if you don’t have these specialised relationships it’ll make the whole process much more cumbersome.
To begin with,
in order to give birth in a hospital out here, you must first provide them with the following documentation:
Marriage certificate – You can’t give birth in a hospital without being married.
Family residence book – of yourself and your partner (Or passports for foreign nationals)
Birth permit – Only Chinese nationals must apply for permission from the government to have a baby and you can’t do this without showing your marriage certificate and family residence book.
Where to give birth in Xi’an is by no means a small decision. There are numerous hospitals to choose from here in Xi’an, both good and bad, so choosing which hospital is right for you, your wife and your unborn child is fundamental. There are both private and public obstetric hospitals located throughout the city; my wife and I patronized both kinds prior to the birth of our child. The first hospital we went to for the early checks was the Qujiang Obstetrics Hospital and we were very impressed with both the service and the layout of the place. This hospital is not exactly cheap but when we are talking about the health of our unborn children, cost is usually the last thing on our minds. We went for both blood tests and baby scans, and the patience that the doctors have with each client is quite warming. You have a much more personal relationship with the doctors and they appear to take much more interest in your concerns.
We were given a tour through the other floors of the hospital and we were allowed to see the delivery rooms where my wife would be staying should she have decided to give birth there. We decided to give the private sector a miss when delivering our child, and I’ll explain why in a moment.
One of the other private hospitals both me and my wife looked at is called ‘Angel Hospital’ (安琪儿医院). This is the premium hospital for baby delivery in Xi’an and anyone who goes here to deliver is often referred to as “Tu Hao” (土豪), a term that roughly translates to “Nouveau Riche.” The hospital is extravagant; its reception area has water fountains, a neon light show and a coffee bar (which no one really uses) and the staff is known for giving extremely good service. Both my wife and I were again given a tour of this hospital and I noticed that, as with the Qujiang hospital, not many babies are delivered here. This is both a good and a bad thing. If fewer people are giving birth then mother and baby are given extra attention. However, and this was a big problem for me, the whole time I walked through Angel Hospital I think I only saw two of the rooms occupied which gave a strong indication that this place doesn’t deliver many babies.
Don’t get me wrong, the doctors who work in these private hospitals are often very experienced in obstetrics; they come from public hospitals after they retire and are rewarded with lucrative contracts. They generally know what they are doing and understand their trade inside out. Nevertheless, what concerns me is that, although they are experienced in this particular industry, once they arrive in these private hospitals they seem to deliver fewer babies and their experience and ability to react to adverse situations may not be as sharp than if they still worked in the busy public sector. It is not unusual for a public hospital to deliver up to 100 babies a day!
It is due to this low number of babies being delivered at private hospitals that I opted out. What if something had gone seriously wrong during my wife’s labour? Could doctors at a private hospital who are in a much more relaxed and laid back environment, still have the reflexes required to quickly take the best course of action? However, if I am at a public hospital where 100+ babies are being delivered a day, the doctors in this environment have seen it all and will likely see it regularly. In my opinion they will be more likely to make a correct spur of the moment decision in the unlikely situation that anything should go wrong. Not only this, but the safety of my wife and child were more important to me than earning “face” via the use of an aesthetically pleasing private clinic.
In the end, my wife and I decided to have our child born in the public sector at the Northwest Women and Children’s hospital (西北妇女儿童医院). It’s located in the south of Qujiang and conveniently close to the city’s third ring road. For the last three months of my wife’s pregnancy she had all her checks carried out there. The biggest difference here was that there were way more people queuing up and the husband is not allowed in the room during his wife’s check-ups. Another issue is that, due to the large number of people using this hospital, the doctor generally has less time to deal with patient queries (unless there is something wrong of course) and is limited to only a few minutes or so to discuss the results of a blood test or ultrasound scan.
Towards the end of my wife’s pregnancy she was told our baby was too big and that she would need to have a C-section. The process was very swiftly organised and we also booked ourselves into a private room for 800RMB per night so that my wife and I could get some privacy after the delivery of the baby. We arrived the night before the procedure and our private room was clean and clinical. We couldn’t fault a thing. The staff on our ward were always willing to help out, and that wasn’t me just getting special treatment because I’m a foreigner. Even the Chinese couples on the ward seemed to be really happy with the service.
The day after the C-section, a Nurse bathed my daughter and talked us through the process of how a baby ought to be cleaned, as well as the other usual stuff of changing nappies and dressing the baby. Both Mother and baby were cared for extremely well and the nurses would check up on them every two hours, both night and day, to ensure they were fine and to top up my wife’s medication. The ward always had plenty of staff members on duty and coupled with the service that we received, it gave us great peace of mind.
If you’re a China hater and you were expecting me to endlessly bad mouth the public hospitals, then you will be disappointed with this article. Of course I have had my bad experiences in public hospitals, but this article isn’t about that. I hope from writing this article that I can help some people expecting a baby on how to best decide where their child should be delivered here in China.
Gary comes from the UK and works in an international school here in Xi’an. In his spare time he runs the web-page www.ilovexian.org