More older women risking health to get pregnant

BEIJING • Cardiologist Liu Wenxian at the Anzhen Hospital in Beijing is seeing more pregnant patients since the relaxation of the one-child policy. "Many of these women are from outside Beijing and have risky complications such as cardiac disease," she said.

"The problem has worsened since the adoption of the universal two-child policy because such complications are more commonly seen in pregnant women who have given birth before," she said.

In some cases - especially when the patient's condition is critical - doctors have had to end the pregnancy to save the woman's life, she told China Daily.

The abolition of the one-child policy has led to an increase in the number of older women wanting to give birth. Pregnant women older than 35 have a greater risk of developing complications such as hypertension and cardiovascular diseases, doctors have warned.

Dr Gu Hong, a paediatrician at Anzhen Hospital who specialises in treating cardiac disease in babies, says such risks still exist despite improvements in medical technology.

Even those with known medical conditions are undeterred, Dr Gu added. "We are facing some very harsh challenges. Many women are trying their best to have a second child, even when conditions such as cardiac disease could put them at high risk."

Dr Gu says his hospital received about 150 pregnant patients with cardiac complications in 2015, compared with about 110 in 2011. The number is expected to surpass 180 for the whole of last year.

Dr He Wenjie, a gynaecologist at the reproductive medicine department at Xuzhou Maternal and Child Healthcare Hospital in Xuzhou, Jiangsu province, too has seen a rise in the number of older patients.

"The average age of patients I am receiving is rising. It is crucial that all women, especially those who are older, have check-ups before pregnancy to reduce the health risk."

According to the National Health and Family Planning Commission, in the first half of last year, China's maternity mortality rate reached 183 per one million people, an increase of more than 30 per cent compared with the same period the year before.

Six in 10 of the 90 million women who are now eligible to have a second child are aged 35 or older, the commission says.

CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2017, with the headline 'More older women risking health to get pregnant'. Print Edition | Subscribe