China’s maternal mortality rate declined last year, despite a sharp rise in the number of births following the implementation of the universal two-child policy, according to the top health authority.
The maternal mortality rate last year was 199 per 1 million births, compared with 201 per 1 million births in 2015, Ma Xiaowei, deputy head of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said at a national conference on maternal health on Jan 20.
Meanwhile, the mortality rate for children under the age of 5 decreased to 10.2 per 1,000 last year, Ma said.
Various measures taken by health authorities to cope with the impact of the universal two-child policy, which was implemented at the beginning of last year, had helped bring down the maternal mortality rate, he said.
Health authorities will intensify measures in the next two years, the predicted peak season for births following the implementation of the policy, such as improving obstetrics facilities and providing training to medical workers at the grassroots to ensure the maternal mortality rate remains low, he added.
The central government has set goals for the maternal mortality rate to further decrease to 180 per 1 million births by 2020, and to 120 per 1 million births by 2030.
The rate is already much lower than the average level for developing countries, which was 2,390 per 1 million births in 2015, according to the World Health Organization.
A total of 17.86 million new babies were born in China last year, an increase of 7.9 percent from 2015, the commission said.
Of the 90 million women who became eligible to have a second child, half are older than 40, which means they face a higher risk of complications during pregnancy, it added.
Both officials and academicians have warned that the new policy, which is expected to increase the birthrate in the next few years, will exert sustained pressure on existing hospital facilities and medics, and result in more cases of women experiencing complications during pregnancy.
In Beijing, about 280,000 babies were born last year, an increase of more than 30 percent compared with 2015, Fang Laiying, head of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning, said at a news briefing this month.
Many of Beijing’s public hospitals became overcrowded and the commission had to provide an extra 1,400 obstetrics beds to meet the demand, Fang said.
At Beijing Anzhen Hospital, which specializes in treating cardiovascular disease, doctors treated 300 pregnant women with various cardiovascular complications in the first half of last year, according to Zhang Jun, a gynecologist at the hospital.
The total number of such patients in the whole of 2015 was 410, she said.