China to promote labor pain relief methods nationwide

An expectant mother participates in a childbirth rehearsal in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province, in June 2017. Photo: VCG

China's National Health Commission on Tuesday launched a pilot project in certain hospitals to promote pain-relief methods during labor and delivery, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

The three-year project aims to reduce the number of women turning to caesarean sections to escape unbearable labor pain, thus increasing the rate of natural childbirth and lowering the rate of cesarean delivery, Xinhua reported.

The announcement came over one year after a 26-year-old puerpera in North China's Shaanxi Province took her own life by jumping from a building after being refused to undergo cesarean section.

The death of the young mother-to-be sparked public outcry and calls for greater rights for women in deciding the way they give birth.

According to a survey by the Chinese Medical Association, the rate of painless delivery is low in China compared to that of developed countries.

"East China's provinces, which are the most prosperous areas in the country, boast the highest rate of painless delivery, reaching 30.8 percent," said the medical institution. "However, the figure is still half of that of the European countries and the US."

"The rate in economically backward Northwest China's provinces is only 1 percent," it noted.

Liu Zhiqiang, a chief physician at the Shanghai First Maternal and Infant Health Hospital and member of the advisory group for the project, told Caixin, China's respected financial magazine, that the puerpera's suicide last year was the background for the formulation of the plan.

"The promotion of painless delivery is a big progress for Chinese society," Liu said. "The rate in some developed countries has reached 80 percent.

In terms of reasons for the low rate of painless delivery in China, Liu said: "A shortage of anesthesiologists, especially in public hospitals, as well as little financial incentive for hospitals is the major contributors."

"In addition, the public's misunderstanding of labor pain relief is another obstacle to promote the method," he added.

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