Early forced births 'child abuse', says top specialist
Parents choosing an early Caesarean section before 38 weeks for non-medical reasons - such as to give the newborn an auspicious birthday or to set a convenient booking date for agents and doctors - are creating what one neonatal specialist calls 'man-made' premature babies requiring intensive care.
Dr Chan Hin-biu, head of the neonatal intensive care unit at United Christian Hospital, said it was a kind of child abuse.
Some babies born this way suffered 'wet lungs' syndrome, referring to fluid retained in their lungs. They needed at least a week of intensive care, including artificial ventilation and antibiotics treatment.
Baptist Hospital stopped early non-medical Caesarean sections in November and Union Hospital will do so from tomorrow.
The Hong Kong College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists - the specialists' training body for upholding standards - will soon require all obstetric units to spell out rules for elective Caesarean sections.
Dr Vincent Leung Tze-ching, an honorary consultant at Baptist Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, said that since 2008, many agents bringing mainland women to the city had booked Caesarean sections for clients at 37 weeks, or even 36 weeks, for the sake of convenience.
'Those agents are trying to avoid natural births so they can better control the time the mainland mothers need to stay in Hong Kong, which means extra cost,' Leung said.
Leung investigated more than 3,000 newborns at Baptist Hospital from March to June in 2009 and found babies born by Caesarean sections had four to seven times the risk of respiratory problems as natural deliveries. In the United States, the difference was only 2.2 times.
'At that time, most of the Caesarean sections at the hospital were done at 37 weeks, while most were conducted at 39 weeks in the US,' he said. 'Mothers should think twice before having a Caesarean section. Many parents are not aware of the risks to their babies.'
The number of deliveries at Baptist Hospital a year. The hospital has banned Caesarean sections for non-medical reasons before 38 weeks