Maternity wards in mainland hospitals are packed with expectant mothers who want their babies born before the start of the Year of the Goat, state media reported. Xinhua said parents were scrambling to book beds in hospitals across the nation so their children were born before January 31, which marks the last day of the Year of Horse. There is a centuries-old superstition that children born in the Year of the Goat will suffer back luck all their lives. Xinhua said beds at Shanxi's Provincial People's Hospital in Taiyuan had been totally booked out by anxious parents. A nurse at Beijing Hospital No. 1 said that while last month's arrivals remained constant at about 60 births, the hospital was expecting a 50 per cent drop after Lunar New Year. However, cultural observers dispute the Year of the Goat's reputation for bringing a lifetime of bad luck. Zhao Shu, an expert on Chinese folk culture, told Xinhua that people previously associated the goat with positive things, as the character for the animal is used to form the characters of beauty, luck and kindness. Hospital officials are warning expectant parents of the dangers of inducing a birth before the baby is due. A nurse at the Beijing Hospital No. 1 said: 'Giving birth is a natural and scientific process. You cannot rush it.' However, some parents are actually welcoming the year's reputation as bad for childbirth because it means less-crowded hospitals and reduced competition for social resources as the child grows up. A four-month-pregnant woman surnamed Luo told Xinhua: 'As fewer children will be born next year, we won't have to worry if there will be enough openings at kindergartens or schools later on. 'Even the job market could be more optimistic the year our child finishes college.' Xinhua said dozens of leading officials had been born in the Year of the Goat. He Guoqiang, a newly elected member of the Communist Party's Political Bureau and head of its Organisation Department, and Xu Caihou, a senior military general who is a member of the powerful Central Military Commission, were both born in 'goat' years. Internationally, Bill Gates, the world's richest man and chairman of Microsoft, was born in 1955, which makes him a 'goat' as well.