A Chinese woman consults her U.S. doctor about childbirth.
Less than 10 percent of Chinese mothers receive labor analgesia
○ More and more well-to-do Chinese women are choosing to give birth in the U.S. because of the availability of pain relief.
○ Many agencies catering to this need have appeared in recent years.
○ Due to a lack of pain-relief specialists and outdated ideas, less than 10 percent Chinese women receive painkillers during labor.
It wasn't the American Dream that persuaded Ni Ni (pseudonym) to pay hundreds of thousands of yuan to give birth in the US, but the promise of painless labor.
"If I hadn't controlled myself, I would have burst into laughter in the delivery room. I felt no pain during the whole process. It was amazing," Ni, who gave birth to her second son in Los Angeles in March, recalled.
Ni, 31, says the birth of her first child in Shanghai in 2012 was an "unbearable" experience.
"I vomited up every bite I had eaten during the birth. It was so painful that I almost lost my mind. If I had had a knife, I would have stabbed the people around me," she said.
This is not an unusual tale.
While analgesia (relief from pain) is widely offered in some nations' hospitals, a recent article published by domestic news portal thepaper.cn claimed that less than 10 percent of Chinese mothers receive it during childbirth.
In a highly controversial recent case, a woman in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, jumped to her death from a maternity ward window during childbirth due to the pain of labor.
Ni said she feels blessed to have had another option. "If I couldn't have had painless delivery in the US, I won't have had my second baby," she said.
In the face of outdated attitudes and a shortage of pain-relief specialists in China, agencies have appeared to cater to the growing demand among well-to-do women for pain-free births in the U.S. - with U.S. citizenship for the baby an added perk.
Ni had long been curious about pain-free childbirth in the U.S., but she said her desire to do it herself was reinforced after her first birth.
"The U.S. citizenship is not my ultimate goal. The child will still be raised and educated in China. I don't expect a foreign nationality will bring him too much benefit. It may be useful if he finds a job in a foreign enterprise in China," she said.
Ni bought medical insurance and got a U.S. visa prior to her pregnancy. The U.S. airport's customs officers didn't question her intentions after she presented them with the required financial evidence and childbirth insurance, but simply allowed her to enter.
Pang Baba, founder of the Xiduo Maternity Center, an agency that helps Chinese women give birth in the U.S., told the Global Times that pain-free delivery has become one of the main attractions for his clients.
Pang encourages his customers to be honest with the authorities and to tell them that their reason for traveling to the U.S. is to give birth pain-free. "I let them reveal their true intention of giving birth in the U.S. Telling the truth is more useful," he said.
Pang's business has expanded from the country's metropolises to its second- and third-tier cities as demand continues to grow. Last month, he signed up 50 new clients.
Pang said the trend started in 2013 after the film Anchoring in Seattle, which tells the story of a Chinese woman giving birth in the U.S. so her child can get local citizenship, was screened in China's cinemas.
While about 60 to 70 percent of American women receive analgesia during labor, according to U.S. obstetrician and gynecologist Judy Zhu Pan Wei, Pang said 100 percent of his clients receive analgesic drugs.
"My clients can have the strength to leave bed like Western women after childbirth, which is almost impossible for them when giving birth in Chinese hospital," he claimed, referencing the Chinese tradition of yuezi in which women remain in bed for weeks after giving birth.