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Loosening premarital check causes more birth defects
Updated: 2004-10-17 15:32

The number of birth defects has been rising in China after the government made pre-marriage health check optional, instead of a prerequisite for obtaining a marriage license.

More than 600,000 babies are born in central China's Hunan Province each year. After pre-marriage health check became voluntary in October 2003, the incidence of babies with birth defects has risen from 0.9 percent in 2001 to 1.24 percent in 2003, said Hu Rushan, an official with the Health Bureau of Hunan Province.

These defects include hyperdactylia, infectious disease and congenital heart disease.

"Parents of these babies have been given tremendous sorrow and burden," Hu said.

Across the country, pre-marriage health check centers are quiet these days. Hu predicted that in Hunan, the rate of would-be couples that undergo the checks would fall to less than 5 percent this year.

Although efforts have been made to advocate premarital check-ups in the province after the implementation of the new rules, the effects have been slim.

"Voluntary premarital check is a humanistic policy as it aims to respect individual privacy," said Zhang Xizhi, a doctor with the Maternity and Children Care Center of Hunan Province. "However, due to weak awareness among the public, especially in rural areas, people tend to ignore premarital health examination."

If the mothers also ignore health checks during pregnancy, the chances of birth defects grow a great deal, he said.

Zhang said premarital health check is an issue that would influence the quality of China's population in the future and called for effective measures to reverse the trend, including further beefing up publicity work and lowering the cost of the checks.

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