Birth in Shijiazhuang

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      I wanted to share my friend A's story with you all. Her's is not a happy story, although it does have a happy ending. I am only sharing it because I think it is VERY important that those of you who do not speak Chinese and are giving birth in a local hospital where no English is spoken find a Chinese speaking advocate who can really help you should things go wrong.

      “A” is Danish and came to Shijiazhuang with her husband (My husband and I worked in the same company with the husband.) She was just a few months pregnant and decided that if at all possible, she wanted to have the baby in China. She visited the local hospital with one of the Chinese secretaries from her husband's workplace. She found the facilities to be quite satisfactory and she felt comfortable with the doctors she met there. Months passed by and all was going as it should. She occasionally had ultrasounds and pre-natal appointments at the hospital where she would deliver. 

      Then, a few weeks from her due date, a scheduled ultrasound showed the baby's umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby's neck. The baby was fine, however, and there was no cause for alarm. Sometime the next week I saw A in the company dining hall – she was heading up to her room on the 4th floor and I wished her a good night. The next morning I arrived at work to discover that A had gone into labor later that night and had her baby, a little girl. Everyone at work was saying that “it was terrible” and “how could that happen” and other things that I just didn't understand. Finally I was able to speak with A's husband over the phone to find out what exactly was going on. Was A okay? 

      Before I came to China I worked as an RN and although I did not specialize in maternal/OB-Gyn nursing, I received training during nursing school. I was familiar with normal delivery methods/c-sections and all the complications that go along with it. I had hoped to be in the hospital when A delivered. I later found out A thought her contractions might have been false and she didn't want to wake me up for nothing. I really, really wish she had.

      What “happened” is this. A arrived at the Shijiazhuang hospital (I am not sure what the official name is, but it is across the street from People's Park on Zhongshan Lu.) in early labor and the doctors on duty just panicked. Because her file stated that the baby's cord had previously been seen around the neck, the doctors informed A that this was an emergency and she must have a c-section. Please note that at this point the baby's heart rate was normal and there was no indication of fetal distress, neither was A in any distress. A honestly did not understand what was happening because her translator, the secretary from work, really didn't understand everything the doctors were saying and was incapable of translating accurately. A's husband and the translator were forced out into the waiting area and A was given a c-section. WITHOUT ANY ANESTHESIA. None whatsoever. Not a spinal block, not an epidural, not even any local… A's husband could hear her screaming down several hallways and through many walls. He fought to get in, but he was held back. Remember this is in a well-equipped hospital in a provincial capital city. Anesthesiologists were on duty. The labor was progressing normally. There was no fetal distress. If a c-section was really necessary, there was plenty of time to insert an epidural or provide anesthetic. (As you might know, a history of the cord around the neck does not automatically mean a c-section is necessary. In the US this would not be an indication for it unless there was actual fetal distress.)

      Fortunately, A's beautiful little girl was born healthy with no adverse effects. A was stitched up and sent to recovery, still not having received any kind of anesthetic or painkiller. Actually, she didn't take a single painkiller in the days to come either, although I myself offered them to her. (OTC) She's a brave and strong woman who has gone on to have two more children. Still, when she talks about this experience, she becomes very, very emotional.

      Afterward, when we talked with the translator she would only say that everything was done how it was supposed to be done and A and her husband could not even think of suing the doctors or hospital. She said this was just how it is in China. Of course, later I learned that this is not at all how things are done in China and this was a total aberration. By then A and her husband had left China. 

      I have now lived in China for five years and am considering having a baby in the next year. I will use a hospital in Beijing and I feel comfortable with that choice. My intention is not to bad-mouth China's hospitals or scare anyone. I know this is not a normal case. If you are in a similar situation, please be sure you have a translator who can adequately advocate for you and ensure your childbirth experience is what you want it to be!



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