To inform entertain and excite my kids, Jamie, Patrick, Aaron & Sarah Middleburgh, our family and friends.

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Middleburgh - Rugrats

Part 3 in the Births, Deaths and Marriage Trilogy

Birth of a new child is accompanied by local rituals and customs. However because we are a cosmopolitan bunch here in Hong Kong, the local customs are frequently blended with imports depending on where the parents originate from.


A significant number of pregnant women come to Hong Kong from the mainland to have their babies. There are basically two reasons: This has a number of implications not least that there was tremendous pressure on public maternity services in HK such that The government responded by making services chargeable to "non residents” (addressing taxpayer concerns) through a two tier scheme. Non HK residents who attend approved prenatal treatments and pre-book delivery beds etc (thereby minimizing risk of complications and emergency procedures at birth) are charged at one rate and a punitive rate intended to discourage “walk ins” is charged for the rest. The rates are set to cover costs and fund better services for HK residents!!

And to ensure that “out of town” mothers don't turn up at A+E in final stages of labour to get “free” services, immigration officers have the power to refuse entry of pregnant women into Hong Kong. In practice this means that any women wearing baggy clothes who is “fat” etc may be stopped at border on suspicion of smuggling an unborn baby:

The one group who got a bum deal out of this were HK men with a mainland resident wife. Although they may be an HK "citizen" and may even pay HK taxes, they have to pay for maternity services for their wife/child like other cross border births if they bring their wife "home" to have baby in HK.


As I understand it the actual prenatal experience in HK is similar to that in West with 3 exceptions:

Apart from the medical side there are some prenatal activities which I think are peculiar to china/Hong Kong (at least I am not aware they occur elsewhere)


Public Hospitals in Hong Kong especially the maternity units are equal to any in the west and arguably are better than some. A friend of mine who was pregnant met two clients from the UK. When they realised that her husband was British one of them asked if she was going "home" (meaning the UK) to have the baby. They were speechless when she told them she wasn't, because her husband thought it would be much more dangerous for her and the baby to give birth in a British hospital than here in HK. It's ironic considering that the local public hospital service was set up by the British and is modeled on the National Health Service (pre UK reforms)

Natural births and breast feeding is encouraged. Mother and baby are normally kept for no more than 2 days before being sent home with the owner’s manual and log book. Not surprisingly hospitals get upset if the baby is returned for whatever or dies before being taken to the antenatal clinic.) First visit is normally scheduled a couple days after leaving hospital.


Unlike the US where circumcision is the norm, it has to be arranged privately (like Ireland and UK) I know a couple whose baby was circumcised the day after he was discharged from hospital On arrival at local baby clinic the baby was "unpacked" for weighing, measuring and checking Apparently the nurse exclaimed loudly in Chinese "Wah .. there’s a bit missing !"

Use of formula milk is discouraged and in those cases where it is unavoidable hospitals/clinics recommend foreign brands. Even before the recent melamine scandal there was a well established practice where mainland mothers crossed the border to buy foreign milk formula in HK. It is worth noting that these formulas are available in China. The reason the mothers still buy in HK is because they fear that the product available in china may be "counterfeit" and if you think that is unlikely consider: if someone was prepared to put melamine in formula to make a buck, is it any less likely that someone would put substandard formula in fake packaging in order to pass it off as the real thing. Chinese mothers have more confidence in the security of the supply chain in HK and the ethics of HK supermarkets than in their local equivalent. (NB It is rumored that in Shanghai 5% of children below age of 5, have kidney problems)

Local antenatal customs/practices include:


one month after baby is born there is a formal family meal held to celebrate the arrival of the baby; It is a normal family banquet other than when the baby is passed around like “pass the parcel”. Aunts vie with one another to demonstrate they haven’t lost their maternal skills, unmarried women get a test run at holding a live baby to see if their biological clock is primed; Stress levels go up when baby is passed to husbands and in particular boyfriends and the baby is given formal gifts such as gold or cash. I know of one case where the baby received from immediate relatives (who were not particularly affluent) over 10,000 HK$.

Under Hong Kong law a baby’s birth must be registered within 40 days (and you can't register until any hospital charges have been paid – traps mainlanders who might skip without paying)

If child has two names both have to be registered although one is designated as a primary which has future implications for issuance of ID cards etc. and if either of the child’s parents are foreign they may also have to get a consular birth certificate in order to establish a claim to an overseas nationality eg for US or member state in EU.


Doesn't apply in Hong Kong !! |
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