A relaxation of China’s strict birth-control policy has been blamed for a 30 percent increase in the country’s maternal mortality rate.

In the first six months of 2016, China’s maternal death rate averaged 18.3 deaths per 100,000 births, up from 14.1 in the same period last year, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People's Republic of China (NHFPC).

Some commentators blame the increase on China officially dropping its one-child policy last year. The policy had been incrementally relaxed over recent years. The new two-child policy came into effect on Jan. 1, 2016, allowing couples in China to have two children instead of one.

Experts from the healthcare industry said the new policy has led to a higher number of pregnancies among older women and created excessive demands for maternity services, the Chinese-language Hong Kong Economic Times (HKET) reports.

Liang Zhongtan (梁中堂), a research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said women in China who had become pregnant for the second time were often aged between 30 and 35, and faced a higher risk of birth complications than younger mothers, according to report by Yibada.com.

In response to the issue, the NHFPC said it plans to increase maternity services in hospitals over the next five years. It says it will add 89,000 maternity beds and hire up to 140,000 new nurses.

However Duan Tao (段濤), director of the Shanghai First Maternity and Infant Hospital, suggests it may be difficult to quickly ramp-up China’s maternity services, adding that many people view obstetrics as an undesirable career because of low wages and a high workload, HKET reports.

Others have argued that the higher maternal mortality rate has nothing to do with the two-child policy, given that women included in the statistics for the first half of this year became pregnant last year. However, Duan suggests people may have anticipated the policy, which was confirmed in 2015.

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: Olivia Yang