In this guide we take a look at birth and prenatal care in the private and public health systems in China, as well as some of the local traditions and beliefs when it comes to pregnancy. We also give you a summary of what you can expect to pay if you don’t have health insurance.
Private vs public
You’ll have a choice between giving birth in a public, private or international hospital – although this may depend on which region you’re living in. But, what’s the difference between them? Really, it comes down to your budget and the level of luxury and personal care that you’re after. Whichever you choose, you should be in safe hands.
The public healthcare system in China is built around a three-tier system which is subsidised by social security contributions. Primary care should happen in community walk-in clinics before being escalated to regional hospitals. From there, complicated cases should be referred to specialist hospitals in major cities. These hospitals tend to employ top Chinese doctors.
Expats can use public hospitals and benefit from the lower prices; however, the local community walk-in centres have a poor reputation and many locals jump straight to the specialist hospitals. This disrupts patient flow and results in long waiting times and patients queuing outside hospitals for appointments.
Some public hospitals have VIP wards, or gaogan bingfang, where you’re able to receive a more private and luxurious service, but you’ll need to be prepared to pay a bit more.
Unless your health insurance is provided by a Chinese insurer, you’ll need to pay for any treatment in a public hospital up-front, and often in cash. Make sure you keep the invoices and receipts for your treatment, so you can send it to us to make your claim.
Private hospitals in China are still quite new and have been introduced to try and ease the demand on public hospitals.
International hospitals are a type of private hospital that meet certain international standards. They are popular with expats because they generally have more personalised care and English-speaking staff who have trained and worked around the world.
Giving birth in a public hospital is significantly cheaper than a private or international hospital – your prenatal care will usually cost between RMB 8,000 and RMB 15,000 – and your delivery could cost anywhere from RMB 10,000 to RMB 13,000. It will cost slightly more if you’ve chosen to use a VIP wing in a public hospital.
In an international hospital, prenatal care can cost RMB 15,000 to RMB 25,000, a routine delivery can be RMB 50,000 to RMB 60,000, and a C-section can cost between RMB 70,000 and RMB 100,000. A private hospital will cost somewhere between the cost of a VIP wing and an international hospital, but the quality of service can be less predictable.