Postpartum care booms in China

Postpartum care booms in China

Postpartum recovery centres -- facilities designed to provide professional care for mothers and their newborn babies -- are booming in China, with numbers soaring from 550 in 2013 to 4,800 this year.

The postpartum recovery market in China is expected to be worth 14.48 billion yuan (US$2.2 billion) by 2023 thanks to growing public health awareness and support from the government.

Since the introduction of its Two-Child Policy, the government has put significant effort into building maternal and baby-care projects while encouraging companies to develop more innovative treatments, such as cryotherapy which helps relieve pain.

As a result, women are increasingly choosing professional facilities where they are offered recovery therapy in a one-stop shop with access to a wide range of medical professionals, such as gynaecologists, obstetricians, paediatricians, nurses, nutritionists and psychologists.

Postpartum recovery centres first started emerging in the 1990s in Beijing. They were initially considered a luxury for rich people, with some five-star facilities offering swimming pools and early learning experiences for babies. Today, thanks to greater affordability and China's growing middle class, many more mothers can access these services.

Zuo yuezi ("sitting the month") is a centuries-old Chinese tradition where mothers stay indoors with their newborns for the first month after birth. During this time they follow practices based on traditional Chinese medicine to restore their energy and health. Normally, the mother would receive live-in support from a female relative or nanny who would also prepare special meals.

Contemporary Chinese society has disrupted some traditional familial ties and it has become more difficult for grandparents to move in and care for mothers at home during the postnatal period.

Consequently, more women today are choosing postpartum recovery centres over confinement nannies in order to access more professional care, focus on healing their bodies and enjoy meals tailored to their specific nutritional needs.

Despite their rapid growth, postpartum recovery centres in China are not required to register with health authorities as they are a new service without a specific registration category. As such, service can be an issue.

Clear regulations and government supervision of these centres would help prevent risks that could endanger mothers and their babies and create a more credible and sustainable future for the sector.

Postpartum recovery centres are also booming in other Asian markets. More than three in five South Korean mothers use such a service while some centres offer massage, spa and cosmetic surgery. In Singapore, one-stop retreats provide pre- and postpartum care including nursery, dining rooms and lounges. In Taiwan, hundreds of postpartum recovery facilities offer care for mothers and babies.

It's worth noting that when compared to other markets in Asia, such as Taiwan and South Korea, where the penetration rate for such services is 70% and 60% respectively, market penetration in China is still relatively low at about 5%, according to China Marketing Insights.

Given the relatively untapped postpartum recovery market in China and the rising affluence of young women there, we should expect healthy growth in this high potential sector in the years to come.

Dr Thaweelap Rittapirom is a director and executive vice-president of Bangkok Bank. For more columns in this series, please visit www.bangkokbank.com

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