NPC Deputies: Pre-Marital Checks Can Lower Number of Birth Defects

April 8, 2018
Editor: Qiao Ziyu

During the "Two Sessions" meetings, several deputies recently submitted their suggestions on restoring the compulsory premarital checkups to lower the number of newborns with birth defects.

The Regulations on the Management of Marriage Registration was officially implemented in October 2003, when the rules requiring compulsory premarital checkups was replaced by voluntary ones.

According to statistics, the overall occurrence rate of babies born with defects rose from 127.79 in 10,000 to 153.23 in 10,000 nationwide, with the proportions increasing from 3 percent to 5.6 percent, compared with the results in 2012.

During the Two Sessions meetings, some deputies suggested the premarital medical checkup is the primary prevention measure to improve the people's health quality.

Premarital checkups constitute key lines of defense in preventing birth defects.

Deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC) Xiao Youxiang, who is also Secretary of the Party branch of Qingfeng Village in Anhua County in central China's Hunan Province, said premarital health checks are the primary measure to guaranteeing good health for mothers and newborns, which is also an important component of healthcare services for them.

"Furthermore, it can also enable social security and family happiness," Xiao added.

"The lowest premarital checkup rate was about four percent in Hunan Province in 2013 when the compulsory checkups were abolished," Xiao told a reporter.

Although Hunan carried out a free policy on premarital checks in 2009, the public's participation and awareness was still low, and the national premarital checkups' rate decreased sharply over the past nine years.

"Meanwhile, most people are not clear that genetic factors account for about 40 percent among those diseases with inborn defects, such as the hereditary deafness and Mediterranean anemia," said Cheng Jing, another deputy to the NPC.

As a professor from the Medical School of Tsinghua University, Cheng added that if those single-gene inherited diseases could be prevented before marriage and pregnancy, the number of babies with inborn defects would be largely reduced.

Xiao also stressed if there were no premarital checkups or exhaustive checkups for both men and women, some infectious diseases may be transmitted to their spouses, including the HIV.
"Taking compulsory premarital checkups is a responsible attitude for both men and women as well as their offspring, which can originally protect the health of newborns," Xiao said.

So, it is necessary to implement a compulsory premarital medical checkups system, and for those people found to have infectious diseases, relevant institutions should provide suggestions to them such as the postponement of marriage or explain why it is not suitable for them to give birth to babies, and to limit births.

"Meanwhile, women can better prepare for pregnancy by knowing clearly about their health conditions before getting married," Xiao added.

NPC Deputy Lei Dongzhu, also deputy-director of First People's Hospital in Chenzhou of Hunan, told a reporter: "Our country's regulations on compulsory premarital checkups can be firstly found in the Maternal and Infant Health Care Law of the People's Republic of China, which took effect on June 1, 1995.

"Its 12th article stipulates both men and women should register, with relevant medical appraisal reports on premarital medical checks, when they get married."

Enacted by the State Council in 2001, the Maternal and Infant Health Care Law of the People's Republic of China stipulates that premarital medical checkups should follow the rules of premarital healthcare work and be implemented in accordance with regulated medical checkups projects as explained in the 13th article.
However, the new Regulations on the Management of Marriage Registration, which were implemented on October 1, 2003, stipulated that the marriage registration authority can refuse to register someone if there is one side with medically considered diseases which means they should not get married.

Obviously, there exists a contradiction on whether compulsory medical checks should be carried out. Lei thinks that the Regulations on the Management of Marriage Registration should remain in consistence with the Maternal and Infant Health Care Law of the People's Republic of China, which is superior.

"The NPC should restore regulations on compulsory premarital medical checks by enacting laws, or the State Council could revise the Regulations to ensure consistency between the law and the regulation," Lei added.

To constantly improve the quality on premarital health checkups, Cheng suggested introducing such tests as screening for hearing loss which is highly genetic, and target screening for geographically related birth defects.

(Source: China Women's News / Translated and edited by Women of China)

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