When Liu Lu got married last winter, she
and her husband spent 4,000 yuan ($506) on wedding photos alone but
decided to skip pre-marital medical
check-ups, which cost about 100 yuan ($12.70).
"I was confident we were healthy enough to get married," the
29-year-old secretary said. "And the check-ups imply you don't trust your
Since a State Council regulation came into force on October 1, 2003,
mandatory pre-marital physical check-ups which started in 1992 became
voluntary. And Liu is one of millions who have decided to opt out.
Ministry of Health statistics reveal only 2.67 percent of couples went
for the check-ups in 2004, while it was 68 percent in 2002.
But since then, the rate of birth defects has surged in many regions, a
matter of great concern for Chi Baorong, professor at Jilin University's
medical college and a veteran CPPCC member.
Over the past three years, she has raised proposals to encourage
pre-marital medical checks.
"The health check is the first line of defense for a couple's
happiness," she said.
Chen Shouyi, leader of the Zhejiang unit of the China Association for
Promoting Democracy, wants to go one step further and reinstate compulsory
He cited Ningbo in East China's Zhejiang Province as an example. The
city's rate of birth defects was 23.1 per thousand last year, an increase
of nearly 4 per thousand over the previous three years' average.
Ren Yuling, a consultant to the State Council, listed measures taken by
some cities to encourage young couples to go for tests before tying the
knot; and suggested these practises be promoted widely.
Shanghai, for example, provides free check-ups and even unmarried
couples enjoy free consultation.
Zhu Zonghan, former director of the Beijing Public Health Bureau and a
senior paediatrician, lauded the measures.
"Many birth defects actually can be avoided if women use supplements of
folic acid during pregnancy," he noted. "If in pre-marital medicals they
learn this, it would be very helpful for them to have a healthy baby."
Chi agrees. She thinks it is not important whether the test is
compulsory; instead, awareness about the importance of check-ups is key,