SHANGHAI - Agencies providing Hong Kong maternity services have increased their fees following the special administrative region's move to reduce the quota of births by mainland mothers.
The agencies say maternity beds in Hong Kong's public and private hospitals are now very difficult to secure and that prices are rising accordingly.
"The new policy will most likely reduce the quota, and to order a bed in a Hong Kong hospital will not be as easy as before," an agent surnamed Jin from a Shenzhen-based Hong Kong maternity services company told a China Daily reporter who posed as an expectant mother.
"Now it's not possible to order a bed in September. And there are not many left in October," she said.
"Hong Kong has slashed the numbers of beds for mainland mothers in recent years, so the beds will undoubtedly be more difficult to order. The price, of course, will be more expensive."
The total number of obstetric beds in 2012 has fallen by 7 per cent on the previous year to 34,400, which includes 31,000 in private hospitals and 3,400 in public hospitals. The amount in 2013 is expected to be revealed in April.
According to the agencies, giving birth in Hong Kong costs more than HK$100,000 ($12,900), which is 20 times the average cost of giving birth on the mainland.
"Expectant mothers should expect to pay about HK$20,000 to get a bed in Hong Kong's hospitals. They have to pay about HK$100,000 to cover other costs, including time in hospital, delivery of their baby and the babysitting service," said a staff member of an agency in Shanghai. He said the price varies with the level of service.
Because of the limited birth quota, agencies said their price for the Hong Kong maternity service for 2013 had increased by at least 15,000 yuan.
"Women from the mainland who want to give birth in Hong Kong should book maternity services as early as five weeks into their pregnancy. The earlier the better chance of there being sufficient beds available in Hong Kong's hospitals," an agent said.
Babies born in Hong Kong become permanent residents there naturally and are entitled to rights including highly subsidized medical care and free visas to many countries worldwide.
In recent years, more mainland women from well-off families have chosen to give birth in Hong Kong for its social welfare benefits or to circumvent the mainland family planning policy which limits most urban couples to one child.
Hong Kong has seen a boom in births by mainland women who are not married to Hong Kong permanent residents, from fewer than 1,000 in 2000 to more than 32,000 in 2010, putting stress on public resources, such as hospitals, education and housing.