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May 9, 2014

Chinese couples rush to get pregnant before dreaded Year of the Sheep

BEIJING — Some people are born lucky. Parents in China, however, would rather not leave their kids' fate to chance.

For the past few weeks, many couples have been trying desperately to conceive, racing against time to have a baby in the fortuitous Year of the Horse. Their reasoning: No one wants a baby born in 2015, the dreaded Year of the Sheep.

Sheep are meek creatures, raised for nothing more than slaughter. Babies born in the Year of the Sheep, therefore, will grow up to be followers rather than leaders, according to some superstitions. The children are destined for heartbreak and failed marriages, and will be unlucky in business, many Chinese believe. One popular folk saying holds that only one out of 10 people born in the Year of the Sheep finds happiness.

Health professionals say fertility consultations have spiked in recent months. Some doctors even have expressed worries that there may be a corresponding jump in abortions later this year, as couples realize they missed the horse year cutoff. According to the Chinese lunar calendar, the Year of the Sheep (also called goat or ram) begins Feb. 19, 2015, so the window for conception closes around the end of this month.

Many patients have inquired about early delivery via Caesarean section to ensure a horse-year birth, said Li Jianjun, an obstetrician at Beijing's United Family Hospital.

Some doubt the furor will have a notable impact on the Chinese birthrate this year. But the baby-mania is so widespread that the state-run China News Service issued a report trying to debunk the "unfounded" myth of bad luck for those born in Year of the Sheep.

"We try our best to dissuade couples from believing the sheep superstitions," one official at China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention said. The woman, who requested anonymity because she was not authorized to give an interview, said the subject has become such a prominent issue that it's often addressed in classes for would-be parents.

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