Hospitals in at least three provinces in China have reached full capacity as births spike. Both C-section and abortion consults have soared as well. And high demand for birth certificates has caused some hospitals to stop issuing them and other organizations to nearly run out of them. Why? At least in part, it's because superstitious Chinese parents-to-be don't want to give birth in the Year of the Sheep, which starts on Lunar New Year's Day, Feb. 19, the New York Times reports. According to the Chinese zodiac, children born in the Year of the Horse (the current year) are healthy and destined for success, while children born in the Year of the Sheep are meek and will lead unhappy lives.
But sheep baby attributes aren't all bad, the Global Times reported earlier this year: They're also considered loyal and generous. As one nurse noted to the NYT, "I want my child to be born in a Sheep Year. That way my child won't have to face so much competition in society," since, presumably, not as many babies will be born in the same year, "and its life will be better." And then, of course, there are the successful people born in sheep years that fly in the face of the superstition, including Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. There's another possible reason for the rise in end-of-the-year births: China's one-child policy was eased this year, and more than 800,000 couples had reportedly applied to have a second baby by the end of September.