Mums-to-be rush to beat Spanish cash deadline

But those who deliver just after the stroke of midnight rings in the New Year will lose out because the government has abolished the scheme from January 1, 2011 as it battles to slash the public deficit.

"I know colleagues who have had some requests from some patients, even those in the social security system, as after January 1 the payment of 2,500 euros will disappear," said Dr. Francisco Campillo y Arias-Camison, an obstetrician and gynecologist at a private clinic in Madrid.

The scheme, which gives 2,500 euros (USD 3,300) to the family of any Spanish resident for every new child, was introduced July 2007 by a Socialist government to boost a flagging birth rate.

But market fears that a European debt crisis could engulf Spain, have forced the government to slash spending and mop up some of the red ink in its public accounts.
Internet forums are buzzing about the deadline with some users even offering advice on natural ways to help the process along, such as drinking rasberry tea or walking up stairs.

"If I could do it (induce pregnancy early) I would," said one woman on a maternity website. "Some famous people have done it for professional reasons, and nobody criticises them."

Obstetricians and gynecologists have voiced concern at attempts by women to give birth prematurely.

"Advancing the delivery for 2,500 euros is a barbarity," Juan Jose Vidal, head of gynecology at Madrid's Ruber International Clinic, told Spain's national broadcasting network, RTVE.

Some 1.5 million mothers have benefited from the government's financial incentive since it was introduced, the ABC newspaper said.

But despite the scheme, Spain's birth rate declined last year for the first time in a decade, according to official data released in June.

The number of births in 2009 was down 5.0 percent from the previous year at 492,931, or 10.73 births for every one thousand inhabitants, the National Statistics Institute (INE) said.

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