From the NY Times:
To Western ears, confinement sounds like something out of a Victorian novel, but in some traditional Asian cultures, women still spend the month after a baby’s birth in pampered seclusion. Typically, a woman’s relatives would care for her, but more recently, the practice has been outsourced to postpartum doulas and confinement centers, like the one Ms. Lu operates. In the United States, they cater to middle-class immigrant women separated from their families. Business is steady enough in New York City to support at least four postpartum centers, tucked away in the heavily Asian-immigrant neighborhoods of Flushing and Bayside, Queens.
The centers largely fly below the radar of English-language authorities — they advertise online or in Chinese-language publications. They make up such a niche market that city and state authorities did not know they even existed. Jeffrey Hammond, a spokesman for the state Health Department, said that as long as the centers were not offering medical services, they would not require a license. A spokeswoman for the city Health Department said that it had no information on the centers.
But they made a brief appearance in the news when, in March, officials in San Gabriel, Calif., shut down what they said was a home for women who had come to the United States to give birth so that the children would be American citizens — so-called anchor babies.
It’s unclear whether New York’s confinement centers cater to that market. Generally they practice a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding their clients’ origins. Both Ms. Lu’s center and the ones run by Annie Gao, another Flushing confinement entrepreneur, give a Beijing phone number on their Web sites. Ms. Gao, when pressed on what kind of clients her center drew — older or younger, local or tourist — said: “I’ve never noticed any tendency. When a woman comes to me, I only see a mother. It’s a mother and a baby, and that’s all that matters.” (She, like the other women interviewed, spoke in Mandarin Chinese.)
There are no hard numbers on how many women might be using the New York centers for so-called maternity tourism. And nationwide, “we really have no way of knowing,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that seeks tougher immigration laws. Government agencies and immigration advocacy groups said they did not track such numbers.