Japan's Princess Kiko will give birth by Cesarean section next Friday, the Imperial Household Agency announced yesterday, amid intense speculation that the royal family could produce its first male heir in four decades.
The gender of the baby has not been announced, but conservatives hope it will be a boy, thereby scuttling debate over whether to change Japan's male-only succession law to allow a woman to take the ancient Chrysanthemum Throne.
Kiko, 39, was hospitalized last month in expectation of the surgery to have her third child.
Doctors say she is in good health, but with symptoms of partial placenta previa, in which part of the placenta drops too low in the uterus.
Kiko is married to Prince Akishino, the second son of Emperor Akihito. A male baby would be third in line to the throne after Crown Prince Naruhito and Akishino.
Yuka Shiina, an agency spokeswoman, said the operation would take place on Wednesday morning, but refused to provide any further details.
The last male heir in the imperial family was Akishino, who was born in 1965.
Naruhito and his wife, Masako, have a daughter, but no son, meaning the family could eventually face a crisis under Japan's male-only imperial succession law.
The lack of a male heir had prompted serious discussion of changing a 1947 law to allow a female to assume the throne.
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