Princess Kiko, the wife of Prince Akishino, will give birth by Caesarean section to her third child on Wednesday morning.

The royal birth has attracted even more attention than usual as people speculate over whether the Imperial family will see the first birth of a possible heir to the throne in nearly 41 years.

No boys have been born into the Imperial Family since the birth of Prince Akishino in November 1965. A young prince has long been awaited because by law only males who have emperors on their father’s side can ascend the throne.

If a boy is born, he will be third in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne after Crown Prince Naruhito, the Emperor’s eldest son, and the baby’s father, Prince Akishino.

The birth of a boy would also probably throw cold water on the debate over whether to revise the Imperial House Law to allow female monarchs and their descendants to reign.

But if a girl is born, the nation will face a succession crisis, with no viable heir to succeed Prince Akishino, 40, as emperor. This would no doubt intensify the debate over the law.

Princess Kiko was admitted to Aiiku Hospital in Minato Ward, Tokyo, on Aug. 16 to prepare for a Caesarean section. The princess has a condition called partial placenta previa that makes a normal delivery risky.

The condition is caused when the placenta forms low in the uterus and partially covers the cervix. The Caesarean section will be a first for a member of the Imperial family.

Masao Nakabayashi, the princess’ chief physician, who also heads the hospital, will perform the procedure. He has delivered two babies for the princess before: Princess Mako in 1991 and Princess Kako in 1994.

Princess Kiko has had some blood drawn since her hospitalization in case she needs a transfusion during the operation, according to the Imperial Household Agency.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko are in Hokkaido on official duties and are expected to return to Tokyo on Saturday.

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