2002-12-18, 03:24 AM
(also posted elswhere on this site, sorry)
We are moving to japan in the new year and are expecting a baby in April. We would appreciate any advice from someone who has been through this.
2002-12-18, 01:10 PM
My wife (Japanese) and I are also going to have a baby, though the due date is the end of July, so I can't offer much personal advice yet. What I can recommend, however, is a book entitled "Japan Health Handbook", which every person able to read English and living in Japan should purchase. Here's a link to Amazon.com (you'll have to copy/paste the URL):
Like anywhere in the world, you have to put some effort into choosing your doctor/hospital. My wife visited four different hospitals (general, large university, specialist OBGYN) before we found a wonderful place 5 minutes away by train, 10 minutes by car door to door. We can even make appointments via their website, and there is absolutely *no* waiting, which is rare for Japan. And you have a lot of time to consult with the doctor, without being rushed. Even with an "appointment" at a nearby, very well respected university hospital, the wait can be two or three hours. The Japan Health Handbook has a lot of good advice relating to pregnancy and havnig a child in Japan. Where are you planning on living?
2002-12-18, 01:40 PM
Would second Hiyodori's book recommendation, and add "A Doctor in Your Pocket - Basic medical terms in E/J. by Olichney and Kawashima, pub 3A network. Also get to know your neighbours quickly, and see if any local childcare groups. Never know when you'll need help.
2002-12-18, 06:48 PM
Well, I don't know were you come from and how childbirth goes on in your country, but
Japan may be quite different.
First, you can choose the hospital - it may be a private clinic or a larger hospital. The costs may differ from person to person, but be ready to pay about 500,000 yen (about 4,100 USD) before you go out from hospital. Part of this sum (300,000 yen - that's 2500 USD) is
covered by national insurance program, but expect to have to pay the whole 500,000 in one installment. This sum may go up if there are any problems before or during childbirth (hospitalization needed, extra medication, etc.).
After registring with a clinic (preferably one with doctors or nurses that can speak English), you have to fill out a form and submit it to the ward office you belong to. You will get a "Mother and child booklet", (English versions are also available) where all the information is registered, from the beginning of pregnancy to the birth of the child. The booklet may also contain forms for free vaccination of the child up to age 3 or 4 (BCG, polio, DPT 1st and 2nd, Japanese encephalitis, etc.) You must carry this booklet at all times.
Doctors here favor very "natural" pregnancy and childbirth. They do not prescribe prenatal vitamins of any kind, but encourage the mother to eat healthy, walk if it is possible and be active in general if there is no problem with the pregnancy. And they also advise you to
control your weight - more than 10-12 kilos over your normal weight before pregnancy is
considered too much as they fear complications before and during birth. So, limit your calorie intake and try to eat as many foods containing calcium and iron as possible.
I did not take any supplements and both me and my son were just fine.
In the beginning stages of pregnancy you must take a medical checkup every month, but as your due date gets closer, you will have to undergo a medical checkup almost every week (this is just during the last 1-2 months - here the pregnancy is said to be 10 months instead of 9 - just a matter of figures, though). During these weekly checkups you will have blood and urine tests done to check how you do on your iron and other things.
Now about childbirth. Do not expect epidurals or some other anesthetics during childbirth. Cesarean is also very limited (for when natural birth is too dangerous for the mother and child, or when there are twins). Otherwise it is 100% natural birth. I do not know whether it is good or bad, but it went on well with me. Mine was 15 hours long, and I cannot say it was easy, but I had no choice but go on with it. Just rely on the nurses - they know what they have to do.
About the father's presence during birth - some hospitals OK it, but some do not. If you want your husband to be there with you, then maybe the first thing you will have to ask when choosing a clinic is whether they allow it. My husband was not allowed, but even if had been possible, I guess he would not have done it. If you think your husband is strong enough to see you through the whole thing, then I guess it's fine.
After birth you will have to stay in hospital for one more week, during which they will check whether everything is OK with you and the baby, if there is no infection or complication, and, if it is your first child, they will instruct you on how to breastfeed, bathe, change and hold the baby (I was thankful for this, because I had not even held a baby for a longer time). You will be very busy during this week with nurses coming all the time to check this or that or give you your thermometer or the medicine, but you will still have some time for yourself, so use it to rest. You will need it when you are on your own at home.
The baby is brought into your room on the 3rd day after birth (it might be different in other places, but that was my case).
Anyway, you might feel very depressed during the first days after birth, and the stay in the hospital is not always a very pleasant one, epecially when nurses do not speak English or you do not speak Japanese, but the nurses are nice and know their own job, and are usually ready to help. It is a time when you need the support of your husband or family most and therefore make sure you get it and get plenty of sleep.
There is a medical checkup for mother and baby after 1 month to see how things stand with both, and then there is another one at 3 months (just for the baby this time). The baby will receive her BCG vaccine at about 3 months (you will receive a notification from the ward office), then polio twice at about 12 months. As I said before, all these vaccinations are endorsed by the local government and are free. Influenza vaccine is not free and, because there have been some problems with side effects in the past, the govt. does not
take responsibility for this. However, I guess you can think about this later.
Best of luck for now and take care of yourself!
2002-12-19, 08:28 PM
Thank you very much for all your replies to my husband's message which were all very helpful. It was good hear about people's actual experience. I will also try to get hold of the recommended reading before I arrive. I get the feeling from your replies and the other research that I've done that the level of care is very good in Japan although the approach is rather different. No pain relief is a particular worry! Anyway thanks again.
2002-12-19, 08:42 PM
One more question for Nicole. I understand that I will need to choose between a specialist clinic and one of the general hospitals. My concern with the specialist maternity clinics is that they don't seem to have any back-up facilities in the event that something goes wrong and you need to have emergency surgery. Did you go for a general hospital or did you find that the clinics were fine?
Thanks again for your detailed reply.
2002-12-19, 10:47 PM
I went to a general hospital for three reasons: one is the financial side (I somehow
had the impression that gral hospitals are less expensive than clinics, although
this might be only a prejudice - you'll need to do some research into that), the other
was that the hospital was close to my home and in case of emergency I could have got there fast (do not even think of calling an ambulance for childbirth! - better ask your hubby to take you there or call a taxi) and the third was that I had taught English to some of the nurses in that hospital and I kind of felt emotionally attached to the place.
Again, you'll need to do some research by yourself about your question. If you are really
concerned about surgery you can ask the doctors in the clinic or you can look for a general hospital nearby.
The thing about lack of pain relief is quite discouraging, I know. I did not give it too
much thought, though. They say epidurals may decrease contractions and so on. I do
not know much about this and just told myself that having a birth without epidurals
is the only option available. You can ask your doctor in Japan whether there is any
pain relief available.