Local experts help foreign women take the pain out of labor

By Rebecca Milner

At a prenatal clinic in California, Allison Evans saw a poster on a toilet stall that taunted: “Do you know that birth doesn’t have to be painful?” Sign me up, she thought, and soon found herself enrolled in a HypnoBirthing workshop.

“At the time, I didn’t know if it would work for me, but I was able to stay comfortable and calm,” she says. “Actually, because I wasn’t making much noise, the nurse didn’t think I was really in labor.”

Created by award-winning American hypnotherapist Marie Mongan in the late ’80s, HypnoBirthing has been picking up some significant media attention in the U.S. in the last five years. The idea behind the technique is that a relaxed mother is better positioned to have a natural, less painful birth. Statistics seem to support the claim: women who use HypnoBirthing techniques have a lower rate of C-sections.

“It can work with a homebirth or at a hospital, and it doesn’t rule out intervention if necessary,” Evans says. “Basically, it teaches you to replace fear with confidence. The medical model of birth actively manages pain, whereas the HypnoBirthing model actively manages fear, helping the body relax so that it can do what it naturally wants to do.”

Evans was certified as a HypnoBirthing instructor in 2006, and since relocating to Yokota Air Base last winter has become the only English-speaking teacher in the Tokyo area. Over five two-and-a-half hour sessions, she leads women and their birthing companions through a series of steps that begin with breathing and visualization techniques to encourage relaxation, and build up to learning self-hypnosis methods to numb parts of the body.

“The idea is to short-circuit the body’s stress response and encourage the release of endorphins,” she says. Daily practice, accompanied with use of a relaxation CD, is key to making the technique work.

Kimiko Marshall used the Natal Hypnotherapy CD created by UK hypnotherapist Maggie Howell during her second pregnancy. “I had a doula and used gas and air in the UK to help with the birth of my first son, so I was pretty scared of giving birth to my second son in Japan without these options,” she says. “The CDs were fantastic at helping me to sleep when I felt stressed or uncomfortable at night,” she continues, reporting that her labor was “so quick and smooth because I was really relaxed and happy.”

Such a story seems at odds with the generally unpleasant impression that foreign women have about giving birth in Japan. Brett Iimura, an 18-year Japan veteran who runs the Childbirth Education Center in Tokyo, has made it her mission to help mothers and couples enjoy the smoothest birthing experiences possible. Through workshops and private consultations, she offers information compiled from on- and off-the-record conversations with doctors and midwives, regular visits to facilities, and feedback from her clients. And her clients are numerous: since 1997, she’s counseled over 1,600 women from 70 countries.

Foreign women in Japan have more resources and options now than they did when Iimura was first grappling for information during her own pregnancy, but that doesn’t necessarily make the choices any easier.

“Women used to come to me as blank slates, with no idea about giving birth in Japan,” says the native New Yorker. “Now people are more aware, but they want to know what is true and what isn’t.” Moreover, with the foreign community constantly in flux, information tends to be colored by whoever is around — something that Iimura’s nearly two decades of experience can overcome.

While the days of fathers being barred from the delivery room are (nearly) over, Iimura notes that some facilities, like midwife-run birthing centers, tend to be more flexible then others. She also urges women to think about their options as early as possible, as maternity wards tend to fill up fast.

“Know the kind of environment that you’re looking for, the medical or midwifery model of care—these choices will impact your actual birth. Giving birth in a foreign country means you have to think about it more.”

And, she concedes, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Contact Allison Evans through and Brett Iimura through The Tokyo Pregnancy Group also offers an abundance of information at

This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (

© Japan Today

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Do a google search on "Epidural risk & side effects" or read the Wiki on Epidurals.

Every medical procedure has risks and side-effects.

Also you need too be a trained/skilled anaesthetist to perform those, which might be a reason why Japanese don't do them.

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Epidurals are pretty standard where I am from and have never heard that administering them them was a risk. Epidurals are just not the done thing over here and who will argue with a doctor?

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@Cleo - there seemed to be an end-run on stupidity at my clinic. During the required pre-natal mini mama classes you would now believe the questions that came up (or didn't come up!). It was later established that I was the only one who had bought a book (or four), had asked advice from other veteran moms or had even researched pregnancy at all. I always ended up asking for clarification on some points and most of the other ladies there gave the blank 'what the hell is she talking about' stare. For sure preperation is the key but in my case I prepped like a pro and then fell apart when God...oh sorry I mean my doctor said - ok so in 2 weeks we'll be doing a c-section, and no there is no other option and no you cannot try to deliver naturally. Why? Because I said so. Of course you could try another hospital but at 35 weeks good luck with getting anyone to accept you!

With the inherited traits - I agree! My daughter has all my brains but all of her father's stubborness - of course I'm NEVER stubborn or obstinate ;)

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Canukle -

'oh you're so lucky to have had a C-section!'

Wow... there must be some real air-head Mums about. When I had my second, I was in a ward with 5 other women; 4 of us were up and about and bouncy (notwithstanding the doughnut cushions, of course!) more or less straight girl who'd lost quite a bit of blood took a couple of days to get up, and the one c-section lass was bed-ridden for the whole time I was in hospital and unable to even hold her baby at first. Not one person in that room thought she was 'oh so lucky'. More like, 'there but for the grace of....'

No need at all to feel guilty about a c-section! Us 'normal delivery' Mums just did as we were told and pushed. You let yourself be cut open for the sake of your baby. No need at all to feel guilty about that. Quite the opposite.

kira -

Did they say anything about paternal IQ?!

I don't think the BMJ has much to say about it, but it's well known (among Mums) that children inherit all their good genes from their Mums, and all their bad habits, stupidity genes and crooked noses from their Dads. :-)

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Oh the familiar ` You had a C-section so you didn't really give birth'. Not I lie I heard that line quite a bit from the other clinic moms. Or the 'oh you're so lucky to have had a C-section!':S Not that I didn't want to have my baby the standard way, and yes, you're made to feel like you failed somehow, like you didn't really have the right to be tired and sore like all the other 'normal delivery' moms. Grrr...really burned my biscuits.

Not even to mention the underlying guilt you feel yourself! Hahah as for baby with the sharp little chompers and still nursing - she's past the stage where she bites for experimentation. Her nursing now is much more 'comfort' than 'nutrition' based. Our local doctors here just happen to be my husband's uncle and cousin and they keep asking and asking when I'm going to wean my daughter. You should see the looks on thier faces when I tell them I'm letter her self-wean (sotsu nyu). They think I'm a crazy furriner and I'm harming her in some untangible way. Oh well....I guess it'll take them about 20 years to catch up with current medical knowledge! Here's hopin`!

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this effect was almost entirely accounted for by maternal IQ.

Ah, well - that explains it then ;) !!! Did they say anything about paternal IQ?! There`s a LOT of things I would like to explain away using THAT one!!!

So far the only way he dazzles us is by leaping off walls

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I wouldnt say dont knock it till youve tried it - what if you try it and then decide its not for you???!

Point taken! How's about 'if you aren't gonna try it, don't knock it'? 'If you're gonna knock it, don't try it'?

I wouldn't worry too much about the link between breastfeeding and intelligence. Little boys notoriously start off slower than little girls, so it's probably quite normal for your lad to seem slow compared to his big sis. He'll move at his own pace and no doubt end up dazzling you all.

The BMJ also doesn't seem to think much of it - breast feeding was associated with higher IQ in children, but that this effect was almost entirely accounted for by maternal IQ.

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The c sention vs birthing debate sadly is not just Japanese. My friend has an emergency c-section and was made to feel like a failure because of it - see also doesn't breastfeed so double whammy from some moms who pour scorn on her.

Breastfeeding has been linked with higher intelligence but I am sure it another few years that will be argued by someone - always is!

Two years old? Ouch! I have no issue with the age but I look at the teeth and it scared me!

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I kind of envied those who were breastfeeding longer until babies were like older than one. I gave up pretty early because of complications. But my babies are fairly bright, so I guess I made the perfect formula! ;)

It's really funny here in Japan. I mentioned that old ladies think pain in labour makes mothers superior, but this mentality is somehow inherited by the younger generation as well. I was speaking to a mother the other day, she actually laughed at how C-section mothers don't know anything about labour and how she "proudly" had to go through this immense pain for like 15 hours. Yeah, yeah.

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Good luck with your number 2! (Baby, I mean!!!) My friend is still breastfeeding her 2 1/2 year old but you know - I wouldnt so much call it "feeding" as "comforting". I am feeling guilty right now because I have heard breastfeeding makes kids more intelligent (?). I breastfed my first and she is doing really well at school. I didnt breastfeed my second and its early days yet but he is showing all the signs of being a classic dumb-ass! Poor kid! Thank god for him he is good-looking cos he aint gonna get anywhere with his brain!

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AHahahahah - kira - I'd like to second that one! I've had my share of horrid things with breastfeeding as well but for us it is the best way and my daughter is a healthy little hellion! We're still going strong at almost 2 years old. (Don't get me started on the 'sublte' pressure to STOP breastfeeding and move to follow up milk at 1). Hubby last night brought up the topic of number 2. Easy for him to say - he only has the enjoyable parts to contribute! Ah cracked bleeding nipples - memories. Lately I've been plagued by blebs - wanna talk about something painful?! Since the doctor here didn't seem to have a clue what it was, I have a book on breastfeeding from Canada so I just dealt with it myself with a serilized needle. Sounds scary huh? I would just like to say about the article though that it seems like these ladies are trying to help and offer again-choices so more power to them. I wish there were more options where I live for birthing but now that I know the 'system' I think we're going to be a pit pickier (if) we decide to go it again.

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If we get reincarnated I vote to come back as a woman too, but this time do I get to choose whose body I am in???!

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Cracked nipples, pain, leakage, sore and swollen

and you don`t think you suffered??! You are one tough cookie Cleo!

I agree that motherhood is a great thing (although I am writing that with gritted teth right now after being up every 2 hours with my 6 MONTH OLD!!!) but I wouldnt say dont knock it till youve tried it - what if you try it and then decide its not for you???! I would say imagine a life ahead of you with no children ever, and a life with children, and if you decide that no kids is what you want - good for you. Be happy. I love mine but my God, I can see it is not for everyone and there are moments when....OK, not gonna go there!

Let`s just say it is no coincidence to me that I spotted the first grey hairs and my skin seemed to fall off my face right around the time my first son reached toddlerhood!

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Tessa, these are the things you hear about when you have family and friends with kids (or have them yourself). To me, this is the "education" that is missing before women have kids and I know plenty of women who are shocked about hearing all this WHILE pregnant or when breastfeeding.

Cleo, I usually enjoy your posts but this topic you are being rather patronizing and judgmental. You did what suited you best, let others do the same. All I am saying is that women need to be told there are other options out there so they can at least think about and decide what is best for them and their baby.

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kira, I don't think I suffered - I just wasn't able to satisfy her. Second time round was much easier.

Tessa, it isn't traumatic! If there's such a thing as reincarnation I vote to come back as a woman again for the sheer joy of being a mother. Don't knock it until you've tried it!

Kids and hamsters are not mutually incompatible - you can have both!

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Good one Tessa - hamsters need love too - just ask Richard Gere! Eeeeuuuww! Or was that a gerbil?

Think we have all just invented a new form of contraception for Japan - this thread!

Cleo if you suffered that much the first time around and then had another go then hats off to you - that must have been terrible! I had a fissure and a few cracks and was horrendously sore, but I didn`t even bleed, yet the pain was awful in the beginning.

I used to think of the La Leche League as a bunch of breastfeeding nazis. Now Im thinking of training to be one so I can offer the kind of support and help I wish I had been given.

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Oh, my goodness. You guys say childbirth is traumatic, well I have been horribly traumatised just reading this thread. 36-hour labour? Cutting? Sensation of pooing out a watermelon through your bottom? Cracked, bleeding nipples?

Well. Thanks to you all, my legs are now firmly and tightly crossed, and will stay that way until I hit the menopause. The Tessa family line will die out with me.

And in the meanwhile, if I want love and affection I'll adopt a hamster!

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birthing companions?

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Mine is 6 months and still not sleeping midnight to 5am - gggrrrrr!

lol I don't doubt last night was a one-off and we'll be back to every-couple-of-hours tonight!

I was unable to breastfeed my first because she was a big girl with a bite so strong she was drinking as much blood as milk. I had to rest to heal up, and in the meantime she moved onto formula. Even with a bottle, she screamed blue murder if anyone but me tried to feed her, so 'bottle-feeding means Dad can join in' didn't work for us.

Cracked nipples, pain, leakage, sore and swollen - it's all part of the package, and with the right help and support it can all be dealt with and overcome. Nowadays there are little nipple protectors that my daughter says are a great help.

Sad to think of feed time being looked on as 'dealing' with the baby.

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You are looking well over a million when you include an epidural.

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I know a lot of women who bottle fed because they don't like the idea of (sorry guys) feeling like a milk lady. They are just not into it. They also work full time and went back to work about 5 months later and just said bottle were much easier for them.

I have friends who have/are breastfeeding who complains about cracked nipples, pain, leakage, being sore and swollen, being the only one who can deal with the baby while hubby sits there... When you read this stuff and hear it (as I have) I can understand why some women aren't up for it. Again, the option and education is important.

I think there is a lot of options/support in Tokyo but not so much elsewhere. Osaka and Tokyo are worlds away in terms of catering to foreigners and unless you have the cash, not near as easy as I think some of you make it seem. I had a friend look into the cost of getting an epidural and while I can't remember the price off the top of my head it shocked me to the bone.

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Mine is 6 months and still not sleeping midnight to 5am - gggrrrrr! Breast is DEFINITELY easier in terms of carting everything around - I agree with that. It does make it difficult to ever have a night off though, which is one reason why I mixed. I also quite simply didn`t have enough milk this time around - with 2 others to look after and no help you get really tired and my 3rd is a big lad.

Enjoy your new baby - they just get big so fast don`t they?

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Many thanks for all the congrats! The new Mum came downstairs beaming this morning 'cos baby had slept through from midnight to 5am, and not yet 4 weeks old. Bliss! As she was telling me this, Sleeping Beauty, who was draped over her shoulder, burped and gifted us all with second-hand breastmilk. Oh the joys!

I understand what Canukle is saying - if you don't have the info, don't know what's going to happen and have no way to find out, it can be terrifying. Thing is, it's up to the prospective mother to find out well in advance what she needs to know, by whatever means are available. It doesn't matter how many choices you are offered, if you don't have the information to decide which is the right choice for you, your only choice is to trust the midwife/doctor (hopefully not including instructions to jump out of the window!). You're going to be responsible for a new human being, and that starts by taking responsibility for your own pregnancy and parturition - you can't simply hang around waiting for other people to give you information, or make your decisions for you.

More on breast vs bottle - I've done both, and breast is definitely easier! No need to carry a bagful of sterilised bottles and cans of formula everywhere you go, no need to keep baby crying while you make up the formula and wait for it to cool.....the only hard bit is the first few weeks before the flow stabilises and baby establishes a routine. The major benefit of the bottle, as far as I can see, is that Dad can join in; squeezing breastmilk and storing it in the fridge or freezer make this possible.

Tessa may be right in her observations that bottle-fed, c-section drug babies are all very easy to spot, as they all have humps, club foot, drool a lot and are incredibly ugly and stupid (can't be many of them around, I haven't seen any.....:-)) but the breast-fed kids are apparently more likely to have Mums who do not develop post-menopausal breast, uterine, endometrial or ovarian cancer and so are still around and fit enough to help look after and enjoy the breast-fed kids' kids.

I suspect one reason hospitals and clinics aren't all that supportive of breastfeeding these days is related to the Bottom Line. Every new mother I've ever spoken to has left hospital with at least one can of complimentary formula, but where that used to be as far as it went, today the pretty little blue-and-pink namecards on the cots in the Baby Room, the boards the medical charts are clipped onto, the 'Ikuji diary' mothers are given to record how many times baby needs a nappy change etc., in fact virtually every piece of stationary used in the maternity wing of the hospital seems to carry the logo of some formula manufacturer or other. It's big business.

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Doctors and hospitals are like any shop out there. You have good ones and bad ones so you need to shop around. The experience will be drastically different if you are comfortable with the doctor and nurses around you. You really need to research and ask around probably before you even think about having children.

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oh Canukle - don`t be too envious - I know from experience this is only a temporary state of affairs (unless I continue feeding him till high school!)

He giveth, and he absolutely taketh away again! But I always say if God never wanted us to have boob jobs he wouldn`t have given us those clever souls who dreamed up the idea in the first place!

I can tell you with absolute certainty that second time round will not be a fraction as bad for several reasons - a) it always seems to be the case, with me and everyone I have ever spoken to about it b) you know much more what to expect and what you are doing c) therefore YOU can tell THEM what to do for YOU with more confidence!

Those specialty clinics that cater to foreigners I have actually heard pretty mixed reports from. In my experience it really doesnt matter where you are, if you have a good doctor with whom you have a good rapport you will be fine. However, I dont know how much choice of doctors you have outside the cities.

The first time is terrifying (depending on the circumstances.) The second time is a breeze in comparison. The 3rd time is a wild card and the 4th...well, I aint goin there but I hear you skip from conception straight through to delivery without a squeak! Ill take any mum of 4s word for it cos like I said - the KK baby factory is closed!

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ps. im wondering bout the in the past point. perhaps the choices were less. perhaps the choice was lifestyle led as well. like an art. i think that there were more medically unaided births, and thus what would seem high fatality, but i disagree with this. im curious too why choose not to breastfeed. the only thing i can think of is its not the most easiest thing to accomplish in most places. you need somewhere to sit perhaps. and hey im all for sunbaking topless but not really into it with a baby in the picture as well, at a public beach. but if i have my own lifestyle whereby it is family, im sure walking around breastfeeding is on the plate. if theres visitors i have a room, or i dont have visitors etcetcetc breastfeeding is such a personal experience. sometimes im inclined to go pick up some publicly feeding mothers boobs japanese nursing style, just to say i am willing to feed this child too. its not that i wouldnt feed my child if it was hungry, i just like being discreet, and would at least try and sit off to the corner or something rather than at the middle of costco! wow.

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Just two more of my cents but for options, I know in my case it was fear as well. First baby and (for lack of a better term) scared sh&%less! I also had complications and whatnot so yeah, the options may be there, but I don't live in Tokyo where most of the specialty (catering to foreigners) clinics are. I let my fear get the better of me and allowed the clinic staff to bully me. I'm ususally not that type of person, but with the hormone fluctuations, ouchy scar and absolute terror that something was going to go wrong with my baby, I would have jumped out of the window if they told me it was going to help. For those first few days, it was an emotional rollercoaster and my family was over 10,000km away (my mom, etc.) I agree with a lot of the posts and disagree with some as well. Choice is the key. I chose to breastfeed and I wasn't given hardly any support at all (both in the clinic and out). I caught my MIL trying to get my hubby to give my 1 week old a bottle of formula when I went into the shower becuase it was 'kawai-so' for her to just have breastmilk. No talk about anything to do with nipple care (sorry if this grosses you out guys), infection, etc. Kirakira - I'm envious of you as mine seem to have shrunken at least 2 cup sizes! (my hubby is not that pleased either ;) ). Knowing what I know now though, I still want another and think that for the second time around I can state my views more clearly and be more firm. I just hated staying in the clinic for almost 7 days! I went shack- happy! Great comments everyone.

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So many interesting points of view on here - from seasoned mothers, new mothers, non-mothers and even the guys(!) and I have really enjoyed reading everyones opinions - wow! Did I just say that out loud??!

I agree with what pretty much everyone is saying! Cleo - BIG congrats on the grandchild! I seriously believe not enough encouragement, help and support is given to breastfeeding here - it was hell in the early days and I really hope your daughter is pushing through the tough bit OK because it really DOES get better - if you can tough it out to the other side after about 2 months.

I cant speak for overseas as I have never had a child there but three times I sat through the formula milk sales pitch and quite honestly I can see the pluses and minuses on both sides. I "mixed" with all mine. But one thing people never really consider a major plus for breastfeeding should SEE these babies! People here seem SO friendly these days...;) ! Seriously! A plus for me, a plus for the takyubin delivery guy - everyones happy! (except hubby if he reads this but I digress...!)

Zenny11 - for a man (boo! hiss!) quite an insightful comment - listen to your body. It is ABSOLUTELY true. When you give in to things your body tells you exactly what to do (or in my 3rd labour what NOT to do as the cord was wrapped twice round the poor little guys neck and pushing would have strangled him). I think we get so wrapped up in fear and focusing on what the books say we should do we forget that our uteruses (uteri??!) are pretty smart and can be left to do the job unaided in many cases.

Options and education are out there - but for foreigners here, or at least those who dont speak Japanese well they can be expensive. I dont know how much the woman in the article charges for the hypnosis course, but many of us delivering here are not on ex-pat salaries with expense accounts.

And I also agree with tmarie - choice is the most important thing, because as I think I said before every body, and every birth is unique and what one may tolerate another may not. There is no standard measure for pain because it is such a subjective thing.

Frungy - thanks for the updated stats - good to know things have improved here.

I really hope no-one here is put off having children because of the pain. It is the most minor possible reason not to have children! I was NEVER a kiddie kind of person before having mine - I was SO focused on my career and my lifestyle. And even now they are here I would be lying if I said I devoted every minute of my life to them. It is just not who I am and for me, balance is key - KK the mum and KK the wild child still exist symbiotically! Everyone is different and you just need to find what works for you, but please - never be put off having children for the fear of labour pain - it is over so quickly (well, after 36 hours or so max!) and they ARE worth it. No, really, they are!!!

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They way I see it the options and education are out there but few women use them.

May it be due to cost, etc.

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This is exactly my point - lots of ways out there and I think having options and being educated about those options is very important. I see a lack in both options and education in Japan compared to what I see in other countries.

Tessa, that made me laugh!

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Agree with tessa-san.

There are no real rules and guide-lines, etc. My wife made me read many books about child-raising.

Guess what not one applied to my son and every child is different. At the same time nature has given use a genetic experience/code that many experts want to over-write.

Trust your instincts and listen to your body is the best advice I can give.

Looking at my wife she did well being 156cm and giving birth to a 54cm and 4300gm baby, who is now a healthy 10yr old. She never asked for pain-killers and it was long birth as they suspended it for 14hrs. Overall took more than 36hrs.

Same way she(and me) walked to the hospital after the pains set in(15 min walk) and she NEVER screamed like the ladies on Telly do when the pains hit. She just took a breather and kept going.

For me there are no rules, and I and she would loved to have had a 2nd child but alas cancer(death) got in the way.

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Why do childbirth/nursing discussion have to become so emotional or acrimonious? And don't even get me started on daycare vs. full-time mother care. Let's just accept that motherhood is never going to be an exact science, and that the "ideal" way to do it is never going to be the "real" way to do it.

Here's my take on the matter. Go out on a busy city street. Look at all the people walking by. Pick out the ones who were obviously bottle-fed from birth and/or were delivered by drugged-up mothers via c-section. (They should be very easy to spot, as they all have humps, club foot, drool a lot and are incredibly ugly and stupid, myself included.) Then, decide the best way for you to proceed as a mother.

P.S. Congrats, new O-baachan!

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Don't want to argue but I think your view is a bit narrow-sighted. There is a wide variety of care-providers out there and many different views too.

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Women have been "traumatized" through the years - which is why they need so much support during and after the birth. Pushing a large object through your vagina shocks the body. Plenty of women suffer physically and emotionally after giving birth - huge rates of postpartum recently which is a sign that things are not okay. You yourself talked about horrific tears. It doesn't have to be horrific to traumatic.

A woman who educated herself and decides to go with bottle should not be belittled about her choice - which is my whole point about it. A lot of women these days don't have healthy diets which concerns me. My sister is breastfeeding right now and couldn't figure out why my nephew was unable to sleep and upset - she had eaten chili for god's sakes! Plenty of women do such things which upsets the baby. Just because you're breastfeeding doesn't mean the baby is getting the best "food" and it not always "the best for the baby".

And I do agree that parents who want what is "easiest" perhaps shouldn't have had kids but again, that was their choice and that sort of comment is rather nasty as parents try and do the best they can - which isn't always what others agree with. I don't think bottle fed really should be put into such a category of doing it because it is the "easiest" and suggesting they shouldn't have had kids - that is just really over the top.

Regards, I really don't want to argue with you Cleo about the matter anymore. My opinion is there is a lack of choice and a bunch of know it alls in Japan who think that new mothers should do exactly what they did - regardless of how out-dated their information, their thoughts may be or how much they are trying to help.

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If normal childbirth is traumatic, then mothers down the ages have been traumatised over and over again. I'm not talking about births where things go wrong, for either the child or the mother; that can be traumatic, and as you rightly point out, women do die giving birth; but that could hardly be considered a 'normal' birth, would it?

trauma |ˌtrɔːmə| |ˌtraʊmə| noun ( pl. -mas or -mata |-mətə|) a deeply distressing or disturbing experience • emotional shock following a stressful event or a physical injury, which may be associated with physical shock and sometimes leads to long-term neurosis. • Medicine physical injury.

If you really believe that formula is better for a baby than mother's milk, you're not going to be persuaded otherwise by anyone writing on a message board, so I won't even try. Suffice it to say that as far as I know the formula manufacturers have not come up with anything to replace the colostrum contained in first milk. Even if a woman needs to bottle-feed, if her milk is healthy (ie she isn't going to give her baby some kind of communicable disease via her milk) what reason is there not to try to give the child the natural protections that colostrum provides, even if the child is going to be bottle-fed later?

It is a personal choice and one that a mother should NEVER be questioned about.

There is nothing that people should NEVER be questioned about. That's what communication is all about. People who suspect they don't have the answers tend to object to being questioned about their decisions.

Like I said, what about the mothers who can't? Do you deem them failures for not being able to breastfeed?

My first child ended up being bottle-fed because despite my efforts I was unable to feed her. Do I consider myself a failure? No. Do I wish I had been able to make a success of breastfeeding? Hell Yes. With my second child I had milk to spare, thanks to the advice and support (='bullying'?) I received from the nursing staff after the birth, and the ministrations of a midwife who performed a breast massage I can only describe as excruciating but effective to the point of being miraculous. Some people might see that as 'bullying' - after all, who wants an extremely painful massage? - but it was certainly well worth it.

I did not bully my daughter into breastfeeding. The decision to breastfeed was her own - she wants to do what is best for baby. I 'bullied' her (note the inverted commas - read 'gave her the encouragement, support and advice she needed') into sticking at it when if left to her own devices she would have assumed she was not able to do it because (she thought) she was empty and baby was still crying. It would have been a lot easier at that time to just fill baby up with formula so we could all get a few hours' sleep. Then again, if 'easy' is the goal, it's easiest to just not have the baby in the first place.

Tessa -

I'm curious to know what the maternal/infant mortality rate was, back in the days when women had no option but to give birth "naturally," or breast their babies.

It was sky-high, and still is in countries where medical services are minimal. Part of the problem is/was lack of hygiene and poor maternal nutrition.

Formula is a godsend for mothers who cannot breastfeed (and I count myself among that number), but it's a second-best substitute, not an equivalent alternative. And let's not forget the huge industry that depends on women choosing bottle over breast -

The free samples lasted long enough for the mother's breast milk to dry up from lack of use. Then mothers would be forced to purchase the formula but, being poor, they would often mix the formula with unsanitary water or 'stretch' the amount of formula by diluting it with more water than recommended. The result was that babies starved all over the Third World

"The formula companies can never say it's just like breast-feeding,"

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I'm curious to know what the maternal/infant mortality rate was, back in the days when women had no option but to give birth "naturally," or breast their babies.

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"What I can't understand is why a woman who is capable of breastfeeding should choose not to, or consider the very idea horrific." That is YOUR opinion on the matter and certainly not everyone agrees - if they did their would be no history of wet nurses. It doesn't matter if you don't "understand" it or not, some women don't want to breastfeed and should never be pressured to do so.

Why "bully" your daughter into anything? I look at a lot of the crap we eat, the chemicals we ingest and at times, I think bottle fed is much healthier than breast. But again, that is MY opinion and if I have kids I want the choice to decide on my own. I have friend who breastfed who are very happy and I have friends who formula fed who are happy. Who are you to make such judgmental comments on the matter? Sorry but I found your last post to be rather aggressive on the matter and well, I don't agree with you about it. It is a personal choice and one that a mother should NEVER be questioned about. Like I said, what about the mothers who can't? Do you deem them failures for not being able to breastfeed?

Birth is considered "traumatic" regardless of complications. Natural do not equal un-traumatic. Many women die giving birth. It is a lot for the body to handle and normal or not it is a lot for the human body to deal with. The fact that you look at it so lightly (and even suggest you bullied your daughter into breastfeeding) just again makes me not interested in the process at all. The idea of it is one thing, defending your choices is another.

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What I can't understand is why a woman who is capable of breastfeeding should choose not to, or consider the very idea horrific.

don't sweat it. what is natural to you is physically unnatural to the next fella or laydee. that's what makes folk gay dontcha know?

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tmarie - Yes of course it's a personal choice, and if there are reasons why a woman cannot/is unwilling to breastfeed, she shouldn't be forced to. What I can't understand is why a woman who is capable of breastfeeding should choose not to, or consider the very idea horrific. First time round it can seem very difficult and painful, especially when the flow is slow to start and baby is suckling strongly, and a new mother can easily convince herself that she 'can't do it'. (Been there, done that). Encouragement (not bullying) from the nursing staff can make all the difference between successful feeding and an early retreat to formula.

The fact that your husband was "allowed" into the room surprises me.

I made a point of choosing hospitals where husbands were allowed. It was one of the first questions I asked. The first couple of places I asked said No. There was no fighting involved - I simply took my custom to another hospital. My daughter gave birth just last month, and in her case it was taken for granted by the hospital that husbands were not only allowed, but expected; and not only at the actual birth, but at the preparation classes in the months leading up to the birth. My daughter is not one to take kindly to being treated like an idiot or to being pulled and mauled, and she has no complaints at all over the way she was treated. If anything I would have liked the nursing staff to be a bit more positive regarding the breastfeeding - she was more or less left to get on with it herself, and since she and the baby left hospital I've been the one 'bullying' her to get it right. Otherwise, she says, she would have given in to the temptation to use formula after the first week or so. She's glad now she didn't, of course.

Giving birth is traumatic enough.

Only if there are complications. A normal healthy birth is darned hard work and exhausting, but it's a natural process, not traumatic.

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Why would a mother choose not to breastfeed, at least for the first few weeks when the baby needs the nutrition and antibodies contained in breastmilk? What is horrific about being expected to breastfeed?

Not all women want to breastfeed and it is a personal choice. Again, this is the issue. Choice. Some women can't breastfeed for many reasons and should not be made to feel like a failure because they can't - nor should women who decide they don't want to. They should not be manhandled into doing something they a) don't want to do or b) can't do. It is horrific to me that people who think they know better than expecting mothers clearly do not always know best and sometimes treat these women as stupid animals who should just do what they are told, no questions asked.

My understanding Cleo is that your children are grown. The fact that your husband was "allowed" into the room surprises me. I know both Japanese women and foreign women who hate to fight (during their delivery) to have their husbands there. Giving birth is traumatic enough. Being treated like you're an idiot, pulling mauled and not allowing to have your spouse there is shocking. The women I am all referring to have given birth in the last 1-6 years in Japan and their stories scare me. I know of one Japanese female who was happy with the way everything went. I am glad you had a great experience (it sounds like you stood your ground and had great support) but I can just go on what I hear - and what I hear makes me not want to have kids in Japan.

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I was told about the no baths thing too and thought it was strange, but as I had a c-section, hauling myself in and out of the bath was a scary prospect anyhow! I had the old lady come into my room for the 'breast massage'.....O.o I was sooo freaked out over that and wanted nothing to do with any obaasan grabbin' the goods so to speak. Told her so, and was laughed at - then she ripped up my shirt and udid the bra...guess I had no say in the matter. At the clinic I gave birth in, while they paid lip service to breastfeeding, they were also insistent on formula feedings which I tried (unsuccessfully) to stop. Despite it all, and the fact that my daughter is now screaming bloody murder in the living room - I really think I want another :). Anyone have any stats on VBAC in Japan? Will they even attempt it?

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You raffians to speak such! All the foreigners except the one's here perhaps. I wonder if hypnotizing is like imagery? In some places chiropractical work can be referred to as alligning, and so on. I think the midwifery, or rather doula work can be hard to track down depending on the area, and political stance of the area towards birthing. I was once told that a lady up on the corner used to do deliveries. Upon enquiring, it could be learned that she died.

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Some people are quoting outdated and inaccurate statistics:

Infant mortality - 2nd lowest of 170 countries surveyed (Source: CIA Factbook 2005) 3.28 per 1000 births per year [Better than France (4.31), U.S. (4.77), Ireland (5.5)]

Maternal mortality - 19th lowest of 135 countries surveyed (Source: UNICEF 2002) 8 per 100 000 [Same as the U.S., better than France (10), worse than the U.K. (7)]

So the argument that the way that deliveries are conducted in Japan endagers the life of mother or child is just blatantly and obviously untrue. In fact the statistics support a position that on balance it is no more dangerous to the mother than the methods used in other first-world countries, and is much safer for the child.

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Ah, Cleo. I didn`t know that was the real reason. I was told by non-medical people the reason I gave so I assumed that was the reason. Yes, Japanese baths are very different to back home and I for one love them! Hate my rubbishy British bath whenever I go home now!

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Again Zenny - we need to have a beer or two and see if we can out-gross each other! This should be a REALLY fun night out!!! Hope no-one nearby can speak English! Definitely put them off their Yakitori!!!

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You ladies are lucky you will never have to go through a prostate exam.

As Billy Connolly sez there are "2 ways in KY and finger up the bum or the Camera-crew crawling up your willie. Frak that.".


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Been through it twice in Japan and neither time was I hurried or told to 'push push push'. Quite the opposite - when my daughter was being born I held on until Mr Cleo arrived, though I could have pushed much earlier. Then while I was being stitched up afterwards he and I were having a row about why it had taken him so long to get there....I don't think we would have been having that row if the work down below had been going on without anaesthetic. I think I would have noticed.

I always thought the 'no baths for a month' thing was a precaution against new mothers sitting in yer typical scalding-hot Japanese bath? Hot baths cause fatigue, and fatigue affects the milk supply. 'Swot I was told, anyways.

Why would a mother choose not to breastfeed, at least for the first few weeks when the baby needs the nutrition and antibodies contained in breastmilk? What is horrific about being expected to breastfeed?

Again I find myself agreeing with kira - if your doctor doesn't like being asked questions, you probably need a new doctor, and that doesn't apply only to gynaecologists.

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Whooaa! LOVING this thread!!! I`ll get back to you on the beer....

I was laughing because textbook dilation and the real deal can be somewhat different. My dilation was like listening to a game of Bingo! 4! 6! 7! No, wait! 4 again! Oh, just a minute, we were right the first time - 7! I only ever got to 8 anyway and then screamed at the doctor to get this baby out of me! And he did. All 3800g of him without a stitch. Now THAT is a talented doctor! Hot too, poor guy. As if this job wasn`t stressful enough he also had 60 kilos of hormonal pregnant foreigner chasing his tail! Dangerous profession, obstetrics!

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ohhhhh Zenny - we should have a beer sometime!

Just wanted to add that my maternal mortality figures were based on a study done in the 90`s. It is safe to assume things are probably similar still given that the issues highlighted in the study are still issues today - but I wanted to point that out just to avoid scaring the crap out of any potential mums on here!!!

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More accurate would be water-melon down a 10cm dia. drain-pipe and not a hose-pipe.

But what do I know expect what I read about dilation, etc.


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I think the problem with cutting is that it is often done routinely whether necessary or not, just again - because it is easier for the doctor. But I totally agree when it is MEDICALLY necessary it is a good thing. I think the second issue people have is no anesthetic for either the cutting itself or the stitching. The cutting I agree is generally the least of your worries at the time it happens, but the stitching can be excruciating.

No showers - I was told not to have a shower for 24 hours after the birth. The reason I was given was the risk of fainting. Of course, I totally ignored that directive! I was also told no baths for the first month. This again is very old-fashioned and stems from the days when they believed the bath water could enter the uterus and cause an infection. This is now proven not ot be the case and many doctors OUTSIDE Japan recommend a bath - but still not within it would seem.

DEFINITELY ask all the questions you can think of. Many J doctors dont like that - so I would say if you get one who doesnt like you asking questions I would question yourself what you are doing with that doctor anyway and change quickly! With me it was the reverse - the clinic appointment was over in minutes and he then kept me behind for ages firing questions at me about English language, culture and foreign women etc etc until the midwives practically threw us both out!

Cleo - I think the squeamish male readers are looong gone! I think my watermelon analogy did the trick! Oops!

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Re the cutting thing, many hospitals cut when not needed - and with no pain aids. THAT is my issue. That and if the labour is going well and not being hurried (push, push push which is exactly what happens to many in Japanese hospitals) tearing doesn't happen all that often and not as bad as you have described. It does at times of course but if you have meds and need to be stitched... you are on meds so the pain isn't there! Like Kira said, could you imagine Japan telling men that they were going to stich up their balls with no pain meds? I certainly can't. I hate the idea of being cut with no meds for no reason other than "that is what we do here" which is what I have heard far too often for my liking. I don't know anyone how has been cut "back home" (and my family and friends are going through a baby boom) and when I mentioned how it is done in Japan, the look of horror was enough to tell me that it is not normal - nor needed as often as it is done here.

Nor is it normal to have nurses bully the wives into breastfeeding - I had friends who had their breasts squeezed to produce milk that left them crying and in bruises. They said they wouldn't breastfeed but the nurses kept going until milk was produced. That is horrific and scaring mentally. I have to wonder if women are refusing to have kids because of all the horror stories they have heard - and the whole 'I suffered so you should too" mentality.

If you check out the front page on the tabs, there is a comment about local governments not having enough money to check women for cervical cancer. Japan really is behind on their medical treatment/practices for women. But as Kira said, the women don't demand it. Cervical cancer rates are rising. I am wondering when they women will wake up and look into their health issues instead of just trusting some old crusty male doctor.

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Those of you complaining about the 'cutting' - you do know of the dangers of letting the body decide for itself where it's going to 'give' to let the baby out? Some women don't rip, but many do; and if the rip occurs through to the anal area, you're in real schtuck for a long time after. That would freak me out (and I apologise to any squeamish male readers who may still be with us here). I'd much rather the midwife or doctor make a minimal cut sideways that can be neatly and safely stitched up after the birth. I'm sure I had a local anaesthetic for that... I certainly don't recall what surely would have been excruciating pain without it.....

As for 'no showers' - never heard of that. My impression is that hospitals here are sticklers for hygiene around babies and new mothers to the point of neurosis. Every hospital I've been involved with has had showers, some of them quite posh. I suppose the answer is to ask questions and choose your hospital carefully - but wouldn't that apply anywhere?

I totally back up what kira says about feeling in control, and while the attitude of the doctor and nursing staff is important, preparing yourself - having a pretty good idea of what is about to happen, and what might possibly happen and still be normal - is most important.

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There is no choice for several reasons:

1)Japanese women dont demand it, largely I think because of the way they were raised, but also because of senior womens atiitudes ("I went through it so you have to as well") and the image of doctors as "gods". They are raised to just believe you have to suffer in childbirth, and that`s that.

2) A lack of anaesthesiologists in the medical profession and they tend to be concentrated in the big university hospitals.

3) A fragmented hospital system with most people delivering at small clinics and small private hospitals where there may only be 1 or 2 OBGYNs and no anaesthesiologist.

4) Very little redress when things go wrong - autopsies are not routinely performed here, and classification of maternal mortality here is not consistent with outside Japan (for example deaths within 46 days of delivery are not considered perinatal so for example post-partum infections leading to death may not be considered as maternal mortality) therefore it is very hard to investigate maternal mortality accurately, and no impetus on the doctors to adhere to certain standards.

It IS a terrifying thing, largely because it is such an unpredictable process (unless you have a c-sect but even then things go wrong). Add to that all the crap they spout here about only gsining 8kgs, the hideous stirrups they still insist on using because it is better for the doctor (screw the patient), cutting and stitching with no anaesthetic (that makes me REALLY angry-like to see a J man have HIS balls cut and stitched with no pain meds!) power-mad midwives and nurses who get their own back on the patients after getting pushed around by the doctors....I could go on and on!

HOWEVER - IF you get a good doctor and a good hospital it really does make all the difference. Birth doesnt have to be a horrible experience. But you HAVE to trust your doctor and number 1 on that list is him/her respecting your wishes and giving you some feeling of control. So in my case, I brought in a TENS machine - the midwife at my 2nd birth tried to remove it but soon stopped when I threatened to bite her! My doctor in my 3rd delivery was so fantastic he was even going to let me bring a G&T into the delivery room if I thought it would help me relax! Personally I just think he wanted one himself as he dictated which particular brand I could bring in (!) but whatever! I was never cut and stitched because I told them if they did it to me I will grab the knife and stab them! They think we foreign women in labour are borderline psychotic anyway so I think they believed me! He made me feel like I was in control of things (even though I absolutely wasnt!) and said we would "work together to get this done" - he`ll tell me what to do and I tell him if I need to stop anytime. In short he made me relax, and THAT made the birth - the most painful and longest of the 3 - so much easier. When you are in intense pain you are SO stressed and scared it makes it all harder for the mother AND the doctor.

It is tough, and anyone who claims that pain helps with the bonding process is talking absolute crap! If anything it is the opposite - if you need to recover from a bad experience you often CANT hold the baby, need to rest and dont want it anywhere near you! But I will NEVER forget the high I was on after each time for about 24 hours afterwards - I had my beautiful baby in my arms and the sky could have fallen down around us, I wouldn`t even have noticed, we were so wrapped up in our pink bubble!

And then you bring the little critters home.....but that`s a topic for another time, another thread!

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OB-Gyn's do not perform epidurals, that is what a anesthesiologist is for. Stop making excuses and have one on call! Epidurals are necessary at times, to give a woman a second wind. If they won't perform them, you need to go elsewhere . I am with Weasel 100%. I am a mother of one, who was almost 10 lbs at birth. The epidural made all the difference.

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Kira, this is just it, why is there no choice or options? Oh right, because the women here don't actually research anything themselves - they just go by what people have told them to believe. It really is frustrating to speak to Japanese women about "female" issues because most of them haven't a clue how things work in others countries. They just don't seem to care. "Western" women seem to be all over issues like this because we want to find out what is best for us - and our kids. It shocks me the way they just listen and don't question. Yep, cultural but women DIE giving birth and whatnot but yet, no bother into looking into it.

Like I said, we don't have kids because the whole idea of having kids in Japan makes me fill up with terror. I am not all that interested in the first place but not options of pain killers, nasty nurses, doctors who tell women they are fat while pregnant, cutting (that REALLY freaks me out), lack of hygiene (no showers)... Eek! I have heard some places are great but no one ever knows until it happens to them.

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why on earth would any intelligent woman choose to put herself through this particularly ghastly experience more than once? Unless she's not very intelligent in the first place.

Chardonnay and summer nomikais! Pure and simple! Seriously - the first time was horrendous. But I didn`t want my daughter to be an only child so we had another. The second time was pretty straight forward and simple. I have heard this is often the pattern. The third is a wild card and I was deluded into thinking it would be fine. It was actually the worst of the three! But I have just this second come from putting my baby boy down to sleep and he covered my face in kisses - even at only 6 months old. My daughter is already fast asleep but not before thanking me for a great evening. My middle son is STILL awake but I just went in to tell him to pipe down and he took my hand and kissed it and said "I love you Mummy" - THIS is why!

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Is it weird that reading this article makes me WANT a kid? I mean, I've had the baby bug for a while now, and reading stuff like this doesn't help, haha. Or maybe I'm just a glutton for pain!

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I was disappointed they didnt give me a freaking medal or something after I had finished....

shufu, it sounds like yours was a case where pain relief should have been available. But didn't you get something much better than a medal as a result of all your effort? (Hint - 'something' small, warm, infinitely demanding and partially nocturnal). I'm sorry your experience decided you not to have another 'something'.

I do have to ask, however: why on earth would any intelligent woman choose to put herself through this particularly ghastly experience more than once?

Because the returns are out of this world. What you get out of it is way, way more than what you put in. Intelligence has nuffin to do with it.

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Ha ha, I just love how the men have bowed out of this conversation! Obviously they can't handle the pain.

I don't have any kids because I don't see the point in bringing any more humans into this overcrowded world, so I probably don't have a rightto comment on this thread. I do have to ask, however: why on earth would any intelligent woman choose to put herself through this particularly ghastly experience more than once? Unless she's not very intelligent in the first place.

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I wasn't planning on having kids but this really cements my decision.

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kirakira and cleo I am with you BOTH.

Our child was born sunny side up - meaning that she was upside down effectively, but not breech. And from the outset I had terrible back labour and they refused me pain relief... but they did give me some pitocin to speed it all it. Meaning it was so "fast" (like 15 hours is fast) but so, agonizingly painful. I told them I wanted to die.

The reason they gave was that my blood pressure was too high (but that was because of the pain, I imagined) , and that they thought I was coping well.

I Still have nightmares about the pain to this day. Lamaze, breathing, didnt do nothing... However I must say the doctors (except for this point) were absolutely wonderful. Im not a J-doc basher. I am kind pleased now they held off on the meds, but I was disappointed they didnt give me a freaking medal or something after I had finished....

And Zenny - I will not have any more children because of it.

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tmarie - you are absolutely right! I actually had a big argument with my male OBGYN on this very score and told him to push a watermelon out of his ass over 36 hours without pain meds, have it cut out in the end and stitched up with no painkillers and then tell me his opinion on epidurals! Poor guy - his eyes were watering by the time I had finished berating him!

The horror stories you have heard are all true I am sorry to say - I have either experienced it personally or seen it happen. HOWEVER - it does vary hugely by hospital and doctor. My doctor was fabulous in the end despite the stinginess with the narcotics! The midwives were also wonderful on the whole. In fact, the worst experiences I have had have been with female doctors!

Japanese women just seem to put up with this "cultural thing" for whatever reason - they are bullied by their mothers (in law), told by God-like doctors it is not necessary, raised to believe they shouldnt complain or demand, etc etc. Again - fine for those that can take it. Traumatic and with long-term complications for those who cant. As everyone who knows anything about this has been saying - CHOICE is the key here.

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a fact that Japan has the lowest rate of death at birth so it's obviously safe to give birth in Japan

I`m sorry bicultural but that is absolutely not true. They actually have one of the HIGHEST rates of maternal mortality amongst OECD nations - look it up! They have one of the lowest rates of INFANT mortality.

Do you know what the old ladies used to say in Japan? You are not a fully grown women until you have experienced the pain of labour. Some people still believe it.

Yeah, I heard that too. I also heard from my doctor that these women tell their daughters "I experienced the suffering, so you should too!" WTF?? I would NEVER tell my daughter that! Why on earth would I want to see her suffering when it could be avoided!

Not sure if I can agree with kirakira and Tmarie

Well theres a shocker! Sorry Zenny11 - I dont mean to diss you and I absolutely respect your opinion. But please also respect ours - I have done labour 3 times here. I know what it feels like. It hurts like hell and after 36 hours (my third) you are SO exhausted you are virtually delirious. I actually can say that I had very good levels of care here on the whole (but with a few nasty experiences I wont go into here) - and it sounds like your wife did too - but many many people are not so lucky. Pain and the bodys perception of it is a funny thing. I dont think anyone here is advocating drugs all the way (well, maybe just a little bit!) but that the option SHOULD be there for those that cant for whatever reason handle it.


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Not sure if I can agree with kirakira and Tmarie.

There are a few birthing clinics in my area, that is all they do abortions and births.

2 we skipped, one because we heard bad things from our japanese neighbours, 2nd we didn't like the look/vibe of it.

3rd was highly recommended and provided some good services and we were happy there.

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Agree with Kirakira - surprise, surprise. One of the reasons we don't have kids yet is because I don't like the lack of options in Japan. The horror stories I have heard - and seen from both foreigners and Japanese. Cutting women with no painkillers when they don't need to be cut, nurses being mean and rough with regards to breastfeeding, lack of privacy, not being able to have the baby stay in the room with you, telling husband they can't stay with their wives for the birth...

As Kira said, this is supposed to be a developed nation so why would women from another developed nation think things would be as different (and old in terms of thinking) than home? I have a Japanese friend who refused to move back to Japan to give birth - they were in Belgium. Her opinion? No way am I going back there to be treated so horribly when I can stay here and have a nice birth.

With regards to lack of pain killers, there is a Japanese wives tale - "The more pain a women in is while giving birth, the better the bond with the baby and the better mother she will be". I have heard this from men AND women. Reality is though, if Japanese men were the ones giving birth, you better believe they would have pain killers as an option at ALL hospitals.

It reminds me of how it took 6 months to get Viagra approved and 20 some years to get the pill in...

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You know it's funny, Japanese women are scared of giving birth overseas for the same reasons. It's a fact that Japan has the lowest rate of death at birth so it's obviously safe to give birth in Japan. Whether or not taking painkillers is a good idea is another story.

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kirakira25, if, by the same level of care means no pains, plenty of options to choose from and going home after an overnight labour, it's not in Japan's culture.

Like this woman in the article, some private practices may have whatever option, but for the mass(who are still in favor of big hospitals so they can be taken care of when there are complications), giving birth is not a disease so pain is nothing you can't overcome. That's the basic thinking.

Do you know what the old ladies used to say in Japan? You are not a fully grown women until you have experienced the pain of labour. Some people still believe it.

BS, isn't it?

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Imo many foreign women come here and expect the same level or treatment and care and when they found out it isn't (often during labour) they start complaining.

This is why my first advice is to go to your country of birth etc to have your baby, where if possible, you can have choices without being judged as being weak. Afterall that is the country for which your baby will most likely have citezenship anyway. I have never understood why, in Japan, having a little comfort if you want it is a sign of weakness. Nothing is wrong with having CHOICES, and nothing is wrong with needing pain killers and asking for them. No wonder the expressions on the faces of most new moms here are rather unpleasant.

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Imo many foreign women come here and expect the same level or treatment and care and when they found out it isn't (often during labour) they start complaining.

Japan claims to be a first world developed country with a top notch medical system - so why is it unreasonable to expect the same level of care that you would at home?

In my opinion, the care I received in Japan was actually far BETTER than I would have received in the UK - but I don`t think it is unreasonable to expect similar levels of care. This is not the third world.

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No, Zenny 11 -birth isn't something that happens suddenly...but tw weeks before due date arbitrarily deciding on a c-section IS sudden. This was NOT communicated to me in the other 8-9 months I had been to the clinic. Also, have you tried to find a care provider that offers what you want? If you don't live in tokyo....good luck.

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I understand you but birth is not something that happens suddenly. There is a time to find a care-provider that gives you the options and choices you are after.

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Imo many foreign women come here and expect the same level or treatment and care and when they found out it isn't (often during labour) they start complaining.

Education and asking can help prevent a lot of problems and discomforts.

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sorry - argument.

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I also don't see the need for them to be offered unless requested or really needed. To take the option completely off the table however is a bit totalitarian. I applaude you Cleo for being able to endure labour without pharaceuticals. I was not given even the choice - got scheduled for a c-section and wasn't even allowed to 'try' the standard way first. Also, for my c-section I was under the impression that I would be awake and able to hold my baby like in my home country...wrong. Like when my mother gave birth to me 32 yrs ago I was put to sleep and baby given to hubby and grandma outside. (Hubby was not allowed in or to watch). At the time everything happened so fast and I was not able to get a second opinion. I would now. That's the crux of my aregument. Choice. You need it? Fine, don't? Fine too. Let women have the choice. Different strokes people.

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I would also add that an estimated 15% of women in Japan suffer from some form of post-traumatic stress from the pain of childbirth (quote from a famous Japanese English-speaking Obstetrician based on research done in Tokyo). I am with Cleo - meds ARE sometimes appropriate depending on the circumstances.

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Oh boy - didn`t wanna get started on thsi one - but I will!

First of all - sorry boys but you have NO idea what labour pain feels like so anyone describing meds as "pampering" is pretty laughable!

Secondly, I would say that many WOMEN cant comment either, because in all honesty everybodys labour is different and everybodys reaction to pain is different. What one person may be able to endure, another may not and it doesnt in any way shape or form make them weaker - the circumstances around every birth are unique.

I think the main issue here is NOT a lack of pain relief as such, just a lack of options. Having given birth 3 times here without any pain relief, my biggest fear was that, if it all became too much - where do you go from there? It was not that I wanted the meds, just the option if necessary.

Saying oriental women endure pain better is laughable - they just dont complain so much, thats all!

Giving birth here is so much more than just physical - the emotional and mental trauma or lack of can be intense. Fear is a crippling thing, and especially with your first, but even with subsequent deliveries fear of the unknown is the worst. You can also feel incredibly out of control of the situation here. The doctors will often just take over and do whatever they feel is best in your situation while you have to just succumb to whatever they think needs to be done - sometimes against your wishes or without your consultation.

So I think that ANYTHING that gives women some sense of control over their situation, be it hypnobirth or anything else, and make them feel like they have options for dealing with the pain and the fear, can only be a good thing.

Lamaze I personally found completely useless in delivery, but great for when mother in law came up to "help" in the early days!

I would also add I have met Brett Iimura and she is FAB - I would recommend her to anyone.

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I am with cleo.

All for drugs when truly needed and appropriate.

Birth in japan is NOT covered by medical aid, granted you get a reimbursement from the goverment but that only covers basic procedure and medication. If there are complications you are covered by medical though.

Reason for that is that birth is considered a procedure by option and not by necessity, complications during labour make it a medical necessity hence covered.

Granted you can opt for a more expensive delivery-method/hospital but you will need to cover everything above the goverment money.

Nature designed women to give birth and made them capable of dealing with it and the associated pain.

Just my view.

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I really don't see the need in a normally healthy woman going through a normal labour for there to be pain-killing drugs offered on a regular basis. In exceptional circumstances, by all means...but drugging a woman up just as she is about to perform the most strenuous task of hard labour she will probably ever perform, just seems wrong. As others have pointed out, there is always a risk when drugs are administered; they should be used when needed, not in order to make childbirth 'akin to a day at the spa'.

If you can't put up with a few hours' discomfort for the sake of your child, you're never gonna survive the next 18 years.

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Yet we wonder about the low rate of childbirth in this country. My friend is about to give birth here, early out she asked about the epidurals, she was told by her doctor that she won't be allowed to take the drugs, because the painful way is the correct way. Whether or not this is true, whatever happened to choices???

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Not saying you are wrong, but there is scientific evidence that C-section triggers a different hormonal/emotional level than actual labour.

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Forget the good luck chants or parlor tricks, stick with the tried and true drugs in the epidural.

I had a long chat with the Japanese doctor and nurses before the birth of my child and the reason the Japanese don't want to automatically give drugs or an epidural is simple, it's risky. Not only is administering an epidural difficult and risky (you're messing with the spinal cord), but there are also risks in terms of post-operative infection and your spinal cord is the very last place you want an infection because nerve infections like triphasic neuralgia make childbirth seem like a day at the park, plus it lasts much longer.

Other drugs also carry risks, the most common being that if the medical staff estimate the duration of labour incorrectly then they can administer it too early resulting in a sudden burst of pain at the most painful part of the experience, or too late which can result in the anaesthesia reaching its peak when the mother is exhausted and resulting in her passing out or losing the ability or motivation to push.

These are only the life-threatening complications, and there are a host of other less severe, but still uncomfortable complications that regularly occur. About 1 in 10 000 epidurals result in long-term disability or death.

Simply put the Japanese doctors think it's not a necessary risk, and I'm inclined to agree with them. I have kidney stones (comparable pain levels to childbirth, except childbirth is over in 8 or 9 hours, but kidney stones can take days to months to pass) and again the Japanese doctors generally don't give me any painkillers for much the same reasons, they complicate things and introduce unnecessary risks.

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Wow Zenny11 - that was one of the most inconsiderate posts yet. My daughter was born via c-section and trust me, there was plenty of hormonal/emotional changes. Are you a woman? NO. If men gave birth, there would be no such thing as OPTIONAL pain relief - giving birth would be akin to a day at the spa. Sorry - that was a bit bitter, but suggesting that some form of pain relief is pampering is just ignorant. As to why a woman would endure it for the 2nd, 3rd time? She loves her children. Wants more. Can deal with the pain. End of story.

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I am divided, never wanted to be at the birth of my son. As paremedics friends said it is the most disgusting thing they ever watched.

As for pain-relief, yes many japanes hospitals don't do it. My wife had a pretty harsh birth(son was big and heavy) she never asked for pain-killers while the lady next to her was screaming for them during early labour.

IMO, the pain is needed as an in dicator to the body and yes the human body don't remember the pain in detail(ditto for injuries).

From what I researched the pain does trigger hormonal and emotinal changes that don't happen lets say during a cesarean. And with woiemn having birth for how many millenia sans pain-killers are they truly needed or just pampering to some.

Not saying giving birth is fun but if it was truly that horrific/painful why would a woman endure it for the 2nd, 3rd, etc time.

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i was not allowed to be present in the delivery room in 2005, so i don't see much grounds for: "the days of fathers being barred from the delivery room are (nearly) over". it was a big, famous, university hospital as well.

oh and the absolute favourite for the quote of the century was when the doc told my wife (a lady doctor) that they do not give pain relievers or anesthesia because "oriental women are good at enduring pain". i so wished to inflict some on her right then and there but...

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as maternity wards tend to fill up fast.

That is too modest. Most of the women in populated areas in Japan almost have no options at all. If you wait around until you are three months pregnant, they'll say "Sorry, we are fully booked please find another hospital"!! Besides, the basic cost is like JPY350,000.-, but if you choose to have labour without pain, you will need a lot more than that.

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Forget the good luck chants or parlor tricks, stick with the tried and true drugs in the epidural.

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I used Lamarze for both my kids. It was darned hard work and I was exhausted at the end of it (there's a reason they call it 'labour'), but there was no real pain - none that remains in the memory, at least. I wouldn't want 'pain relief' if it involved drugs.

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bah.. if the doctors would actually give women pain relief in Japan there would be no need for hypnotizing and that.. Instead of just a helpful "gambarre!"

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I got up on stage during a hypnotist act and was one of the volunteers. I didn't recall it, but fortunately, my friends purchased the video of the act.

I was hypnotized into believing I was a hen laying an egg and my muscles "down there" hurt the next day.

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It really hurt me watching my wife have our kid.

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