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10 tips on giving birth in Japan

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Even though not all of us have had the experience of (or indeed, possess the required biology for) bringing another human into this world, it is easy to imagine that this is one of the most exciting (look at these cute baby boots!), amazing (this is my child O_o ), uncomfortable (I’m beached >.< ) and terrifying (I have to push a human out of where?! ) events that anyone can go through. Giving birth in a foreign country takes that experience to a whole new level.

This commentary was brought to you by my incredibly brave friend who went through all that follows, told me about it over multiple iced teas, tolerated me spitting out said iced tea as I rolled around on the floor with laughter and then ultimately, turning her hard earned experiences into a post to allow others to do that same (and hopefully provide some information along the way).

With that, we present: 10 facts about giving birth in Japan.

(1) The 10-Month Pregnancy

Your pregnancy will be a tidy 10 months, not nine. This actually isn’t due to Japanese women crossing their legs to ensure they hit the required perfect figure, but because the months are counted as exactly 28 days. Since actual months vary from 28 to 31 days, nine calendar months is equal to ten 28 day months.

In agreement with the overall tidiness off the country, this means there is no debate over when each pregnancy trimester begins. The first trimester ("ninshin shoki") lasts for the first four months, the second trimester ("ninshin chuuki") runs from month five to month seven and the third trimester ("ninshin koki") is the eighth to the tenth. The only immediate catch to this is that it is difficult to answer the demanding questions of your mother-in-law as to how far along you are by looking at the date on your computer.

(2) Baby On Board

Moving on with the theme of order, newly expectant mothers in Japan are issued with a maternal and child health handbook. This information pack explains (in Japanese) the pre-natal checkups and classes you can attend. You also get a cute badge to display that will hopefully ensure you are offered a seat on a packed subway car before it reaches the stage where it is obvious someone either moves, or you’re giving birth on their foot. The pre-natal checkups begin as early as five weeks, with about one ultrasound a month after a heartbeat has been confirmed. After the six month mark, this increases to one ultrasound every two weeks. Parenting classes run from around the beginning of the third trimester (month eight in your tidy ten month planner) and cover pregnancy exercise and nutrition, labor, delivery, breast feeding and infant care.

(3) Dealing With The Language Barrier

Which brings us to the next obvious question: what do you do if you don’t speak Japanese? While not impossible to find a doctor who speaks English, it is more typical to find that medical specialists are reluctant to operate entirely without Japanese. Within the wider sphere of health care personal, there is almost no support for non-Japanese speakers. In my friend’s case, her husband was bilingual and able to act as translator for most of the time. However, there were occasions when work commitments prevented him from joining his wife for the events she had to attend. At these times, my friend called upon a free translator service in the city, where volunteers would accompany foreigners at times when they needed help with language. This proved to be an invaluable asset, with the volunteers being both friendly and having fluent English.

The availability of a doctor who speaks your language may be one reason to select a particular hospital to monitor your pregnancy. However, there are other reason to select your hospital carefully, one of which is…

(4) Pain Relief

… not all hospitals offer epidurals or other types of pain-relieving drugs. Either through teeth-gritting bravery or a feeling that intense and prolonged pain takes you closer to the divine (when more likely you will wish you were headed in that direction), pain relief during labor is rarely offered in Japanese hospitals. Therefore, should you feel that a completely natural birth involves too much screaming, a little planning and research is required.

Hospitals that do offer epidurals require you to announce your desire in advance and likely need to have you on a fixed schedule, meaning that your labor must be induced. Since babies are not known for their time keeping skills, my friend inquired what would happen if she went into a natural labor before her inducement date.

That would be fine –she was assured– if the labor was early she could still have an epidural… providing it was on a working day between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

With an anaesthetist not being on call, epidurals could not be offered outside working hours. When my friend expressed anxiety at this rather limited schedule, her male doctor tried to reassure her that a natural birth would not be that painful. There are perhaps times for such advice, but I was assured month eight is not one of them.

(5) The Disembodied Doctor

“How many people were in the examination room with you?” I asked my friend after her first routine examination.

“One,” she replied. “Probably.”

Probably? During this rather personal investigation, it is normal for a curtain to be drawn around the expectant mother’s abdomen which obscures her view of anything below that area, including the doctor himself. This actually reminded me of a trip to a salon, where a paper towel is often placed over the customer’s face while the hair is washed. I was fortunate enough to have a hair dresser who had previously worked abroad to explain this to me in advance, else I might have felt slightly insulted that my features needed to be covered!

In both the case of the salon and the medical examination, this step is done for the comfort of the patient. In both the case of the salon and the medical examination, it can be rather disconcerting if you’re not expecting it.

“I only spoke with the doctor,” my friend described. “But there could have been a whole crowd of people there!”

(6) Old Wives Tales

As the third trimester rolls in, parenting classes begin. As well as the information listed in point (2), these groups are a chance to meet other expectant mothers who are likely to share some of your doubts and concerns. Most of the information given is firmly established advice but in a few cases, the particulars point towards local hearsay:

Ankles –my friend was firmly told– must be kept warm. If it is cold outside, or you are in an air-conditioned room, then you must wear socks to cover your ankles. Cold ankles lead to a difficult labor.

(7) The Vending Machine Of Forbidden Fruit

With the due date now looming only a few months away (although hopefully within work hours), my friend was given the opportunity to visit the maternity ward where she would actually be giving birth. The tour began in the hallway where two vending machines stood side by side. The one of the left sold juice while the one of the right dispensed coke.

“This vending machine you may use at any time,” the lady giving the tour said, pointing to the left-hand machine. “This one…,” she indicated the machine on the right, “You must not use.”

No coke products for new mothers, even though there was a machine right there. If the Biblical sin of Eve partaking of the forbidden fruit truly led to pain in childbirth, then the hospital was offering a modern day re-enactment of Eve’s choice to all new mothers.

(8) Please Bring Your Own Towels

The maternity hospital is solely focused on the medical well-being of the mother and her new child, leaving all other services to be provided by the mother herself. This extends to towels, cups, almost all toiletries and sometimes even bedding.

Expectant mothers coming into the hospital must bring all of the above along with a straw, fruit knife, cup, towels and a baby wipe container (although not the wipes themselves). Hospital pajamas may be rented for 70 yen per day, so long as you wash them yourself in the available machines.

I confess a hospital not always providing sheets was a particular surprise, since I would have thought it would be preferable to ensure all the beds were squeaky clean. Even with laundry hassles aside, sleeping on institutionally regularly changed sheets after a physical ordeal would have my vote for both comfort and hygiene.

Each bed in the four women rooms has its own console containing a small fridge and a TV screen. Both of these can be used via a card purchased from the hospital. Headphones – unsurprisingly – must be brought from home.

(9) Protecting The Innocents

Like many women, my friend was keen for her husband to be in the delivery room alongside her. Apart from the added language translation provision, he also wished to see the arrival of his first child and probably deserved to share a healthy portion of the suffering. The presence of the father is perfectly acceptable for the maternity hospital. He attends a class describing what he must do and then is free to join his wife by her head.

Her head and not any lower.

The opinion in Japan is that if the father moves away from his wife’s top side and sees the actual birth, he might be scared. My friend thought little of this view, either believing that her husband could handle the experience or that he deserved to be traumatised given what she is going through.

On a similar note, the new mother is advised not to scream during labor for the baby’s comfort. It’s hard to have a strong opinion on this subject, since I don’t recall my own birth. However, my gut feeling is I probably had other things on my mind than my mother’s distant vocalizations of pain. If I didn’t …. well, it wouldn’t be the first time I would make her cry out.

(10) Baby Bonding Time

Assuming the birth goes smoothly, the new mother stays in the maternity hospital washing her pajamas for five days. If a cesarean is performed, this can be extended for up to two weeks. Visiting hours start at 1 pm to 8 pm daily and include not only doting extended family members, but also the father. Limiting the time the father spends with his new family was also a little surprising, although it may prove that seven hours a day is more than enough for everyone involved.

When he visits the father does have one other restriction placed on him: he is not allowed to retrieve his new son or daughter from the nursery himself. While this might stem from security concerns, I prefer to think that that if the father isn’t trusted to watch the birth, no one is prepared to hand him an infant.

In every way that is truly important, my friend’s experience in Japan has been positive. The quality of the care and the support offered through the hospital and classes has been excellent. Yet as with all cultural adventures, the road is littered with surprises. Perhaps this can be considered excellent preparation for the road to come.

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.


72 Comments
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This sounds, to be honest, quite awful.

Good article - very informative. I know that posters will be along with corrections and alternative information about what you can get if you shop around, but this is an eye-opener. My cervix, however, is firmly clamped shut after reading this.

-4 ( +5 / -9 )

Japan has either the lowest or the third lowest infant mortality rate in the world, depending on how you count. Sweden and Singapore right up there.

All three are twice as low as the US and the UK, Australia and Germany.

So, I guess their crazy Japanese ways, taken as a whole, are good for your open cervix,

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Japan has either the lowest or the third lowest infant mortality rate in the world, depending on how you count. Sweden and Singapore right up there.

Japan also has an extremely low birth rate, to the point of it becoming a demographic crisis.

And there's no way I'm ever putting my precious body through that!

-4 ( +6 / -10 )

No one is asking you to.

I wonder, do you speak Japanese?

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

Not a bad article, but a lot of generalizations, some omissions and some errors, and with all due respect to the author, I dislike second-hand information. Was there no-one willing to write this article who had actually had a child?

As for the quibbles, let's take the section by section: Section 2 - The parenting information is available in English from many city halls now. My city hall has it available in about 7 languages, including Russian, Thai, Chinese, Portuguese, Korean, English and Japanese. Oh, and if you drive the "baby on board" sticker is also available for cars and entitles you to use the "disabled" parking.

Section 3 - Even if you can find a Japanese doctor who speaks English I would advise caution since their English might be very good... or it might have stalled at high-school level. Mistranslations, particularly when you're under stress (e.g. the whole pregnancy and first year of your child's life), are not welcome.

Also, don't assume that your doctor's second language is English. Many of the older doctors studied medicine in German (all the textbooks, machine manuals, etc were in German for a while in Japan).

Learn some Japanese at least. Even if it is just so you can swear at the doctor during the delivery.

Section 4 - Pain relief is NOT an option in most hospitals. The reason for this is not, as the author implies, the unwillingness of anesthesiologists to work overtime, but rather medical and legal. Before spinal anesthesia (such as an epidural) they normally require 24 hours of observation to ensure you don't have a fever or any other illness. Full-body anesthesia typically requires a 48 hour observation period. This is good medical practice, but also helps reduce legal risks, and most prefectural hospitals will flatly refuse epidurals without an observation period.

... this doesn't mean they won't PROMISE an epidural... and then say there's been a problem or the anesthesiologist was delayed, or was eaten by a bear, or some other excuse. They will flat-out lie in order to get you to wait until active labor starts and its too late to do anything other than scream.

If it is any help the doctors are lying in your best interests. Epidurals are dangerous - a single slip and you're paralyzed for life and when you're experiencing full-body cramps at random intervals is NOT the best time to try and slip a needle into a target area about 2mm across knowing that even a slight movement can result in permanent injury.

There are some options most people don't know about though, for example they'll provide you with as much medical oxygen as you want, and that can really help during the late stages of active labor.

Section 5 - The screen thing isn't universal, and in my area of Japan they don't do it during labor. They do like the husband to stand up near the head, but that is mostly because there's at least one doctor and two nurses moving around and they don't want you in the way. Delivery rooms in Japan are pretty small.

Okay, that's all I have time for right now, but maybe next time it would be better to get someone who's actually been through the process to write the article, rather than someone who talked to their friend about what happens?

6 ( +10 / -4 )

maybe next time it would be better to get someone who's actually been through the process to write the article, rather than someone who talked to their friend about what happens?

In all fairness, the friend is probably kind of busy right now!

I have a question: you all know how in Japan, when the time comes, expectant mothers return to their hometowns or wherever their own mothers happen to be living, and are cared for in the family bosom for a couple of months. This is a really good custom. What do foreign mothers in Japan do?

5 ( +6 / -1 )

2) Doesn't matter, a sleeping or a pretending to sleep person is still not gonna let you sit in the train. 3) For our first, we went to a clinic in ikebukuro with an English speaking lady doctor, she was very nice. But ikebukuro was too far, so for the second we just picked a random hospital, language barrier yes a bit, but nothing you can't handle after 2 ~ 3 years of living in Japan. 4) The Japanese believe pain during delivery is a "good" pain. Every woman needs to feel it at least once to feel complete/alive. I might not share this idea, but no judgement passed. 7) The doctor was very strict about your diet, to control your weight and risk of miscarriage.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Article is very generalized. But, I've been through the process with 2 kids and the "care" factor may seem extreme to some, but it's comforting to know they put the health of the woman and baby paramount. Also, the nurses (technically midwives) do the delivering. The doctor is an observer in case of any problems. (Of course the doctor does C sections).

As well, having the families prepare all the towels and other accessories need for hospital stay is good training for everyone. Fathers realize all the things we need to do and prepare, and take an active role. To the foreign eye it looks really tiresome and banal, but the to-be parents have to realize that there are many things we have to do when the baby is coming. It's good.

Also, the post natal care and check-ups are excellent. Not like in the west where they send you home the next day sometimes! Japan rules!

My advice: learn Japanese and also try to accept their ways.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

It is really hard to generalise about maternity clinics and hospitals in Japan, there is just so much variation. Everything from the full-on hospital experience with epidurals (and there are plenty of hospitals where they are available, in Tokyo at least) and almost guaranteed episiotomy, to midwife clinics where you give birth on a futon in a tatami room (if not in a birth pool) and will have staples rather than stitches if you tear (since they absolutely don't do episiotomies).

I gave birth in a hospital and didn't have to take sheets, fruit knives etc, and was free to buy whatever I wanted from the vending machine. Only the nurses were allowed into the nursery to bring the baby out- this makes sense when you consider there are newborns in there and that letting lots of people who may or may not have colds, the flu etc go in there may not be a good idea.

The advice against yelling too much during labour is given in other countries too, it's to stop you wasting your energy screaming when you need it to push.

I really dislike when people assume that their experience (or in this case, their friend's experience) is "how it is" in Japan, or say something like "The Japanese believe..." One hospital isn't the same as others here in many ways, and one midwife's opinion doesn't represent the opinion of every single midwife in Japan. Some things you can generalise about to some extent- many doctors are ridiculously strict about weight gain, but mine never said a word. Epidurals are not as common here, but they are certainly available.

I could go on, but it's too complicated a topic. All I can say really to someone who wants to give birth here is shop around, there are lots of options, including a fair number of English speaking doctors in midwives in Tokyo. Don't assume that one person's experience in universal- it absolutely isn't.

As someone mentioned above the maternal and newborn mortality rate here is very low, and the standard of care here is usually very high. Breastfeeding rates are also fare better than most other developed countries.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

What, no mention of mothers being put on diets for gaining more than 7-9kg?? No mention of the bully doctors, the unneeded snipping that is done here? I have heard some great stories but for the most part, it seems Japan is rather shocking when it comes to having kids - as told by Japanese and foreigners. Very little say in what they get to do with regards to hospitals. Clinics I have heard are better - but of course, cost more. Should also add that having a kid isn't covered by the standard health insurance. Go figure. A country who needs kids and all.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

@tmarie: as I've mentioned elsewhere, if Japan is such a great country to have kids, then why is the birthrate so low? No one has been able to answer to my question satisfactorily.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

Should also add that having a kid isn't covered by the standard health insurance

What? Health insurance gives you 420,000 yen, which is enough to cover giving birth in most hospitals in Tokyo unless you go to Red Cross or St. Luke's or somewhere crazy expensive. The hospital my wife used had all private rooms and we ordered a couple of extra meals for visiting guests, but we paid around 500,000 yen total. I should add, the government gives you 10 free ultrasound coupons you can use. Without them you'd pay 10,000 yen per visit. Also, in most wards of Tokyo, hospital visits are free for kids and vaccinations are free as well.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I should add, the government gives you 10 free ultrasound coupons you can use.

Ten ultrasounds in one pregnancy? Is that common nowadays? I thought it had been linked to brain damage, or something. Wow, I really need to get with the times.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Just had my 2nd kid 2 weeks ago. Private clinic with a private room. After the govt. money we paid 23,000yen total for everything with a 4 night stay with excellent food. We did have bring towels, but that kind of thing is pretty standard for all kinds of hospital stays in Japan.

No epidural, but my wife got a pain medicine injection towards the end when it got bad, she did suck down a lot of oxygen too.

Not sure how it is/could be better in other countries, but I am a dude, so what do I know?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Health insurance gives you 420,000 yen, which is enough to cover giving birth in most hospitals in Tokyo unless you go to Red Cross or St. Luke's or somewhere crazy expensive.

Earth to folks, not everyone lives in Tokyo. And the fact that you get a set amount of money for it actually proves that it is NOT covered by regular health insurance. Some make money off it while other end up forking out a lot of cash - more so if you want an epideral.

Tessa, no kidding eh? I am sure someone will be on here soon enough to tell us how wonderful it all is and how we should quit our jobs to stay home with the wee one...

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

This article and the comments have too many wrong information or misunderstood assumptions.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

True, both the article and SOME of the comments contain wrong information and misinterpretations of the reasons for some requirements and rules. Truth is though that while each hospital/specialized clinic provides different level of services apart from the strictly medical care (like offering of towels, bed sheets, etc.) the level of the medical care for expectant mothers and delivery is excellent. Postnatal care is very good, too, but I guess there is always something which may not satisfy some people.

I agree with jforce's advice: learn Japanese and try to accept their ways. You will not regret it.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This sounds, to be honest, quite awful.

It certainly does, and it does not match my own experiences (twice)

pain relief during labor is rarely offered in Japanese hospitals.

Drugs aren't the only or the best form of pain relief during childbirth. Try Lamarze, you practice on your own at home (or in a class) and during labour and the birth the nurses will help guide you through the breathing. No need for epidurals, no screaming, no drugged newborn.

all other services to be provided by the mother herself. This extends to towels, cups, almost all toiletries and sometimes even bedding. Expectant mothers coming into the hospital must bring all of the above along with a straw, fruit knife, cup, towels and a baby wipe container (although not the wipes themselves).

Nope, the hospital provided everything but suggested the mother would be more comfortable with her own nightie and toiletries.

in the four women rooms

Depends on the hospital and on the ward in the same hospital. My daughter for both her births had a single room; I was in a two-bed room when I had her, and a six-bed room when I had her brother. The six-bed was by more the most enjoyable. In all cases there was no charge for use of the fridge or the TV.

Her head and not any lower. The opinion in Japan is that if the father moves away from his wife’s top side and sees the actual birth, he might be scared.

Plus he would be in the way? His place is up at the top holding his wife's hand and wiping her brow. He'll see enough of junior later.

the new mother is advised not to scream during labor

No one ever advised me not to scream. Didn't feel the need, but if someone had suggested I might want to scream I might not have been quite so confident going into labour.

When he visits the father does have one other restriction placed on him: he is not allowed to retrieve his new son or daughter from the nursery himself.

Duh. You want men wandering in off the street wafting their germs all over a roomful of newborns? In the hospital my daughter was born in, mothers weren't allowed in the baby room; when my son was born, mothers had to make sure they had showered that day and sanitised their hands and arms before they were let in to feed baby.

Health insurance gives you 420,000 yen, which is enough to cover giving birth in most hospitals in Tokyo unless you go to Red Cross or St. Luke's or somewhere crazy expensive.

I didn't find St. Luke's any more expensive than anywhere else (my doctor referred me there because back in them days it was one of the very few hospitals that allowed husbands in the delivery room), and for tea time they served the most wonderful ice cream I have ever tasted.

the fact that you get a set amount of money for it actually proves that it is NOT covered by regular health insurance.

Why would it need to be 'proven'? It's a well-known fact. Pregnancy is not an illness, it's a self-inflicted condition.

I am sure someone will be on here soon enough to tell us how wonderful it all is

Consider it said. :-)

2 ( +6 / -4 )

We used a small private clinic for both our children. The service was absolutely impeccable, with everything included (towels, bedding, meals for both of us when I attended the birth). Additionally they requested the presence of the father during the doctor visits (yes, including entering the check room and seeing the funny chair rotate and lean back), and during the labour and birth. There were with no restrictions on the "view", including photography, for which my wife had to give her consent first. She was requesting full pictures of the childbirth, and I, and the medical staff were was happy to oblige:). It was an absolutely amazing experience, but I could see why some men might get scared. Luckily I have no such issues. Imagine passing a bowling ball (or a watermelon) if you want a more graphical image. The cost was not terribly expensive, and most of it was supported by the prefecture anyway.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

 And there's no way I'm ever putting my precious body through that!

  I doubt it's all that anyway.But doing some exercise after having wouldn't go amiss.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

@Frungy : If you give me an e-mail address I can tell you first hand..

@Tessa

What do foreign mothers in Japan do?

Grin and bear it... Actually, mother-in-law didn't live that far away and either came to babysit or when I went to work, I dropped the babies off at her place.

There is a very valid reason our second son was born in France...

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I delivered my last baby in my living room in the birthing pool. I caught the baby myself. My friend and client just had her husband deliver her baby as the midwives couldn't make it in time...baby came too fast! More exciting this way.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@cracaphat: <And there's no way I'm ever putting my precious body through that! I doubt it's all that anyway.But doing some exercise after having wouldn't go amiss.

Offensive and irrelevant to the topic. Watch your tone and don't post if you only have stupid things to say.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

FightingVikingOct. 04, 2013 - 06:56PM JST @Frungy : If you give me an e-mail address I can tell you first hand..

Tell me what first hand? The only question I asked was why JT couldn't get an article written by someone who had a clue rather than a second-hand piece. The question is rhetorical, since clearly there are dozens of mothers who are posting in the comments section who could have written as good a piece without it being second hand information.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

My wife was booked into her Tokyo hospital to give birth on a certain date.

Our baby decided he wanted a lie in, so they tried to induce labour artificially (it was a Friday, and the maternity doctors didn't work at the weekend.)

This only partly worked, and our baby got himself into an uncomfortable position requiring an emergency caesarian (c-section) to rectify.

Had I known that it was the Japanese practice to induce labour even if the baby is only one day overdue I would have suggested having in the birth in the UK.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

My wife didn't use pain medication both times she gave birth in japan.. it was insane

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Everyone one I know who has given birth in Japan has had healthy, happy babies. Every single one.

The data supports my anecdotal experience. Japan has either the lowest or the one of three lowest infant mortality rates in the world. It also has the second lowest death in child-birth rates, and the 4th lowest 'child birth' complication rate.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Thanks for the non-vote of confidence ! Had any one of the ladies gone through what I did, they may have thought differently... To each his/her own experience... (Just a note : it's quite surprising that both my first son and I are both still alive...)

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Had I known that it was the Japanese practice to induce labour even if the baby is only one day overdue I would have suggested having in the birth in the UK.

It is not 'Japanese practice' to induce labour if the baby is a bit overdue. My daughter was 9 days overdue, my son 7 days. I was told to expect an induced labour if either of them hit the 2-week mark. One of the births was on a Saturday, and there was no suggestion of a doctor not being on hand. Maybe alarm bells should have started ringing when your wife was 'booked in' to give birth on a particular day. Unborn babies don't know all that much about calendars.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Why would it need to be 'proven'? It's a well-known fact. Pregnancy is not an illness, it's a self-inflicted condition.

indeed, it isn't an illness and a "self inflicted" condition but so are many other things that are covered by health care. You'd think Japan might like to make it, say, free for everything so more people would have kids?

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

You'd think Japan might like to make it, say, free for everything so more people would have kids?

Doesn't the ¥420,000 payment essentially make it free?

And do you really think the kind of people who would decide to have a baby 'because it's free' are the kind of people we want raising the next generation?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Lots of generalisations, and I agree - everywhere is different. So nobody is necessarily "wrong" in what they are saying here. Except two points I must coment on:

Frungy: oxygen did shag-all in the active stages of labour. Mask made a very handy projectile though. Would have been more effective if it hadnt been attached to the wall though.

And Cleo: with all due respect, from one veteran to another, in my humble opinion, Lamaze can shove it up his ***! ;)

6 ( +8 / -2 )

tmarie.

You lost the argument when bicultural refuted your statment that "having a kid isn't covered by the standard health insurance". The said allowance that the national health insurance covers this is common knowledge among the population including foreign nationals residing here but it never ceases to amaze me that there are some who are utterly clueless yet keep on posting further digging their own grave.

And another one.

"Earth to folks, not everyone lives in Tokyo"

Earth to tmarie. Tokyo has the highest average cost for prenatal care and birth. For rural areas such as Oita, the average is 417,000 yen which based on the national allowance, many giving birth there is actually "free".

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Doesn't the ¥420,000 payment essentially make it free?

Not for everyone, no.

Nigel, I lost no argument. It is an allowance, not the same thing.

That sum means a"free" birth in some areas IF you don't want a few different things and go with the basics. Want say, a pain killing epidural? Not free. Water birth? Not free. Aroma therapy? Not free. Acupuncture? Not free. Not everyone feels comfortable doing the bare minimum and would like an option for pain control - not epidural - but guess what, pay for that yourself. Funny, others can use and abuse the system for a minimum amount. Future moms? Nah. I know a couple who just spent about 100,000 out of pocket on the birth of their son. And gee, the cheapest is 3000 yen less than the payment. Imagine wanting something to help make things a little nicer for producing a future tax payer.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Nigel, I lost no argument. It is an allowance, not the same thing.

Which is "COVERED" by national health insurance. You lost.

And your suggestion that it should be "free" all across the board is also ridiculous for the simply reason that not all healthcare facilities are created equal in terms of staffing, equipment, and services. This is obvious since why should the government pay the entire 2,000,000 yen cost at Sanno hospital in Tokyo to one mother while another mother has to give birth to a much lower cost city run hospital?

Not free. Water birth? Not free. Aroma therapy? Not free. Acupuncture? Not free

A poor attempt at deflection. Nobody's biting, tmarie.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Want say, a pain killing epidural? Not free. Water birth? Not free. Aroma therapy? Not free. Acupuncture? Not free. Not everyone feels comfortable doing the bare minimum and would like an option for pain control - not epidural - but guess what, pay for that yourself.

If you break your leg, the hospital will set the bone, sort out any splinters & damaged arteries/muscle etc., and put the whole thing in a cast, for the basic 30%. If you want the cast painted in psychedelic colours and bedecked with ribbons, you pay for that yourself. Sounds reasonable enough to me. If you have a normal healthy childbirth, it's covered by the childbirth allowance. If you want the bells ands whistles, it comes out of your own pocket. Still sounding reasonable. Medical interventions (caesarian section, blood transfusion in the case of excessive blood loss, etc) are covered by the insurance.

When you go to hospital for treatment, they give you what you need, not what you want. Water births, aroma therapy and acupuncture are not necessary, though they might be nice if you're that way inclined. I don't think my insurance premiums should cover that kind of optional extra. If pain relief is considered by the medical staff to be necessary during labour or childbirth, it will be given and, as a medical necessity, it will be covered by the health insurance.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

We had our kids with the help of mid wives. Fantastic experiences. Father was there, birth in a pool at a midwife house and one in the bath at home. No epidurals, just warm water and breathing. This article, although accurate for some, isn't the whole story of childbirth in Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

ChibaChickOct. 04, 2013 - 11:38PM JST Lots of generalisations, and I agree - everywhere is different. So nobody is necessarily "wrong" in what they are saying here.

With all due respect ChibaChick, you're making an illogical leap there. Yes, everyone if different and situations vary from place to place, however this DOES NOT mean that "nobody is necessarily wrong". If someone claims that you are levitated by pixies during childbirth who take away all your pain and make you sing like Snow White... they're wrong... and in serious need of medication.

This is something of a pet peeve of mine, the idea that opinion carries equal weight as fact. It doesn't, yet a whole generation in the U.S. seem to believe it does.

Except two points I must coment on: Frungy: oxygen did shag-all in the active stages of labour. Mask made a very handy projectile though. Would have been more effective if it hadnt been attached to the wall though.

Excellent! So at least you found a use for the mask ;) . Swearing, throwing things, threatening death and destruction at a later date... well, we all have different ways of dealing with pain. The oxygen helps a lot of people though.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Excellent! So at least you found a use for the mask ;)

This reminds me of a funny story my student told me. When she was arrangind the details of delivery of her first child, way back in the 80's, she was offered the option of this new-fangled "pain relieving gas". It cost an extra 10,000 yen (not an inconsiderable sum in those days) and was not covered by insurance, but she was nervous, so she chose it.

The "gas" turned out to be exactly one breath from the mask just as her baby's head was emerging. One breath, no more. She still had to pay for it!

And despite Japan supposedly being this wonderful paradise when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth (low mortality rates, virtually free medical care) no-one seems able to answer my question: why is the national birthrate so low, and plummeting even lower as we speak?

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

despite Japan supposedly being this wonderful paradise when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth (low mortality rates, virtually free medical care) no-one seems able to answer my question: why is the national birthrate so low, and plummeting even lower as we speak?

Because the birth isn't the end, it's the beginning; raising a child is expensive.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

chibachick, you are wrong. Oxygen might not reduce your level of pain, but it certainly helps the baby. We had the "baby monitoring belt" on and I was able to see the contractions on a graph and also hear the heartbeat of the baby. When the mother stops breathing, the baby's heart slows down, sometimes stops. Breathing in that oxygen is vital for the baby.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

(Is is just me, or do some of you ladies on board privately wish the men would stop chiming in on their "experiences" of childbirth, as though they were the ones who did all the work? C'mon, I know you're thinking it!)

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

(Is is just me, or do some of you ladies on board privately wish the men would stop chiming in on their "experiences" of childbirth, as though they were the ones who did all the work? C'mon, I know you're thinking it!)

Not just the men, Tessa - ladies wot ain't dun it know no more than the men who are nevva gonna do it!

2 ( +5 / -3 )

cleoOct. 05, 2013 - 07:45PM JST Not just the men, Tessa - ladies wot ain't dun it know no more than the men who are nevva gonna do it!

I object! The men have at least witnessed the procedure first hand, and believe it or not, but the men also quietly take care of a MASS of irritating Japanese paperwork while their lady-love is recovering in hospital, and most Japanese companies don't really give paternity leave.. oh its a law and everything, but asking to take it will be met with muttering and "Congratulations on the birth and all, but .... a day off? ... WHAT?! 5 days off?!?!?!" .

So, yes, we haven't pushed a watermelon out of our ... ahem, but people who have never even been near a delivery room are far less qualified to comment, not "know no more".

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Frungy - I stand humbly corrected. ;)

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Tessa, Cleo, witnessing a natural childbirth for the first time can be a very traumatic experience for anyone. The lucky thing with actually giving birth is that the ladies usually can't see themselves doing it, you would be traumatized by your own look, trust me. Nobody here said men do all the work, not anyone denied the actual effort and stamina spent by the ladies...

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Ebisen, Frungi, Cleo was replying to Tessa's comment so I guess you should rather respond to Tessa about your comments on this topic and your experience ;)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Riiiiight gentlemen. I'm sure it went down really well when you leaned over mid-contraction and whispered in her ear, "You think this is hard, think of all the paperwork I'll have to do tomorrow" and "you have any idea how disgusting this looks?"

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Tessa Oct. 06, 2013 - 03:24PM JST Riiiiight gentlemen. I'm sure it went down really well when you leaned over mid-contraction and whispered in her ear, "You think this is hard, think of all the paperwork I'll have to do tomorrow" and "you have any idea how disgusting this looks?"

Well actually, its more like "Honey, please let go of my hand for a second, I need to go over there and fill in some documentation REALLY fast so you can get admitted and have this baby".

But maybe you think your husband's contribution was meaningless Tessa, and you'd rather have your baby in the hospital parking lot than acknowledge that they're called your "life partner" because you're a TEAM. ... I pity your husband, because clearly you have no respect for him.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Tessa:

"you have any idea how disgusting this looks?"

I am really sorry for you if this it's all you can say right now. This might be difficult to imagine, and probably goes against your own experience, but not all men are pigs.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Painkillers is "bells and whistles"? Really? Funny, I think if you break your lef, they give you pain killers yet they don't for birth. I have an issue with that.

And yes, free for all. Funny how countries like Canada manage it, eh?

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Geez, tmarie. You really are hard to please, aren't you? Do you ever NOT complain about anything?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Painkillers is "bells and whistles"? Really?

Do you bother to read to the end of a post before taking umbrage?

If pain relief is considered by the medical staff to be necessary during labour or childbirth, it will be given and, as a medical necessity, it will be covered by the health insurance.

If you need it, you'll get it. If you don't need it but still want it, you'll have to (1) find a doctor willing to dole out unnecessary and possibly harmful medication (you know, the ones folks on JT are always complaining about) and (2) pay for it out of your own pocket.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Cleo, if people are given painkillers for free here for other "self inflicted" injuries, I don't see why pushing a watermelon out of your whoha should be seen as anything different. Many women would like to have it but since it often isn't even offered, they suffer without - or don't have kids.

Kick, you'll have to excuse me for complaining about the lack of painkillers offered to women here giving birth. I guess I grew up in a country that has a little more compassion than just expecting women to grin and bear it. To me, it is yet another sign of how women are disrespected in this country. I am sure if the men running this country were having the kids, painkillers and the cost of the birth would be free.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

tmarie, I've never heard of anyone in Japan being given 'free' painkillers for anything; you pay your 30% like for any other medication or treatment.

I don't see why pushing a watermelon out of your whoha should be seen as anything different

(1) It's not a watermelon, it's a baby.

(2) Any medication you give the mother is going to affect the baby.

(3) As a mother, I don't want any doctor drugging my not-yet-born baby unless it's absolutely necessary for the baby.

To me, it is yet another sign of how women are disrespected in this country.

My point of view is 180 degrees in the other direction. Assuming that natural childbirth is a feat beyond most normal healthy women, that a woman is not capable of giving birth unless she is drugged, if not senseless, at least until she has no feeling in her nether regions, drugging her up to keep 'er docile and quiet while the doctors get on with the important task of dragging the baby out of her whoha - that's disrespectful.

I'm not saying that no woman should ever have an epidural regardless of the circumstances; there are of course situations where it can be of benefit. But it should be the medical staff on the job who decide, not the mother months beforehand.

http://chriskresser.com/natural-childbirth-v-epidural-side-effects-and-risks

epidurals and spinals also cause unintended side effects in both the mother and baby, and interfere with the natural birth process and bonding between mother & baby. In some cases epidurals may be beneficial, but the evidence suggests that they should not be used as routinely as they currently are in the U.S. and other industrialized countries.

Many women would like to have it but since it often isn't even offered, they suffer without - or don't have kids.

If you can't manage a bit of discomfort during the birth (you do know that all those dramatic scenes in films and on telly of pregnant ladies suddenly doubling up and screaming are just that, dramatically-played scenes, nothing like real life at all?), you'd never get through the 18 years that follow, so that would probably be the wiser choice.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Paying on 30% sounds like a dream when you look at the cost of an epideral that is not covered by health insurance.

YOu have your opinions on what is good and bad, with kids/parenting/birthing others have different opinions. Why not respect them for once?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

30% sounds like a dream when you look at the cost of an epideral that is not covered by health insurance

It's not covered because it's not necessary. Why would you expect others, through their health insurance premiums, to subsidise unnecessary and potentially harmful drugs that you choose to use contrary to medical advice?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Plenty of medical procedures aren't necessary or are self inflicted yet covered. I don't see why this should be any different for pain killers during labour.

Plenty of drugs are harmful and yet are subsidized. Again, why should this be any different. Any type of medication has the potential to harm someone. Women should be allowed to make an informed choice. Many aren't given that option here. Just because you didn't want one doesn't mean others shouldn't have that option.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Any type of medication has the potential to harm someone.

Which is why you need a qualified doctor to prescribe it.

Women should be allowed to make an informed choice.

You read all the contra-indications (epidurals interfere with hormone regulation, almost double the length of labour, make the use of forceps more likely, make delivery more difficult and severe perineal tear more likely, increase the risk of c-section, quadruple the chances of the baby being persistently posterior in the later stages of labour, reduce the chances of spontaneous vaginal delivery, increase the chances of complications from instrumental delivery, increase the risk of urinary, anal and sexual disorders in the mother after birth, may adversely affect the the newborn immune system, compromise fetal blood and oxygen supply, lower the fetal heartrate, increase the chances of the newborn requiring resuscitation or having seizures after birth), and still think epidurals should be freely available on the whim of the mother? Seems your idea of an 'informed choice' is different to mine.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Geez Cleo, you make it sound so dangerous.... one wonders why this demon medication was ever invented in the first place. It is even more amazing that well over half of women actually CHOOSE to have an epidural during delivery.

I think there is some space between your assertion that it should be available "on the whim of the mother" and the "women should shut up and take the pain" positions. Both attitudes seem condescending and dismissive. I would say that, if a woman shows no indication or predisposition to dangerous side effects, she should be given the option.

It reminds me of the Japanese attitude towards the birth control pill. It's only women who want it, so who cares?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It is even more amazing that well over half of women actually CHOOSE to have an epidural during delivery.

Absolutely amazing, isn't it?

if a woman shows no indication or predisposition to dangerous side effects, she should be given the option.

I think you mean if the woman and her baby show no indication or predisposition to dangerous side effects.....

If women insist on being drugged up and paralysed through labour, I'm not opposed to them being given epidurals if they want them. I'm opposed to them being given unnecessary medication on demand for free or subsidised by my health insurance premiums.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Condesending? Hahaha!! Never!!

Cleo, a doctor who is giving an epi IS trained and qualified - that's saying more than a lot of massage therapists and the like that ARE covered by health care here. Why are you so against allowing women to make their OWN decisions? What you did worked for you. It doesn't for others and clearly the fact of babies is a very good indication here that what is being pushed - by you and the government - isn't working.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Very good post CLEO. On that note, having an epidural results in less time spent with the baby and decreases overall breastfeeding.

http://chriskresser.com/natural-childbirth-v-epidural-side-effects-and-risks

1 ( +3 / -2 )

From the article...

I also want to be clear that I am not judging women who choose to have hospital births, receive epidurals, induce with Pitocin or end up having a cesarean section. I respect the right of women to choose a method of childbirth that feels safe and comfortable for them.

Shame that women in Japan aren't respected to have the right to decide. Also, very clear that women's decisions aren't respected by some on this board.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Cleo;

I'm not too thrilled with my hard earned tax money going to people who smoke and get cancer, or eat themselves to a heart attack, or ride their bikes without a helmet and get into accidents. But that is just the cost of having socialized medicine. Nobody really gets to pick and choose who "deserves" to be covered, and for what.

From what I read, the chances of any side effects whatsoever are in the range of 1%. The risk of serious complications are probably about 1% of that, so something like 1 in ten thousand. Pretty good odds if you ask me. I was glad that when my son was born, the hospital was able to help my wife with her birth pain. It make the process much less traumatic and stressful for her, which to me is far more important than the miniscule risks it had.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Well said Vast.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I don't know if anyone will read this but I will be a father next year and I am wondering which Private Clinics, with all services included, are available near the 420k that the government supports? All I have seen range from 700k to 1500k in Setagaya-Ku, including pain and no-pain.

Any suggestions would be really honestly appreciated.

Thank you :)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

i will be having my child in tokyo in about sept of this year and will keep u updated about my hospital and obg visits. currently I'm 5 weeks and in los angeles i will go back to tokyo where my husband lives in a couple weeks and start this process -25 year old mommy to be who is scared shitless she will kill someone not on pain medicine.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm four months pregnant, and have just started a blog series about my experiences during pregnancy and birth in Japan. Neither my husband nor I are Japanese, but we will have our baby and continue to live and work in Japan. I was desperate for information about pregnancy in Japan and never quite found what I was looking for. So I am posting exact details of my clinic visits, test, and expenses if anyone is interested. Of course every situation will be different, but I hope it will be useful to some.

http://goldendiamondlife.com/2015/12/16/pregnant-in-japan/

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Gave birth Autumn '15 in Tokyo and my experience wasn't like this. The Japanese father had a full view of everything, no sheet hiding the doctor, didn't bring my own towels or rent pyjamas, and I was praised when I was pushing and shouting. I think a lot of this is old-timey Japan.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Japan intrigues. My wife is pregnant with our first baby and I am terribly worried about what is going to happen hospital wise.

It's their way or no way.

For a country that puts superficial manners at the top of the priority list, why don't they modernize things like child birth and bring the hospital standards regards father bonding etc.on par with the west.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

first of all for me japan is the most amazing country i have ever been to and i have visited many. guys come on calm down ... everyone has the right to choose what they want in childbirth and we need to respect each others choices not berate each other because we dont agree. i have had 4 children and for me the last with an epidural was the best. it was calm and i didnt suffer postpartum depression as i had with my other births. epidural anesthesia has come a long way. it is safe for both mother and child - please read the medical advances epidural anesthesia has made one thing i love about japan is the respect and care people show each other .... what happened in this forum?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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