Being an expectant mother in a foreign country may seem overwhelming at first, especially if you don’t read or speak the language. Fortunately there are others who have trodden that path before you, and many are happy to share their knowledge.
One such mother is Anna Kunnecke.
“There are some amazing resources in Tokyo for pregnant women. One is the Tokyo Pregnancy Group. This is just a very informal gathering of foreign pregnant women, meeting every couple of weeks. Meetings are in English.
Another great resource are the childbirth educators that are here in Tokyo. Some that come to mind right away are Ann Tanaka, Celina Godino and Brett Iimura. All of their contact information is available at the Tokyo Pregnancy Blog. These are women who have helped many women through all different kinds of birth experiences in Japan
There are a few fundamental differences in the way things are done here. In other countries there is more emphasis placed on early prenatal care. But in Japan, some doctors may bypass giving advice on this stage of your pregnancy and just hand you a confirmation slip that can be exchanged for the Maternal & Child Health Handbook at your local ward office. There’s a bilingual version which is highly recommended, as it lists everything in both Japanese and English. The handbook is called “Boshi Kenko Techo” (母子健康手帳), and is used to document all appointments, measurements, vaccines, etc, in one place. It also includes vouchers for several free check ups and tests. Bilingual versions, in English, Chinese, Spanish and five other languages, can be purchased at select wards or online for about ¥800.
Japan has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world, according to the CIA World Factbook. At 2.8 deaths per 1,000 live births, this rate is just a fraction higher than the two lowest countries – Singapore and Sweden. But in spite of what this data may suggest, many mothers express dissatisfaction at doctors and health practitioners who commonly disclose only limited information regarding the state of their own pregnancies. Because it is not unusual for doctors to make judgments on the patient’s behalf regarding what information they should and should not know, mothers-to-be may have to be aggressive and upfront that they want to be 100% informed.
Another complaint among pregnant women is that many people won’t give up their seats for them on a crowded train. The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare is trying to combat this by providing expectant moms with special key chains that show a drawing of a mother and child. Known as a “Maternity Mark”, the key chain can be attached to a woman’s bag, supposedly to encourage seated passengers to give up their spot. However, you may sometimes have to wave it around a bit before you get a response. These key chains can be picked up for free from the stationmaster’s office and information offices at Tokyo Metro stations.
Foreign women also find it hard to find larger maternity wear here. Unfortunately, the general consensus is that it is best to buy clothes from overseas
Online, Ruby Fay is one company that offers a hip selection of maternity wear from New York for stylish moms-to-be across the globe. Domestically, the local mail order company Angeliebe carries slightly larger sizes than what you’re likely to find at regular Japanese stores. If you must try before you buy, hit Benetton in Omotesando as they tend to have larger maternity wear than others.
One big perk of giving birth in Japan is that you are entitled to a lump sum birth allowance. If you are enrolled in National Health Insurance, you will be paid between ¥300,000 and ¥350,000 per child, depending on the ward you live in. You are entitled to this amount even if you miscarry after three to four months into your pregnancy.
“I know that a lot of women feel afraid that they’re pregnant in a strange country or that they or their baby won’t be safe. But really there is wonderful care available here. However it will probably take more effort, time and research to find it”
In our next episode we’ll follow up with reports about giving birth in Japan. If you live in Tokyo, take a look at the Beauty and Health pages on Spinshell.TV for hospitals and other medical services in your area.
- Expecting in Tokyo Part 2
- Tokyo Design Scene
- Finding Funnies in Tokyo
- Takarazuka – Is the Ideal Man a Woman?
- Tokyo Day Trips