Having given birth in Japan twice in 2 very different settings, I can attest to how crazy searching for a place to have your baby can be! In this article, I’d like to give a few tips to keep in mind for any foreign moms out there thinking of having a baby in Japan.
Find a place FAST!
If you haven’t already, be sure to find somewhere as soon as possible, because places get booked FAST! You would think with one of the lowest birth rates in the world, Japan would be easy peasy when it comes to booking a doctor/midwife. WRONG! Many hospitals are short-staffed and can only take a certain number of patients before they have to start turning women away. Midwife clinics fill up even faster, so if you’re leaning toward a more relaxed setting to give birth, book now before it’s too late.
Study, study, study!
Although English is becoming more and more widespread every day, don’t count on any of the staff being able to help you out in English. In fact, many staff members may purposely avoid you if you are unable to communicate in Japanese. At the very least, it’s a good idea to have basic words memorized! (I might add a list later!)
Homebirths are not common
I had heard that Japan was a great country for having a baby and that many women still used midwives to deliver babies. This is absolutely not the case. Most midwives are tied to a hospital or work for a hospital, so you will be hard-pressed to find someone who is willing, let alone certified, to help you out on this one. It seems like there is a lot of support for various types of births in the expat community in Okinawa, but if you live in the rest of Japan, odds are you’re not going to find someone who will support you in this.
Midwives are tied by many strict rules
A few of my sisters gave birth at home in the States, so I just assumed that midwives here would be willing to follow any birth plan. That’s not the case. The Japanese Midwives Association has very strict rules and its members are not allowed to take people over the age of 35, people who are pregnant with multiples, or anyone with any kind of risk. If you fall into any of these categories, it would be wise to second guess anyone who agrees to help you. Legally, they are not supposed to and if anything were to happen to you or the baby, things could get ugly.
Many hospitals/clinics do abortions
It is important to know that almost all small clinics do routine abortions as a way to get extra income. Japan’s Maternal Body Protection law basically means that abortions can be performed at any stage of pregnancy if the pregnancy causes the mother “emotional or economic stress” I have heard the stories of teenage pregnancies ending in these places as well as people who use abortion as a form of birth control. Unlike back in the States, this is an issue that is never brought up in conversation here and is not considered to be morally wrong. If having a doctor who performs 3rd trimester abortions and then deliveries all in the same day weighs on your conscience, I would advise you to talk these issues over with your doctor or switch clinics.
RELAX! Don’t stress out more than you already are!
The last thing any pregnant woman needs is another person giving her more reasons to panic! Even if you aren’t able to go exactly with your birth plan, rest assured that Japanese doctors/midwives/nurses have been highly trained and are doing their best to help you! You are going to do GREAT!
Best wishes for an amazing pregnancy and birth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!