Pregnant in Tokyo

By on October 29, 2017


Congratulations! Your personal journey with parenthood has begun. It’s a long and complex path that you will walk for the rest of your days.

Surely you have some very immediate concerns and could benefit from a guide. In fact, seeking, accepting and also providing guidance while on this journey is one of the wisest things you can do when experiencing the many challenges of parenthood.

Japan is a very safe place to have your baby. It has conscientiously built a comprehensive healthcare system dedicated to providing pregnant women universal access to healthcare. This system includes every option for birthing with primary care offered by obstetric physicians and certified nurse midwives. Your mother’s book, officially the Maternal and Child Health Handbook (boshi kenko techo), is a key feature of this system, facilitating communication and record keeping to ensure continuity of care.


Getting your mother’s book early will serve you well. It is an in-hand record of each of your prenatal visits. A quick glance shows your last weight, measurements of your uterus and abdomen, blood pressure, the occurrence of swelling, the presence of protein or sugar in your urine and other details. It is the first thing that you will be asked for when visiting a hospital or birth house. Go to your ward office and visit the Resident’s Registration section, asking for a boshi kenko techo.


Now it’s time to shop! Pull out your sharpest consumerist attitude and start shopping for the person who will provide your medical care for your pregnancy and birth; this is often, but not always, the same person. This decision is paramount in influencing the course and experience of your pregnancy and birth. You will hire them and they will be serving you. You initiate the relationship and it should be on terms that are mutually agreeable but, more importantly, comfortable for you. It is imperative that you and your caregiver share synchronicity in your philosophies about what constitutes good care at birth. You should feel that you can trust this person completely to provide excellent medical care with respect for your personal preferences.

You have two basic options: an MD in Obstetrics or a Certified Nurse Midwife. A third option is a combination of the two. Doctors support birth in a hospital or birth clinic and midwives support birth in certain clinics, a birth house (josan-nin) or in your own home.


This brings us to a second, related choice needing your attention. Where to give birth? Your options are: in a hospital, women’s clinic, birth house, or your own home. If you know where you want to birth, your shopping is now focused on professionals working in your choice of location. If you are not sure, you are still shopping for both. Again, this choice plays a key role in determining your birth experience. Policies and practices are manifest in the medical care you experience during your labor, birth, and post natal period. So, as mentioned above, you should feel comfortable in this physical place.

If you choose a hospital or clinic, you will see their doctors for prenatal care. Who you see may vary or you may select appointment times with the same doctor. For your birth, you will be attended by the midwives working in labor and delivery and the doctor who is on shift. If you choose a private physician, you will have prenatal care in their office and deliver in a hospital in which they have practicing rights. If you choose midwifery care, there are several English and French-speaking midwives that offer prenatal care in their birth house and attend your birth there or in your home. In each category, there are choices between practitioners.

The specifics that lead expectant parents to their choices are varied. Some have a very clear picture of what they want and others would benefit from the aid of someone who will help them identify their needs and preferences and match them with birthing options. Both classes should explore options. It allows confirmation that your choice is the best for you, or that maybe there is another that you unexpectedly prefer.

Guides make this process much easier and bring a feeling of fellowship to the experience. With your mother’s book in tow, and its record of informative data about your pregnancy, you may shop all you like. There’s lots of time – about 40 weeks. Keep shopping until you find the most perfect fit.


Tokyo Pregnancy Group’s website is the place to get a quick overview of the most popular resources. It is not exhaustive, but any of the childbirth educators listed can connect you with lesser-known resources that might be just right in fulfilling your needs.


A helpful guide can be anyone that we trust to offer useful and positive information that enhances our experience, in this case, during pregnancy, birth and the post partum year. They might be:

• Family • Friends • Peers (other pregnant foreigners) • Experienced Parents • Childbirth Educators • A Doula • Doctors • Midwives


A swelling tummy is a great ice breaker. Our excitement and deep emotional attachments to our own pregnancy and birth experiences sometimes lead us to say wildly personal and intimate things to pregnant strangers and acquaintances. This can be a bonus if we are new to Tokyo. It facilitates meeting people, the sharing of information and bolsters a sense of community. But some comments would be better unheard. Beware of those that demonstrate a need to share scary, fear-provoking stories. This is about not having resolved their own trauma, and not about helping to guide you through your pregnancy. Think of a way to kindly redirect or end the conversation.

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About Heather Day

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