In this article, Deanty shares practical tips for future mom in Japan. If you are a non-Japanese and plan to give birth in Japan, then this article might be interesting for you or your friends. The tips will help you navigate through a pregnancy situation in Japan.
A bit story of mine before I share how amazing my pregnancy journey was in Japan. I happened to have a short two-year stay of master study in the Netherlands. In early 2019, after graduation, I got married and moved to Japan one week right after the wedding. My husband and I have been living in Japan, particularly at Chiba Prefecture. An uncertain period stay somehow makes me a little bit anxious. It was all basically planned yet filled with rootless circumstances in practical, I guess, due to a very short pre-departure preparation. I was still sure of myself I would be fine and get used to Japanese atmosphere once we arrived.
Just about a month since we moved to Japan, I was still in attempt to catch up with everything and everyone. It was even getting worse since I couldn’t speak Japanese at all. At the same time, I was pregnant – which was not surprising at all- as we agreed not to postpone it. In contrast, I still personally never ever expected I would have pregnancy in Japan, of which I should have expected since I moved here.
It is relieving that my husband has been living here for eight years, so he has no problems in speaking Japanese, even reading Kanji. Unfortunately, I couldn’t rely on my husband as my checkup routine scheduled only on weekdays. Then, we decided to look for other hospitals that have English speaking services. Thankfully, we found one, yet the schedule was not on weekend as well.
Even though I actually have no right to underestimate anyone, I was honestly quite sceptic with English speaking skill of Japanese people. I came alone on my first checkup schedule. Yes, what I had been worrying was true that no one in that hospital can speak English well – from receptionist, nurses to doctors. I was still calm as I knew this was going to happen. After waiting for around an hour, I was called by the nurse.
I came in to the doctor’s room and two nurses welcomed me very friendly saying “Good morning”, along with their beautiful smile. All my stuffs – jacket, bag, umbrella – I had with me were taken and put in a white rack beside a patient’s seat. I saw a nurse who was standing beside the doctor, brought a black flat screen table in her right hand. Once I sat down, the doctor – Suzuki Sensei, I called him – introduced himself properly in English and asked how I had been doing so far during my first month pregnancy. His English might not be fluent and well-spoken, yet I could tell his nurses and himself had prepared everything before I came.
My fear suddenly wore off, I felt comfortable. Despite a pleasant hospitality, our conversation didn’t run smoothly as it took a long time to interpret it thoroughly and consecutively. Although this kind of situation became the main issue until the labor time, I should admit I was so lucky to have this experience. Japan never disappoints me in terms of hospitality and friendliness indeed.
Therefore, according to my personal experience, here are the things I’d like to share pertaining to pregnancy journey in Japan. I hope this writing could inspire, either those who are living in or are about to move to Japan for a long-term time, and plan to give birth here. These things below would not cover all the necessary condition and items, yet providing you with a big picture of how you would be like if you are a pregnant woman in Japan.
- Ensuring health insurance
First things first, once you arrive in Japan for a long-term stay, paying attention on administration documents, including health insurance, is a must. If your partner works in Japanese companies, ask them whether they provide health insurance for you. Otherwise, you should register yourself to any health insurance. Having a health insurance in Japan will help you so much to cut the hospital fees – for more than 50 percent of total cost, either for checkup or even for being hospitalized.
- Notifying local authorities/district
If you are getting pregnant after your first visit, notify your local authorities. This is a very important thing you have to do at first. When you notify them, you will get several books and papers regarding activity program and service you’ll get during your pregnancy, for instance, Mama yoga class, parenting class, nursing class, etc. Some are fee, some are not. You will receive two books – pregnancy development book and promo and discount stickers book, as well as a pregnant-signed chain.
The book will be used during pregnancy until the labor which includes the physical growth and development for the mother and baby. You are obliged to bring the books on every checkup schedule. Meanwhile, you can hang pregnant-signed chain on your bag wherever you go. This sticker chain is to notify other people in public places and transportation that you are currently pregnant and should get a priority seat in public areas. In local authority offices, they usually have a special locket for foreign visitor. Unfortunately, most given documents are written in Japanese. So, if you can’t speak Japanese or read Kanji, it would be better to bring your partner (if he/she could speak Japanese) or someone else.
- Choosing a hospital that fits your condition
Next step is to choose a right hospital or clinic for you and family. In Japan, hospital varies from type of services they provide to labor fee you will be charged.
It is important for you to consider the location and distance from your house. A hospital or clinic with a shorter distance means a better anticipation to an emergency situation.
In terms of services, some large hospitals provide you English speaking doctors. So, if you couldn’t speak Japanese and are forced to go to the hospital by yourself, that wouldn’t matter. However, usually, some small clinics in the neighborhood don’t have this kind of service. If you have no other options than to choose these clinics, make sure you always have somebody who is fluent in Japanese to accompany you in every control schedule.
Another thing to keep in mind is that a different hospital provides different type of service. Most hospitals in Japan don’t provide a single room and allow partners to stay overnight. So, you should ask first whether your hospital can provide it. Last but not least, make sure your hospital supports a new mom to have an Early Initiation Breastfeeding (IMD), since not all hospitals strongly support direct breastfeeding mechanism.
- Registering your number to Taxi for a Pregnant Mom
If you are alone at home while your partner is still at the office or school, this point should be taken into account. Some taxi companies in Japan have this type of service. You just need to register your number as a pregnant mom. If you should visit hospital for monthly checkup due to a far distance or an emergency situation, you could just call them. They will pick you up and drop you to the hospital directly.
- Listing questions ahead before checkup routine
I warn this not because of underestimating English speaking skills. Yet, although you choose hospital with English speaking doctors, you’d be better to write down the questions before you visit the doctors. The communication might be easier if you show the questions to them, so doctor and nurses could explain to you one by one. According to my experience, if you are not able to speak Japanese, checkup duration might take a long time as doctor and nurses usually will interpret your questions firstly, but, don’t worry, they are still very professional and even try their best to explain to you easily.
I wish this article could help those who are about to stay in Japan for a long-term duration and plan to give birth here. This article is based on my personal experiences. Some could find it same, but might also find different circumstances, depending on his or her city in Japan. However, we could all agree that Japan is a very mother and kids-friendly country. Its hospitality will never disappoint you.
*All photos are provided by the author.