Pregnant in Japan: Prenatal Care
By Lisa Hong
In my last article, I outlined some important questions to ask yourself as you decide to give birth in Japan or back in your home country. Even if you decide to move, you don’t need to leave immediately; you can receive prenatal care in Japan while you work on your plans.
The usual procedure for pregnant women in Japan is to see an OBGYN at a Ladies Clinic, where she will then be referred to recommended hospitals to give birth. Finding the right English speaking OBGYN in Tokyo can be daunting because many offices are extremely busy (despite Japan’s low birth rate) and you have to find a doctor who you feel comfortable with.
It’s true that Japanese doctors have a reputation of being a bit cold and not open to questioning. I certainly found this to be the case with my first OBGYN. I felt nervous every time I saw her, and when I asked her questions, she was very short and impatient. She especially did not like my husband being with me for the check ups. Finally, I had enough and decided that I needed a doctor who would be excited with me.
After some searching, I found Dr. Tomoko Idei in Omotesando, and she was everything I was looking for! Sweet, patient, informative, welcoming to my husband, fluent in English, and calm. A service she provided that was invaluable was recording the ultrasounds on a DVD as well as printing photos for us. My favorite thing about Dr. Tomoko was that during ultrasounds, she would chirp, “Kawaiiiii!” as we observed the developing fetus. She made our visits enjoyable and we appreciated how she made us feel confident that we were doing the right things during our pregnancy.
As mentioned in my previous article, Japan’s National Health Insurance does not cover pregnancy, but they provide some help. Once your little one’s heartbeat is confirmed, you can go to your local ward office to pick up a pregnancy packet (母子手帳 or Boshi Techo) containing:
1. A prenatal care coupon book, which will give you a discount on your prenatal visits (bring with you to every OBGYN appointment)
2. A mother-child book, where the doctor can record important information. Make sure to ask for an English version (bring with you every appointment). If you move back to your home country, you can show this booklet to your next doctor to catch them up on your progress.
3. Dentist coupons, one to use during pregnancy and one for after birth. A common symptom of pregnancy is gingivitis, so the coupon allows you to see a dentist to get a check up.
4. A circular badge with a cute picture of a mother and a child, with a logo reading, “There is a baby in my stomach” in Japanese. This badge will alert others you should be sitting in the priority seats on trains and buses.
5. Advertisements for prenatal classes, house cleaning services, support groups, etc. However, these services are all in Japanese. For English support, you can refer to the website Tokyo Mothers Group.
Good luck on your search for your OBGYN. Remember, you don’t have to settle for someone who is unpleasant or makes you feel stressed. There are doctors, like Dr. Tomoko Idei, who will make your visits enjoyable and comforting.
Website: Tomoko Ladies Clinic Omotesando
TEL: 03-5771-3991 (English speaking operators available)
Address: Omotesando-Chiyoda Bldg. B2F, 4-11-6 Jingumae Shibuya-Ku