Pregnant in Japan: City Survival Guide
By Lisa Hong
Although you may want to jump up and shout for joy to celebrate your pregnancy, you may be crippled by nausea and fatigue – that dreaded morning sickness (or Tsuwari)! My first trimester was undoubtedly the toughest for me – walking but constantly feeling like I could faint, carrying a plastic bag with me in case I needed to vomit, not having much of an appetite, having very low energy.
Everyone hears morning sickness stories, but you don’t know how dreadful it is until you go through it yourself. However, I found some great things in Tokyo to help me through.
1. Pocari Sweat
This drink was gentle to my empty or unsettled stomach while replenishing my fluids. Pocari Sweat was a lifesaver after my bouts of vomiting or spells of dizziness. Think of it as an IV in drinkable form.
2. Ninshin Baaji (Pregnancy Badge)
Just because you are pregnant doesn’t mean you will show right away. This was a problem for me because my morning sickness also caused motion sickness. I needed to sit down and rest while riding trains, but who would get up for me?
Fortunately, you can get a badge, or Baaji, to hang on your purse that tells others that you are pregnant. Just go to the station office, tell them you are pregnant, and an attendant will give a badge to you. Place it on your purse, visible to others, and take your rightful seat in the priority spot.
3. Convenience Store Food
A midwife in my OBGYN office told me in the first trimester, eat ANYTHING that won’t make me nauseous. She said that once the nausea goes away, then I can focus on nutrition, but until then, I had to eat what I could hold down.
For me, that food was convenience store food – chips, fried chicken, bread and pastries, rice bowls. When speaking to other pregnant women, this unhealthy craving is quite common in the first months of pregnancy.
To counteract convenience store food, I did eat a lot of fruit. I craved a lot of citrus fruits (actually, a Japanese old wive’s tale is that women who are pregnant crave grapefruits), watermelon, peaches, pineapples, and grapes.
Fruits in Japan are expensive, but this was the time to splurge on those perfect, big, juicy fruits that always laughed at my budget. I wasn’t going out anymore (if I wasn’t at work, I wanted to be in bed), so my allowance went to those good-looking fruits. And they tasted amazing.
5. Folic Acid Supplements
I couldn’t find official “prenatal supplements” in Tokyo, but what I found was that pregnant women here focus on Folic Acid (葉酸 or Yosan) supplements to take care of the baby’s developing needs. Folic Acid is recommended for developing a fetus’ brain and nervous system, and I was advised to take 800 mcg a day. I purchased the Nature Made brand, which can be found at any drugstore.
I remember the morning when I woke up and didn’t have to throw up. I laid in bed, gloriously thinking, “Now, I can enjoy my pregnancy!” Even my co-workers noticed the pep back in my step and exclaimed, “She’s back!” Of course, there were other pregnancy symptoms to follow, but none worse than the early months.
To sign off on this series, I wish you the best on your journey. Remember to take everything as a wonderful adventure, just as your did when you came to Japan.