Pregnant in Japan: Deciding to Stay or Leave
By Lisa Hong
Congratulations on your pregnancy! Let your joy, excitement, and bliss override any fears of being pregnant in a foreign country. I will be writing a 3 part series on being pregnant in Japan so you can take control of your situation and make the best decisions possible for you and your family.
In this article, I will focus on how to decide if you will stay in Japan or move back to your home country. Below are some important questions to consider…
1. Is being able to read food and product labels important to you?
You will probably become more concerned with what you are putting into you body now that you have a delicate fetus trying to thrive. But before you start deeming foods as potentially toxic for your growing baby, keep in mind that pregnant women here continue to eat sushi, drink green and oolong tea, and eat cold cut meat, and they have perfectly healthy births. You can follow suit, or you can avoid certain foods if it gives you peace of mind.
2. Do you think you have enough space for your baby?
Babies don’t need nearly as many items as advertised, but, do you have an area for the baby to sleep, eat, have a diaper change? You can technically do all of these in one area, but ask yourself what amount of space you may be comfortable with. Many Japanese people I know didn’t even have a crib for their babies; they co-slept with them on their futons in tatami rooms.
3. Do you have a support system in Japan?
This may include family and friends who live in Japan or would be willing to visit and take care of you. Also, knowing people who have given birth in Japan will be invaluable. They will be your best resource in finding doctors, hospitals, products, English-speaking services, etc. Pregnancy and giving birth isn’t easy in any country, so having people you can rely on is very important.Photo by Marcos de Madariaga
4. Are your finances intact?
For this question, you must consider your salary, maternity leave, and health care. Japan’s national health plan does not cover pregnancy, but they offer coupons that will get you a discount on prenatal visits. In addition, you get gift money of ¥300-350,000 from the government to help you cover hospital expenses; however, you would need to pay the bill before the gift arrives.
Does your home country offer health coverage that is better than Japan’s? Would it cost more for you to move home or would it be more financially sound for you to stay in Japan?
5. Can you put your trust in Japan’s hospital staff?
Your hospital staff in Japan may or may not go along with your birth plan because, afterall, it is a different culture. But the goal will be the same as yours – to deliver a healthy baby. In a foreign country, the more flexible you are, the easier it will be for you. Keep in mind that Japan’s infant mortality rate is among the lowest in the world, so rest assured that you would be in good hands.
If you answered mostly yes to the above questions, you may be happy staying in Japan. If you answered mostly no, it may be time to start making plans to move back home – although, it doesn’t mean you have to leave right away nor do you have to leave permanently. No matter what you decide, pregnancy itself is a wonderful and memorable adventure, and it is most important that you are happy, healthy, and comfortable.
I sincerely hope this initial information has helped to walk you through a major decision. My next article will outline my experiences with prenatal visits, and the 3rd article in this series will list survival tips that cover issues such as morning sickness and train rides.
Until next time, good luck with your planning and decisions-making. It won’t be easy, but this will be the first of many important choices you will be making for your little one.