10 Things I Found Surprising About Having a Baby in Japan

Let me just preface this post by first saying that these things are obviously particular to my experiences. Each and every birth is different – even between the two I had at the same hospital in Kansas. It’s different depending on how the birth itself goes, what hospital you’re at, your doctor and nurses, etc. So – with that said, here are 10 things that really stuck out to me as different concerning the prenatal visits, the birth itself, and post-birth care!

1. You get a sonogram at every single appointment. 

With Lisanna and Arrow, I had two sonograms done – one to confirm the pregnancy and one to determine the gender. With Uriah, I had over twenty sonograms done. Each prenatal appointment includes a sonogram where they check height, weight, position, heartbeat, and amniotic fluid. It’s pretty cool seeing your baby at each appointment!

2. Effacement is not a thing. 

I think I was about 36 weeks pregnant when they started checking for dilation and effacement for my first two. So I’d get the number of centimeters and then a percentage concerning my effacement. I was not told my effacement percentage a single time here. What does it mean anyway? I know the technical definition, but personally, those numbers mean nothing concerning when baby will come. The day Uriah was born, I was a three at 9am and had a baby in my arms before 4pm. I was a three for about two weeks before Lisanna was born! Anyway, I didn’t even remember about the effacement percentage until my mom text to ask.

3. There are very few hospitals that offer epidurals. 

Japan is split into prefectures and we live in Nara. In the entire Nara prefecture, there is only one hospital (at least that my friends know of) that offers epidurals. Women here just plan on giving birth naturally – that’s how it’s always been done and how it’ll keep being done. Plus, if you do elect to get one you have to pay out of pocket because it is not covered on your government healthcare. I am so thankful that I decided to give birth naturally in the states! There was enough craziness going on without this being my first natural birth, too.

4. You’re in the delivery room from the onset. (not just from a 6) 

Now this one I’m a little iffy on because it could actually just be because I was induced. They had me in the room from a three because that’s where I was when they started the induction drugs. But I do remember being administered pitocin with Lisanna in the pre-delivery room and then being wheeled swiftly down the hall when I finally hit a 6. With Uriah, it ended up being a good thing that I was already there because the time from when I hit a 6 to when he took his first breath was only 35 minutes.

5. The delivery nurses have midwife training. 

They help with pressure points and breathing. I’m not sure if it was just the translation, but the delivery nurses called themselves midwives. I had a really helpful nurse that reminded me of all my forgotten breathing techniques and pushed on my pressures points throughout each contraction. I’m sure this isn’t the case in every delivery – but she was a rockstar and she’s basically my hero now.

6. There is very little pain medication given. 

Okay, so we covered no epidural. I didn’t have an epidural with Lisanna or Arrow, but the second those babies were out of me, the drugs started. They gave me pain killers by IV for a little bit, then really strong medicine for the next five days. I haven’t gotten so much as Tylenol since Uriah has been born. Thankfully my body is amazing and is healing itself quickly, but it was hard to sleep the first night from pain. I know my roommate isn’t doing as well as me because I keep hearing her whisper, “ow, ow, ow!”

7. You have the choice of a shared room or a private room. 

That brings me to a shared room. With Lisanna and Arrow, my insurance covered a private room. My private room had a queen sized bed, a private restroom, and it was okay for the husband to stay. Here, a private room costs a whopping $120 extra per night, has a single hospital bed, and husband can’t stay. We elected for the shared room with a shared restroom and a shower that you need to sign up to take. The room can hold up to four people, but I’ve only had one roommate. Since my husband can’t stay anyway it’s actually kind of nice having another person in the room with me.

8. There is a set menu of food.

In my Kansas hospital there was a cafeteria that you could go get food from or even order it straight to your room. The food was actually pretty good quality and, most importantly to me, you could choose what you wanted. Here, everyone in the hospital eats the same food and it almost always includes fish. I’ve actually lucked out and gotten chicken a couple of days, but there is often something fishy even with the breakfast. I kid you not – yesterday, I got a hot dog bun full of egg salad with my breakfast. The good news is that the food is really healthy and I’m so hungry from giving birth and breastfeeding that the taste hasn’t mattered much. Although I still didn’t eat the egg salad hot dog bun.

9. You have to stay for at least 5 days. 

With Lisanna, it was 24 hours. With Arrow, I had strep B and had to stay for 48 hours. In Japan, it’s 5 days minimum – more than that if you have complications. After I gave birth, they went over a schedule concerning exactly what checkups will be done what days for me and baby. They want to keep you to make sure that you’re both healthy, you know what you’re doing, and you’re going home fully rested.

10. There are no expectations of you other than to rest. I remember after I had Lisanna – I had my skin-to-skin time and then they moved me to my room. My room was immediately full of pushy people telling me about everything from how to change a diaper to shaken baby syndrome. I had people coming in and pushing on my stomach then scolding me for not knowing how to nurse a baby. They went over a schedule concerning how often I should feed her, change her, burp her, hold her, rock her – you name it and someone was telling me how to do it right. It was a little less intense with Arrow, but the expectations of the one way to do everything correctly was still there.

Here they said, “ah, this is your third baby so you know what you’re doing” and then they gave me my baby. They have a nursery that they take him to anytime I need to shower or rest – they don’t expect you to keep the baby overnight. In fact, I kept Uriah until 10 or 11 at night the first couple of days and they were shocked. Their idea is that I will be with him 24/7 when I go home so I should take advantage of their help while I have it. This is another reason I’m thankful that it isn’t my first baby! I would be so worried about bonding and nipple confusion if it was my first – since he’s my third I’m thinking, this is kind of nice. I feel like I’m recovering much more quickly since I’ve actually been able to rest.

So that’s all I can think of right now! Which one of these things was most surprising to you?

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