Pregnant in Japan

Features - August 19th, 2005
Pregnant woman

by Emily Downey 

I gave birth to my daughter two years ago in Tokyo, and I wouldn’t want to have a child anywhere else in the world. There are several reasons for this. For a start, Japan has the highest live birth rate in the world, meaning that more babies are born alive and healthy than in any other country. Then, there’s the fact that regular prenatal check-ups are always scheduled with an ultrasound, whereas in most western countries they are only done twice. There’s also the high standard of nursing care, combined with the post-birth hospital stay of five days to two weeks, which far exceeds the stays that are the norm in most western countries. All this and more makes Tokyo a great, exotic, although maybe unexpected place to have a baby.

The above sentiments were echoed by several for­eign women who are either pregnant or have already had children in Tokyo. Ushka Wakelin, a New Zealander mother said, “I wouldn’t have a baby anywhere else, and speaking to friends from home only confirms what a great experience I had here.” Taya Michalski, an Australian woman who is 36 weeks pregnant, goes on to state, “I feel I have more support here in Tokyo than I would have if I was back home.”

The Tokyo Pregnancy Group, a fantastic organiza­tion run by pregnant women living in Tokyo, is the one-stop resource and support group for English-speaking women. The group meets every two weeks at a different member’s house. There is always a fea­tured speaker, ranging from breastfeeding consultants to English-speaking doctors who come along and give free lectures. It is an invaluable resource for any preg­nant woman in Tokyo. “Being pregnant for the first time and living in Asia, it is a more than helpful and comforting organization,” says Andrea Grahe, a Ger­man woman who is 26 weeks pregnant.

When it comes to hospitals and doctors, there are a number of good options. The three main hospitals are Seibo Catholic Hospital in the northern Tokyo sub­urb of Mejiro, Aiiku Hospital in the expat enclave of Hiroo, and the ritzy Sanno in Akasaka with a grand piano in the foyer. All are private hospitals and have English-speaking nurses and doctors, well-appointed, hotel-suite-like private rooms, and a very good reputa­tion amongst Japanese and foreigners alike. There are a number of other birthing options for those who don’t want to go the traditional hospital route. For a good overview, see the pregnancy section in Being A Broad in Japan, published by Alexandra Press.

As for doctors, Hideki Sakamoto MD is a standout. “Dr. Sakamoto was recommended by a friend and was the only English-speaking obstetrician I had heard of at the time, but there are others,” says Taya. It may pay to visit more than one doctor in the early stages to see who will be best for you. Again, with a bit of research and talking to others at the pregnancy group, you will discover a world of options.

Prior to the birth, it is a good idea to take a birth­ing class, which is generally a two-day course cover­ing topics such as how to recognize when you are in labor, when to go to the hospital, and relaxation and preparation techniques, to name a few. Brett Iimura, an American Certified Childbirth Educator with two children gives excellent intensive classes in English on a regular basis (see her profile on the page opposite).

Another good way to prepare for a new baby is to become a member of the breastfeeding advocacy and support group La Leche League, which has a chapter that meets regularly in Tokyo. LLL are instrumental in helping nursing mothers, and it is a good idea to join prior to giving birth, as it is a great way to meet other new mothers or mothers-to-be. “The friendships one makes are vital as most foreign women in Tokyo do not have extended family available for support,” explains Ushka.

Finally, in the words of Michelle Gannon, an Amer­ican woman who has recently had a baby boy, “While I am not interested in giving birth again any time soon, it is tempting, only because I would love to give birth here again!”


Brett limura Childbirth Education Center (CEC)
Tel/Fax 03-3414-7458

Sanno Hospital
Tel. 03-3402-2187 (operators speak English)
Fax: 03-3404-3652
8-10-16 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0052

Seibo International Catholic Hospital (Seiho Byoin)
Tel. 03-3951-1111, Fax: 03-3954-7091
2-5-1 Nakaochiai, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 161-8521

La Leche
Beckie Tel. 03-3394-4359
Vicki Tel. 03-3479-9812

Aiiku Hospital
Tel. 03-3473-8321, Fax: 03-3473-8406
5-6-8 Minami Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0047

Tokyo Medical & Surgical Clinic
Tel. 03-3436-3028, Fax: 03-3436-5024
No. 32 Mori Bldg. 2F, 3-4-30 Shiba Koen, Minato-ku,Tokyo 105-0011
Dr. C. Bliah [GYN]
Dr. Hideki Sakamoto [OB/GYN]