Nov 9, 2011

Distance Doula


No matter where in the world you plan to birth, customized and portable support through all of the decision-making that your pregnancy and upcoming birth will require you to make.

Selena Gudino has provided birth doula and childbirth preparation services in Central Tokyo, but now offers a Distance Doula service as she currently works out of the US.

The Distance Doula package includes:

  • Three 50 minute sessions
  • One session each week for three weeks
  • You receive private, knowledgeable, and consistent help working through a particular concern or decision-making process.
  • Sessions are conducted by Skype or phone

phone:     +1.804.855.4388

Oct 31, 2011

Shopping for Baby in Daikanyama

If you're in the mood for lunch and boutique baby shopping, Daikanyama is the place to go.   Several baby shops and cafes are all situated close together in this hip, quiet area of Tokyo.  I've enjoyed spending time shopping for my baby-to-be here and wanted to pass along the information to you.

Air Buggy is located on the 3rd floor in the 17 dixsept building.

The product offering includes but is not limited to:

* a variety of strollers & car seats - Air Buggy, Quinny, Stokke, Maxi Cosi
* Baby Bjorn, Skip Hop & Inglesina products
* Bambino Mio cloth diapering system
* organic skin products for mom & baby
* some clothing and accessories

Click on the below link for more information:
Air Buggy

American Apparel is located on Kyu-Yamate Dori, farther up toward Tamagawa Dori.

The products are all made in Los Angeles, California in the US and the brand is known for their selection of hip basics.

The have clothing, bibs, hats, etc for baby and toddlers.

Click on the below link for more information:
American Apparel

Aprica is located on Kyu-Yamate Dori, very close to the train station.

The product offering includes but is not limited to:

* Aprica & Graco brands
* strollers, Japanese-style electronic bassinets, diaper bags and shoes.

Click on the below link for more information:

Komodo Beams is located just down the side street from Aprica, behind the Yoshida & Co / Porter bag store.

Products include but are not limited to:

* organic skin care & cleaning products
* earth-friendly toys
* apparel & shoes for baby & toddlers

Click on the link below for more information: BEAMS

Blossom 39 is located next to the 17 dixsept building, across from the Collex shop.

Products include but are not limited to:

* strollers - Phil & Teds, other brands
* Aden & Anais swaddle blankets & products
* baby carriers
* apparel & hair accessories

Bonpoint is located farther up Kyu-Yamate Dori by American Apparel.

This high-end French brand carries a variety of layette, apparel and shoes for baby and toddler as well as accessories.

Click on the link below for more information: Bonpoint

Carmel Baby & Child is located on Kyu-Yamate Dori.

This high-end brand from the UK has apparel and accessories for baby and toddler.  There is also a small selection of toys.

Click on the link below for more information:

Combi mini is located around the corner of the former Love Girls Market shop and is close to the 17 dixsept building.

The product offering includes but is not limited to:

* Japanese-style electronic bassinet, cribs, bedding, strollers, high chairs, layette, toys and apparel.

Click on the link below for more information:

The La Fuente Building located across from the 17 dixsept building.  It is home to a variety of small baby shops including:

* Baby & Kids
* Beanstalk
* Dad-way
* DP Shop
* La Vie
* Markey's
* Paso a Paso
* Pampolina Kid's Store
* Tokyo Mom Diary

* Cath Kidston boutique on the ground floor

Petit Bateau is located on Kyu Yamate Dori, close to the train station.

The product offering is primarily knitwear for baby and toddler.

Click on the link below for more information:

To get a better idea of where the shops are located, I created a map for reference.
Please note this map is NOT to scale!

When you're ready for a break from shopping, DO NOT miss out on the tea light hot chocolate at the Queen's Collection Chocolate Cafe.

There are several cafes and restaurants in Daikanyama, but I love to go to Eataly for fabulous authentic Italian food, gelato and coffee.   

Happy shopping, ladies!

October 30, 2011 - Weekend Lunch Event @ T.Y. Harbor


TPG members and their partners met for lunch at T.Y. Harbor in Shinagawa.  Everyone had a great time getting to know each other.  The turn-out was great with twenty-four members and partners attending.  We will definitely plan another weekend event in November!

Oct 22, 2011

Japan Healthcare Info

JHI is a free service that provides information about medical procedures in Japan individualized help recommending services such as English-speaking hospitals and clinics. 

For a small fee, they will also personally set up appointments and help fill out documents in Japanese.

The JHI healthcare professional staff has had long experience with health care in Japan before they founded JHI, and they understand how complicated getting proper care can be even for a native speaker, much less for foreigners. To resolve this, JHI obtained a grant from the Japanese government to set up this nonprofit organization and website.

Oct 19, 2011

Pottery Barn Kids Now Ships Internationally to Japan

Pottery Barn Kids will now ship a limited selection of items internationally to Japan.

To ship items that are not available for international shipping on the Pottery Barn Kids website, use a forwarding service such as Expat Express.

The Gap & Old Navy Maternity - International Shipping to Japan

The Gap and Old Navy will now ship internationally to Japan!  They offer extensive collections of maternity and nursing clothing.


    鍼灸 Meadow Acupuncture & Aromatherapy

    (updated March 24th, 2014)

    Prenatal Postnatal Treatment :鍼灸Meadow Acupuncture & Aromatherapy
    Mother, Your smile makes your baby happy!!

    We provide Massage, Facial, Acupuncture and holistic treatments to Pregnant and after birth mother.
    If you have a problem and look for a place to heal your Stress or Poor Sleep, Back pain, Skin problem, Breech Baby, Stimulate for giving birth, Emotional well-being, Recovery from child birth...Please visit our comfortable clinic!!

    ◇Who and why providing a treatment to TPG members?
    We have experience at hotel spa, home visiting & at acupuncture clinic. We have been providing treatments to clients including pregnant lady from all over the world , and understanding the different feature of body anatomy or symptoms of each country. We have understanding of the difficulty to live abroad through our experience of life abroad, and are aware of the necessity to be supported by local people. 
    We have the sense of responsibility to support foreigners who live in Japan.
    We also have a certification as Aromatherapist/Esthetician issued by The world’s major international beauty therapy Association (CIDESCO) and a licence as a practitioner of massage・shiatsu, acupuncture, moxibusion issued by Japanese County. 

    ◇Where is our clinic?
    It is located in Minami Aoyama near Nishi Azabu.(There is Nezu Museum near hear.) It is 7 minutes on walk from Omotesando Station A4 Exit, 15 minutes from Roppongi Station(Midtown), 10minutes from Nogizaka and Gaienmae Station. If you have a good physical condition and need some exercises, it is good  to walk for 10-20 minutes. Many clients walks to come here form Roppongi area.

    You will have a relaxing time through your treatment and also enjoy talking. Please ask us anything at anytime. We’ll support you, your baby and your family!!

    Contact us:  or 03-6427-2025

    Sep 27, 2011

    3rd Trimester - Personal Account

    Here is a personal account of the 3rd trimester of pregnancy in Tokyo at a Japanese public hospital, continuing on from my previous posts about 1st and 2nd trimesters. Depending on which hospital you go to in Japan, there may not be alot of English available, and also this may be your first pregnancy, so I have tried to explain my experience in as much detail as possible.

    As with 2nd trimester, each checkup in 3rd trimester will involve the following routine tests and measurements:
    - Urine test
    - Blood pressure
    - Body weight
    - Size of uterus
    - Heart beat of baby with a Doppler
    - Check for any signs of swelling in ankles and feet
    - General questions such as how are you feeling and has the baby been moving, etc

    The checkups during third trimester went relatively smoothly. I had a checkup every 2 weeks, and then every week in the last month of pregnancy. At each appointment the nurses helped me get the necessary birth documentation ready and provided information on what to bring to the hospital when the baby comes.

    My blood type is Rh-negative, and my husband is Rh-positive, so I had to receive some extra tests in third trimester. There is alot of information on the internet about this if you are in a similar situation – basically, if you are Rh-negative and your baby is Rh-positive (inherited from father), and your baby’s blood mixes with your blood, your body could respond by producing antibodies which attack the baby’s blood causing serious complications including anaemia. I had received a few blood tests in 2nd trimester to check that I wasn’t developing antibodies, and the doctor also checked on the ultrasound that the baby wasn’t developing anaemia. Then at 28 weeks, after another blood test to confirm that no antibodies had been produced, I was given an injection of Rh-immunoglobulin (to prevent the production of antibodies). If my baby is born with Rh-positive blood, I will be given another dose of Rh-immunoglobulin within 3 days after birth.

    Costs for Pregnancy Check-ups in 3rd Trimester
    The following is an example of the costs for maternity check-ups at a Japanese public hospital. I have Japanese national health insurance and used the yellow discount tickets from the ward office (Kuyakusho) that were received with my boshi techo.
    Note - these costs are only provided as a guide. Actual costs may vary depending on which clinic/hospital you go to.
    Also note that ultrasound scans cost approx. 5,000 yen each time, as it is not covered by insurance.

    28 wks: 3000 yen
    - regular checkup
    - I didn’t have a scan this week as had one at 27 wks before I went overseas the week before
    - As I am Rh-negative blood type, and my husband is Rh-positive, I also had an Rh-immunoglobulin injection (70% covered by insurance at my hospital)

    31 wks: 3000 yen
    - checkup, scan (my scans after 30 wks were free – I was hesitant to ask the reason why in case they charged me (☺!) but hopefully this is standard for 3rd trimester at all hospitals)

    33 wks: 3000 yen
    - checkup, scan (free)
    - I also had an antibody-screening blood test as noted above

    35 wks: 5000 yen
    - checkup, scan (free), and streptococcus test

    37, 38, 39, 40 wks:
    - checkup, scan
    - at 37 wks, will have fetal heart monitoring for 20 min to check baby’s heartbeat

    I am posting this update on 3rd trimester just in case I don't get the chance to later (!) - I will try and update with the costs after 37 wks at a later date. All the best to you all with your pregnancies!

    Click here for information on all 3 trimesters.

    Sep 25, 2011

    Maternity Leave in Japan

    Here is an overview of the Japanese maternity leave system.

    The information is current as of Sep 2011, and is provided only as a guide. Please note that TPG takes no responsibility for the currency or accuracy of the information provided. As the system is subject to change, it is important that you use this information only as a guide, and confirm all the details specific to your own situation with your own company.

    If you are employed as local staff by a company in Japan and have Japanese national health insurance, you are entitled to these 3 allowances:

    1. Baby Bonus (出産育児一時金)
    This money is to help pay for your hospital fees during birth (390,000 – 420,000 yen). This can alternatively be covered through your husband's insurance if you are not working.

    2. Maternity Leave allowance(出産手当金)
    This is the money to support you for 6 weeks (42 days) before and 8 weeks (56 days) after the birth. You can receive 67% of your monthly salary during this period.

    3. Childcare Leave allowance(育児休業給付金)
    This is the money paid monthly from 56 days after the birth until 12 mths after the birth. You can receive 50% of your monthly salary (note there is a cap). This can also be extended for an additional 6 mths, if for example you need more time to get your child into childcare.

    Here is a diagram to help you visualise these support systems:

    If your baby arrives early?
    - You will receive reduced pre-birth maternity leave allowance (you will receive less money). The 56 days post-birth maternity allowance and 12 mths childcare allowance will be calculated from the actual date of birth.

    If your baby is overdue?
    - You will receive an extended pre-birth maternity leave allowance (you will receive more money). The 56 days post-birth maternity allowance and 12 mths childcare allowance will be calculated from the actual date of birth.

    Steps for applying for Baby Bonus, Maternity Leave and Childcare Leave

    Below is a summary of the steps for preparing the applications for the baby bonus, maternity leave and childcare leave. In Japan, it seems common that your company will organise the documentation for you, so you just need to provide the necessary information. This was a strange concept for me at first, as I wanted to know all the details! Hopefully the following information will help others in a similar situation.

    1. At 12 wks, I informed my boss that I was pregnant. This allowed my company ample time to notify staff (before my belly started to become noticeable!), and also time to prepare the maternity leave documents and temporary replacement staff.

    2. At 20 wks, my company asked me for the following information:
    • Doctor’s certificate
      • Confirmation of the pregnancy and estimated due date
    • Dates for starting and finishing maternity leave
      • You can start 6 weeks before due-date, and finish 12 months from the date of birth. 
      • It is recommended to be very specific about these dates and try not to make a mistake – once the documents are submitted it is difficult to change (I made a few mistakes:)). Ask your company if you are unsure. Of course, the date you return to work will be adjusted later depending on the actual date of birth.
      • Whether baby will be your or your husband’s dependant(被扶養者)
        • Usually the father has the baby as his dependant, but if mother’s salary is higher, she could have the baby as her dependent (for tax benefits)
      • Where the baby will be born
        • Hospital name, location

      3. At 28 wks, company provided the following details and requested further information:

      • My company provided an estimate of the amount of money that will be received for baby bonus, maternity leave, and childcare leave
        • They advised that this estimation was under the current law and system, and that it may change before the baby is born (once the baby is born it is usually fixed)
      • They requested my bank account details for the maternity allowance to be paid into
      • Social insurance
        • I had to pay for an extra 3 months of social insurance after I started maternity leave (even though I wouldn’t be working). I still don’t really understand the reason for this, but seems it happens under the Japanese system…
      • I was advised that payment of inhabitant tax will be my own responsibility during maternity leave. Payment slips will be sent to my home address from the ward office.
      • Baby bonus(出産育児一時金)
        • This bonus is to help pay for the hospital fees during birth
        • They asked me to find out if my hospital is a member of the birth medical compensation scheme (産科医療補償制度) (sankairyo hosho seido)
          • If NO, will receive JPY390,000.
          • If YES, will receive JPY420,000.
        • Your baby bonus can be paid directly to the hospital, or into your own bank account. In the former case, you will only need to pay the balance to the hospital (for example, if your hospital is a member of the above scheme and your total stay in hospital costs 550,000 yen, you will only need to pay 130,000yen). You will need to notify your company whether you want the baby bonus to be paid to the hospital directly or into your bank account. I chose to have the money paid directly to the hospital as this was easier (my hospital fees cost more than 420,000yen, so I arranged for the baby bonus to be paid directly to my hospital and I will pay the balance after the baby is born). 

      4. At 34 wks (before I started maternity leave), my company provided the documentation for:

      • Baby Bonus (出産育児一時金)
        • As mentioned above, I chose to have the baby bonus paid directly to the hospital, so my company submitted the application form to the insurance office to make direct payment to the hospital.
        • After the baby is born, ask your Doctor to fill in the relevant sections on the form. Ask your hospital front desk for help if you have any questions.
      • Maternity Leave allowance(出産手当金)
        • After the baby is born, ask your Doctor to fill in the relevant sections on the form. Ask your hospital front desk for help if you have any questions.
      • Childcare Leave allowance(育児休業給付金)
        • After baby is born, need to go to your bank with your bank book and get your bank’s stamp on the document (as verification of your bank account), and then send back to your company.
      Supporting documents required:
      • Copy of front page of your boshi techo (母子手帳)
      • Name of your baby and your and your husband’s name
      • Date your baby was born (birthday) 
      • Birth certificate from your local ward office 

      You will need to send these 3 forms (Baby Bonus, Maternity Leave, and Childcare Leave forms) back to your company, together with the supporting documents, no later than 56 days after your baby is born.

      Click here for more information in Japanese:

      Baby Bonus (出産一時金)

      Maternity Leave allowance(出産手当金) 

      Childcare Leave allowance(育児休業給付金)

      Hope this helps and if anyone has some additional information or would like to share their own personal experience, please contact us at TPG!

      Sep 16, 2011

      Expecting in Tokyo videos

      These videos were made a few years ago but still have some great information about being pregnant in Tokyo.

      Expecting in Tokyo Part 1

      On Youtube:

      Expecting in Tokyo Part 2

      On Youtube:

      Aug 4, 2011

      Earthquakes in Japan - Are you prepared?

      It has been 5 months since the March 11 earthquake, and people may be tending to forget about preparing for the possibility of another one (I am one of these people!). There is still potential for another major earthquake to occur– we will never know when it will actually happen, so it is important to be prepared just in case - and being pregnant makes these preparations all the more important!

      Here are some links on preparing your Earthquake Emergency Kit:
      Earthquake Survival Manual

      Embassy websites also have good information on how to prepare for an earthquake:

      American Embassy advice

      Australian Embassy advice

      British Embassy advice:

      Other points to consider
      Other than preparing an earthquake emergency kit, here are some other things you may like to consider:

      - After the earthquake on 11th March, phones were congested in Tokyo, but internet/ emails were still possible. So for me, I couldn't call my husband or my family back home, but in the hours walking home after the earthquake we were able to keep in touch through sending emails from our mobile phones (Facebook is also an option). We copied all our family members on each email, and just kept clicking "reply all" when we sent an update. This was the best way to keep in touch at the time, and helped my family back home to keep calm as well as they followed our progress. The one problem I had was my mobile ran out of battery -  it is a good idea to include a mobile phone battery charger in your emergency kit just in case internet is still available (buy a battery-operated charger, as electricity may not be available). 

      - If both phone lines and the internet are down, how will you contact your partner? If you are heavily pregnant, you will not be able to walk far, so you need to decide on a meeting point close to the house or your/ your partner’s workplace (usually the closest school yard or park will be the designated emergency evacuation point for your neighbourhood). Always make a few contingency plans - you may be out shopping for example, and have difficulty walking home. It's good to send your partner a message about what your plans are for the day, so you'll know in general each other’s whereabouts.

      - How far is your hospital from home? Could you walk there if all the trains have stopped and there are no taxis available? Remember, if there is a large earthquake, it is likely that all the ambulances will be busy and may not be able to pick you up. Determine the best way to walk to the nearest hospital, print-out a map with detailed directions and store in your emergency kit.

      - What if your partner is away on a business trip? Do you have a friend or work colleague living close-by who you could reach? Talk with your friends in advance - it is always good to have a chat just in case and think about alternatives. 

      Real life stories from TPG members
      Some of our TPG members actually experienced first hand giving birth after the shock of the earthquake on March 11. Today we would like to share two of these stories with you. I remember reading these stories for the first time on the way home from work, and the emotion and worry I felt for Sarah and Charlotte, as well as feeling inspired by their courage and the positive outcomes from their traumatic experiences. Thank you so much Sarah and Charlotte for sharing your birth stories with us!!

      March 11 birth story from Sarah

      Today we have two special March 11 birth stories to share with you from our TPG members.

      Sarah sent her story to us just one month after the earthquake, and she has kindly allowed us to post it on the TPG website to share with you all. 

      "Here is my birth story... it's a LONG ONE!!

      It all started March 11, 2011...I was 34 weeks pregnant, huge, and pretty darn happy!
      As you all know, March 11 was the day the BIG earthquake hit Japan... Well, due to the earthquake and the chaos of that day, my baby suffered too much stress and almost died inside me!

      Immediately after the earthquakes hit- I started to have contractions and than started to bleed very badly a few hours later.

      Thank goodness at the time, I was with my dear friend (she 'was' my bump buddy - also pregnant at 21 weeks - SHE WAS OK!!). During the earthquakes, we held each other and helped to calm each other down. We were extremely lucky to be together at that time and to be in a safe building!

      Well, when I saw the blood, I had no idea why I was bleeding but knew something was terribly wrong. I immediately told my bump-buddy and she calmly let me know that I needed to get to a hospital ASAP.  We contacted the security officers in the building and they brought us to their office - they called for an ambulance, but we all knew it would take hours!  We waited there and tried numerous times to contact our husbands, but it was hit or miss because most cell phones didn't work that night… so we waited, and waited...

      It took HOURS for the ambulance to arrive and figure out where to take us.  I am a patient at Seibo Hospital and that was the ONLY place they were willing to take me! I was very frustrated and angry because my bump-buddy was also feeling pain and we just wanted to be seen at the closest hospital ASAP!! We found out very quickly THAT WAS NOT AN OPTION! Even in that extreme situation, they would NOT take us to a closer hospital - I was going to Seibo and my friend was going to her hospital, there was no negotiating!

      We had no choice but to say goodbye and wish each other good luck - we were put into separate ambulances and headed in opposite directions. They raced me all the way across Tokyo to get to Seibol! The ride was intense - my contractions were getting worse and with all the traffic it took over an hour to drive there. I was in so much pain- I kept passing out and was in shock, confusion and constant fear for the baby!!!

      Once we got to Seibo, the Doctor checked me ASAP and told me that the baby was in great danger and was going to die!!!

      We had an emergency c-section within the hour. The staff, nurses and Doctors ALL worked quickly. They were very kind to me and did anything they could to keep me calm. I begged for them to call and wait for my husband or at least wait until the morning, but they all insisted that it needed to be done ASAP!  My c-section was very scary and painful and lonely. Yet, thank goodness - moments before the surgery, I managed to talk to my husband from the bathroom for a few seconds - to let him know that I was having the baby!

      On the operation table, I cried - I was in such shock that my husband wasn't going to be there!! I was in shock that I was having a c-section, in shock that I was all alone! The entire surgery was very scary...That was until I heard the first cry from my son!! At that exact moment my heart became so light and I was filled with such a rush of happiness, love and pride!  They let me hold him for about 1 min on the operation table. I touched his hand and he grabbed my two fingers, so tight! It was the best moment of my entire life, meeting my son for the first time. It was the truest love that I have ever felt!

      He was born safe and sound at 34 week, on March 11, 2011 at 11: 22 pm, weight 2732 grams. Together the baby and me made it just fine, just in time!!

      My poor sweet husband was upset that he missed our son’s arrival. The night of his birth, as all trains, roads and buses were a mess- my husband ran home from work, jumped on his bicycle and drove all the way across Tokyo - it took over 3 hours to arrive early the next morning to meet his son for the first time! I asked him later, if it was hard getting to the hospital and he told me it was nothing. He just kept smiling the whole way and couldn't wait to meet his baby!

      Immediately after his birth the baby went inside an incubator and needed lots of medical attention around the clock. It was so hard not to be able to hold him, my heart was breaking every time I saw him with tubes and cords, and wires all over his tiny body. It was hard because all I could do was touch him through a small window with my fingers.... I talked to him all the time- I told him stories, and sang songs. I told him all sorts of stories. I just wanted him to know I was there with him and he was safe. Over the next few days I was able to hold him and started to breast-feed.

      After a week at Seibo, I was released and went home, alone. The baby had to stay until he was 37 weeks old-which was 2 more weeks! It was a very hard 2 weeks on me emotionally and physically after having a c-section and only a week to recover. I had to travel everyday to Seibo, which is pretty far from my house - almost 2 hours by buses and trains….but I did it everyday to feed him with great happiness and pride!!!!! I was so happy, I WAS A MOMMY!!!

      We named our son Keigo Siem Yamaguchi and he is such a fighter! I know, he will grow strong and become a good man with a warm heart!  He is such a gift from heaven, a survivor from all this chaos, death and disaster.

      Everyday I kiss my little baby and tell him that I am so lucky to have him!

      I am still not feeling 100% recovered from the surgery yet, but I'm sure over time it will get better! One other thing that has made me smile throughout this past month is the love and support that I have felt from my friends here locally, from work, through facebook, TMG, TPG and my friends back home in the states.  Thanks ALL for the love!!

      the yamaguchi family!"

      Thank you so much Sarah for sharing your birth story with TPG. We wish you and your husband and baby Keigo health, safety and happiness!! 

      March 11 birth story from Charlotte

      Charlotte also sent her story to us just one month after the earthquake, and she has kindly allowed us to post it on the TPG website to share with you all. 

      "I still maintain that it was the earthquake that started it off! As we all know, northern Japan was rocked by a massive earthquake on 11 March which shook Tokyo to the tune of magnitude 6. I was in the bank at the time and ended up cowering under a nearby table praying desperately that the shock didn’t trigger labor.

      The following morning I woke up at around 5:15AM and noticed something dripping from me. “Water breaking?” I thought. Surely not; everyone knows first babies are always late. As the dripping continued, however, I started to panic. With the situation as it was, neither taxis nor the trains could be relied upon, and unassisted childbirth was, let’s say, not an option for me; my daughter was breech and Dr. Sakamoto had already scheduled a cesarean schedule to take place on 17 March. So I did what the 21st century human does in such situations: went online, checked my symptoms and posted on a couple of busy internet forums, both of which advised me to start moving towards the hospital right away as who knows how long it might take.

      As I predicted, no taxi was to be had as everyone and their dog wanted a taxi after the earthquake, and an ambulance was out of the question since I was not in active labor and Tokyo’s emergency services were already stretched to breaking point. So finally, after my husband had phoned round everywhere, I said “Sod it. If the Ginza Line is working now, let’s go on the train.” So I threw on the grotty old clothes I had worn the previous day, stuffed my underwear with paper towels, and that’s exactly what we did. As we sat on the train, the leaking became more pronounced and I said “Okay, this is it. Let’s hope the train doesn’t suddenly grind to a halt and leave us stuck here for hours…”

      After a 40-minute journey that felt like forever we got to Hiro and somehow staggered up the interminable hill to the hospital (no taxis to be had here either). The midwife confirmed that labor had begun although I couldn’t really feel any contractions yet other than a slight squeezing sensation, and the nurses started prepping me for emergency surgery. When they left the room for a moment I finally started to sob out of sheer terror at the situation. This wasn’t helped when a few minutes later, the baby’s heartbeat began to decelerate; the midwife said something about a descending cord and before I knew it the nurses were putting an oxygen mask on me and hauling me onto all fours (I later discovered that what was threatening here was a cord prolapse, and that the risk of this happening is higher with breech births and when the waters start leaking before the onset of contractions). Then the baby’s heartbeat returned to normal and Dr. Sakamoto arrived and truly, I have never been so glad to see a doctor in my whole life! I was wheeled into the operating theater, drips and wires were attached to me, and a spinal block administered. The idea of having something put into my spine was frightening, but the reality was shockingly simple and quick; a mosquito-like sting, then numbness kind of pouring down into my feet and legs. They raised a screen, tested me for lack of sensation, and got down to it.

      It was a very odd feeling; there was no pain whatsoever but I could definitely feel some pulling and pushing going on. I stared at the screen and started practicing my times tables in my head and trying to remember the kings and queens of England in order, in an effort to try and distract myself from what was going on on the other side. “Talk to me about something else…. Like, anything!” I pleaded with my husband.

      “Um, like cricket?”

       “No, something I can talk about as well!!!”

      “Hey, Charlotte, she’s out!” And there she was, a real live baby! I felt stunned (partly because I’d gone from “What’s that weird dripping feeling?” to “Wow, I’m a mother” in about three hours). They showed her to me briefly, then off she went with my husband and the nurses for testing while Dr. Sakamoto stitched me up. An hour later she was brought in to me, and I can honestly say that life will never be the same again. She is the most precious, perfect little thing I ever saw, and I’m quite shocked by how hard I’ve been hit with the mother-love stick.

      I think it’s interesting how any given birth can arouse such different views and opinions depending on the person. I know that for many people my daughter’s birth (breech baby becomes planned c-section becomes emergency c-section, with earthquake craziness and threatened cord prolapse thrown in) would be considered a bit of a trainwreck. Personally, however, I thought it was great! It did exactly what it said on the tin (healthy mother, healthy baby), and I really didn’t feel any pain at all from start to finish, unless you count the recovery period. Shame I didn’t have time for an epidural, because a walking epidural dose would have made for a more comfortable recovery; as it was, I had to be content with the less effective option of painkilling drugs. Still, the scar is healing away into a mere pink strip, and breastfeeding has (so far) gone so well that Cecile regained her birth weight at five days old. If I have another child, I will definitely go for a repeat c-section rather than a VBAC.

      So all in all, not a bad experience; now I just have to worry about the situation going on around me in Japan!"

      Thank you so much Charlotte for sharing your birth story with TPG. Cecile is adorable! We wish you and your husband and baby Cecile health, safety and happiness!!

      Jul 28, 2011

      Travel Insurance

      Are you planning a trip overseas while you are pregnant?

      It is always a good idea to get travel insurance, and even more so if you are pregnant. However, unfortunately travel insurance for pregnant women in Japan tends to be quite limited compared to overseas. Based on a search of the internet and enquiries at travel agencies in Tokyo, I discovered that Japanese travel insurance companies only provide cover for up to 22 wks of pregnancy.

      Here are some Japanese travel insurance companies that provide cover up until 22 wks (in Japanese):


      JI (can apply for this at JTB travel agency, but need to also book your flights through JTB)

      If you need some help, go into your nearest travel agency and ask them. They will be able to fill out the forms for you and guide you through the steps.

      If you are in Japan temporarily (and a resident of another country) it may be possible to get travel insurance cover up to 28-32 wks of pregnancy in the country of your residence. Do a search on the internet to find out.

      Safe and happy travels!

      Jul 27, 2011

      2nd Trimester - Personal Account

      Here is a personal account of my 2nd trimester of pregnancy in Tokyo at a Japanese public hospital, continuing on from my previous post about 1st trimester. Depending on which hospital you go to in Japan, there may not be alot of English available, and also this may be your first pregnancy, so I have tried to explain my experience in as much detail as possible.

      You may be wondering by this stage in your pregnancy what the purpose of the “boshi techo” is?! Well, the hospital finally starts to enter information into it from 2nd trimester. Each monthly checkup from 20 wks pregnancy will involve the following tests and measurements:
      - Urine test
      - Blood pressure
      - Body weight
      - Measurement of waist and size of uterus
      - Heart beat of baby with a Doppler
      - Check for any signs of swelling in ankles and feet
      - General questions such as how are you feeling and has the baby been moving, etc

      When it was my first time for these tests at 20 wks, it was a bit confusing as I didn’t know what to do and there wasn't any English explanation available. Most hospitals will have their own little routine, and you are basically required to do the routine checkup list above with the nurses before your appointment with the doctor. I stood at the door of the checkup room for a few minutes waiting for the nurses to explain what I had to do, but they didn’t seem to realise and just left me standing there! Luckily my husband was with me and he explained to them it was my first time and then it finally dawned on them and they explained each step to us and that this will happen with every appointment from now on.

      The routine at my hospital is:
      - When I arrive at the hospital, I put in my hospital card at the ATM-looking machine and it prints out my appointment for the day. I then go straight to take a urine sample (on a different floor of the hospital), and hand it over to the laboratory.
      - Then I go to the maternity ward and measure my blood pressure and body weight. I give these results to the nurse (who writes it in my boshi techo) and wait my turn. Then I am called in and the nurse takes me into a separate room closed with a curtain where she asks me how I'm feeling, I hop on the bed and she checks my baby's heartbeat with the doppler, then measures waist and uterus size. She then checks my ankles and feet for any swelling. She writes all this information into my boshi techo, and then I go out to the waiting room to wait for my appointment with the doctor.
      - After my doctors appointment, I go down to the hospital front desk to pay my bill and then all finished.

      Each hospital will be a bit different, so it is good to ask the nurses about the routine and what you are required to do for each appointment. Once you get to know the routine it is much easier!

      At 27 wks I had the test for gestational diabetes. This was another little experience of misunderstanding! The doctor explained the test for gestational diabetes to me at my previous checkup - we were talking in Japanese and I thought he said to drink some softdrink 1 hour before coming to the hospital. So, on the morning of my appointment at 27 wks I drank a can of 7up on the way. This was pretty embarrassing in itself, as I was holding the can of 7up on the bus at 8 o'clock in the morning on the way to the hospital and I was thinking people must think this pregnant lady is not looking after her health!! Anyway, when I got to the hospital, there was a bit of confusion among the nurses when I explained to them that I had done my preparation and drunk softdrink before I came.... after a few minutes it became clear that I had made a mistake! What the doctor had said was that when I come to the hospital, they will get me to drink a glucose drink (which tastes like a softdrink), and then I wait for one hour before they take a blood sample to test for gestational diabetes. I was pretty embarrassed, but I'm sure these types of experiences happen to everyone in Japan!

      In terms of weight gain, by the end of 2nd trimester I had put on a total of 10 kg. My baby was estimated to weigh about 1.2 kg, so the other 8.8 kg was extra weight. The nurse seemed to be surprised by my fast weight gain (she actually measured my belly twice just to make sure!) and recommended me to take care and try not to eat too much, particularly fatty foods. I was a bit shocked by her reaction, as I eat relatively healthily and my intake hasn't changed greatly since before I became pregnant. Also, I checked the guideline for weight-gain during pregnancy in Australia, and it seems it is normal to gain 11-16 kg during pregnancy (1-1.5 kg per month in the first trimester, and 1.5-2 kg per month for the rest of the pregnancy). The nurse at my hospital said I should be only gaining 0.5 kg per month, so it seems the Japanese standard is much lower than overseas. Personally I think as long as you eat healthily and feel good, then that is the most important thing for both you and the baby!!

      Costs for Pregnancy Check-ups in 2nd Trimester
      The following are an example of the costs for maternity check-ups at a Japanese public hospital as of 2011. I have Japanese national health insurance and used the yellow discount tickets from the ward office (Kuyakusho) that were received with my boshi techo.
      Note - these costs are only provided as a guide. Actual costs may vary depending on which clinic/hospital you go to.
      Also note that ultrasound scan costs approx. 5,000 yen each time, as it is not covered by insurance. This 5,000yen is included in the costs below, unless one of the free scans provided from the Kuyakusho was used.

      15 wks: 8,000 yen
      - scan and chlamydia test

      20 wks: 0 yen 
      – checkup and scan (I used one of the free scans, so no cost)

      23 wks: 2,000 yen 
      - I had this early checkup just 3 wks after my previous appointment as I was going overseas (usually you have an appointment once a month in 2nd trimester). They did the regular checkup and consultation with doctor. I didn’t have a scan (so didn’t have to pay the 5000 yen), but the doctor did check my cervix by vaginal ultrasound to confirm no problems or signs of labour before I went overseas (apparently the cervix shortens and becomes soft if labour is imminent)

      27 wks: 10,000 yen
      – checkup, scan, and test for gestational diabetes (this test is not covered by insurance, so had to pay)

      See you in another 3 months with my personal account of the 3rd and final trimester! Hopefully all goes well!

      Click here for information on all 3 trimesters.

      Jul 23, 2011

      Jul 21, 2011

      ACURA Acupuncture Clinic

      Are you looking for fertility treatment/advice in Tokyo?

      ACURA Acupuncture Clinic offers fertility wellness treatments and also has connections to English speaking reproductive endocrinologists in Tokyo. Taiken Jo, Director of the clinic, has also been a guest speaker at many of our TPG meetings. 

      ACURA Acupuncture Clinic

      Jun 29, 2011

      TPG Brunch - Views from TPG Members!


      At the recent TPG brunch, we asked our members to share their experience of pregnancy in Japan. Some of the questions included:
      1. What was the biggest difference you found about pregnancy in Japan, compared to your home country?
      2. What was the biggest challenge for you about TTC / being pregnant / having a baby in Japan?
      3. Do you have some words of advice for other pregnant or TTC women in Japan?
      4. Which hospital are you going to? What is it like?
      5. Where do you do your maternity/ baby shopping? Do you have some recommendations for other pregnant or TTC women in Japan?

      Here are some of their comments!

      Answers from A:
      1. Biggest difference? A: I think this may depend on the doctor, however, I have found that I receive more ultrasounds/scans here in Japan than I did in the States. Another big difference is the length of stay in the hospital - which can be up to 5 days for a regular vaginal delivery.    

      2. Biggest challenge? A: I think in general, getting around Tokyo is quite easy with the availability of public transportation, however, I have noticed as I get towards the end of my pregnancy, if you don't have a car, you need to plan carefully how/when you want to travel somewhere because you can find yourself getting tired at the end of the day. Luckily, taxi's can be found virtually anywhere if you get too tired for the trains/subways/buses or for walking.

      3. Words of advice? A: Enjoy every minute of it and take advantage of some of the "pampering" available here - there are some really amazing places that are great for pregnant ladies (e.g. massage, acupuncture, mani/pedi's). Get involved with TPG activities and try to meet other women in similar situations!  

      4. Hospital? A: I am giving birth at Seibo in Shinjuku. I have toured the maternity ward and am very happy with the rooms and services available for pre and post natal care for mother and baby. In general, the process as explained to me is as follows: (1) when you arrive at the hospital you will be placed in a "labor" room for the majority of your labor however, once the nurses have checked you and the baby after you first arrive, you are free to walk about, eat, watch movies, and basically get through your labor anyway you please; (2) when you are ready to give birth, they move you to a very spacious and well-equipped "delivery" room; (3) once delivered and you and your baby have been checked out by the doctor, you and your baby will be moved to your permanent room (there are both private and 4-beds available). Seibo basically allows and encourages as much interaction with baby as possible - so you have 24 hour access to your baby. If you need a rest, the nursery will happily take baby for as long as you need as well. 

      5. Maternity/ baby shopping? A: I shipped most of our baby things from the US, however here in Tokyo I will likely use a combination of Babies R Us, Akachan Honpo, and Amazon Japan (perhaps Costco for diapers as well). I have found in general that baby items are more expensive here... Another good option is "2nd hand" items from other mother's (TPG is a great source for passing along this information). 

      Answers from A:
      1. Biggest difference? A: Japan doctors do a lot more ultrasounds than in the US, and the doctor does the ultrasound. In the US, usually a technician does the ultrasound scan and sends the results to a doctor, so often there is a delay of a few days before you hear any news. I was surprised that Japanese doctors don't recommend prenatal vitamins (just healthy eating and folic acid for the first 12 weeks), almost every doctor in the US will tell you to take prenatal vitamins.

      2. Biggest challenge? A: No real challenges, apart from missing family and friends back home.

      4. Hospital? A: We chose Aiiku hospital because of it's good reputation, close location to our home, and neonatal unit onsite. This hospital is dedicated to obstetrics/gynecology. The hospital is a little old-looking and could use updating. Also private rooms are not guaranteed and can only arranged at check-in. Partners are allowed to spend the night only if you can get a private room.

      There are some doctors and midwives who speak English, but not everyone does. Dr. Sakamoto is fluent in English and delivers at this hospital. For prenatal checkups we've been seeing Sakamoto at the Tokyo Medical and Surgical Clinic, which is very convenient and the appointments are usually on-time. We had two checkups at Aiiku and seemed to wait forever in the waiting room.

      5. Maternity/ baby shopping? A: Buying maternity clothes in Japan is almost impossible, so I buy all my maternity clothes online from the US:,, I bought most of my baby's clothes in the US as well and had them shipped to Japan. Our favorite stores in Japan are Akachan Honpo and Amazon Japan.

      Answers from Ca:
      1. Biggest difference? A: I feel very pampered being pregnant here as there are more doctors appointments, tests and a lot more scans here than in the UK. I have found it to be very reassuring and haven't felt worried about anything. It is really nice seeing the same Doctor each time I get a check up and being able to have all my questions expertly answered. It’s especially nice getting to see my baby on ultrasound at each appointment and fantastic to see her in 3D. Its also nice to know that I can have an epidural should I want one and will get to stay in hospital for a few days should I need to. This is not usually the case in the UK due to limited resources and staff shortages. However, the main difference is that here having a baby costs a fortune and back in the UK it is free.

      2. Biggest challenge? A: Luckily I haven't had to face any challenges about being pregnant in Japan apart from I miss not having my mum around to help out.

      3. Words of advice? A: I would recommend going to the TPG meetings every fortnight if you are pregnant as the information is really useful and it is a great opportunity to make friends.

      4. Hospital? A: I am giving birth at Sanno Hospital as it is closest to my house. I feel very reassured that if my baby comes quickly (third baby) that there will be someone on hand to ensure the delivery runs smoothly. It seems very well organised and the staff are very friendly. There are a wide range of rooms to choose from too which is useful if you need more space if your husband wants to stay overnight with you and the baby.

      5. Maternity/baby shopping? A: Personally, I found the choice of maternity clothing here to be quite limited. Also the size thing was an issue too as most clothes were too small or not to my taste. Therefore I did all my maternity clothes shopping in the UK and had it posted over. I have seen that many people sell nice maternity clothing on the TPG emails which may be of use to some people struggling to find maternity wear. I also visited a few baby stores and found that although you can buy many of the same baby essentials there wasn't as much choice as in the UK and it was a lot more expensive. Therefore we shipped everything over. However, babies r us and Akachan Honpo have many baby essentials. There are some nice toy shops in Roppongi Hills which also sell baby clothes. This is a good place to buy gifts for new babies too.

      Answers from Fi:
      1. Biggest difference? A: It seems that the level of care in Japan is much higher than in the UK. I have had numerous scans already, whereas in the UK generally women only get two during the whole pregnancy. The hospitals seem to be much nicer here too!

      2. Biggest challenge? A: To start with I was worried there would be a language barrier, as my Japanese is not good at all. But this has not been a problem at all, all the medical professionals that I have met speak excellent English. I was also worried that pain relief might not be available, but I have found that certain things like epidurals are available if necessary.

      3. Words of advice? A:You should try and meet other pregnant women through TPG meetings and events. It is good to be able to discuss things with them and get different opinions on medical options available.

      4. Hospital? A: I am going to Seibo hospital. It was the only one I visited, and some other TPG members had recommended it. I haven't been to any other maternity wards, but I was very impressed with how clean it is, and there seems to be a lot of staff on duty - very different to my image of a UK hospital! It is a little old fashioned, but that's not really a concern.

      5. Maternity/baby shopping? A: I am tall and have not found any maternity clothes to fit me in Japan. So I bought quite a lot on a recent trip to the UK, or I have had things delivered here. is great as they deliver for free. Baby things are generally more expensive here than back home, so I have bought from UK companies that ship overseas, or my mum posts things to me!  Akachan Honpo is quite good for necessities. If you don't read Japanese it might be a good idea to take someone along who can so they can help translate labels on toiletries/formula etc. Also Amazon Japan often have good deals on nappies, and they deliver.

      Answers from Ch: 
      4. Hospital? A: I am going to Jikei Hospital in Shiba. Pros - Always same doctor sees you and they are friendly and helpful. Cons - They don't do 3D ultrasound scan.

      5. Maternity/baby shopping? A: These are the websites I often use for buying baby/maternity goods, they have good range and are very reasonable priced. Most of them are in Japanese so you may need to ask your Japanese friends help if necessary.

      Answers from K:
      1. Biggest difference? A: The biggest difference I found was in the tests done at 12 wks. In Australia it is common to have an NT scan and blood test at 12 wks to test for down syndrome, however in Japan it seems this is not done at all. Dr Sakamoto is the only doctor we could find who does the NT scan, however the blood test at 12 wks is apparently not approved in Japan yet. The earliest blood test that can be done in Japan is the Quad test at 15 wks (amniocentesis is also approved, but not many doctors do it). Dr Sakomoto can do all three - NT scan, Quad blood test, and the amniocentesis. 

      2. Biggest challenge? A: Finding a ladies clinic to confirm the pregnancy and learning about Japan's system in the first few months.

      3. Words of advice? A: Try to decide on a hospital asap. Japan has a wonderful schedule for the routine check-ups, and sometimes it can be difficult to make the transfer from a clinic or hospital to another hospital. The sooner you transfer the better. Even better if you can go to the one hospital from the beginning. It is not impossible to change though if you want to, even in the last trimester (if there is availability). I know of someone who found out she would require a scheduled caesarian, so she decided to change to a doctor who had extensive experience.

      4. Hospital? A: We went to Rose Ladies Clinic for the first 3 months while we were deciding which hospital to go to. After looking at all the options online we decided to go to Tokyo Medical Hospital in Meguro. Our key priorities were that my husband can be present during labour and delivery, the cost, and that it was close to our house. The doctor speaks English which is great, so we have no problems communicating. The hospital is also quite modern and new which is nice. All three stages of labour, delivery and recovery (LDR) are in your own private room. After recovery for 2 hours, you are transferred with your baby to a share room or private room (private rooms need to be book in advanced and cost extra). They don't provide any pain relief at all (so no epidural or anything), which took me a while to consider, but in the end I decided to do my best with a natural birth. The hospital also doesn't provide the NT scan at 12 weeks, so we went to Dr Sakamoto for this check up at his Omotesando clinic.

      5. Maternity/baby shopping? A: I have bought some extra long singlets, floaty tops, and maxi dresses from shops like H&M, Zara, and Banana Republic. My mum sent me some maternity stockings from Australia for work which have been great. For baby shopping we bought some cute things on sale at GAP - they don't seem to have newborn sizes, but they do have 3 mths onwards so we bought some of these for the baby to grow into. Otherwise planning to buy some baby clothes in Australia and bring them back to Japan.

      Thank you everyone! We hope we can include more from TPG members in our upcoming meetings!

      Jun 11, 2011

      Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

      Here are some great recipes by TPG speaker Susie Rucker.

      Here is Susie's website:

      Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

      2 cups water
      2 cubes chicken bouillon
      1 clove garlic, smashed
      1 cup uncooked quinoa

      2 large cooked chicken breasts - cut into bite size pieces
      1 large red onion, diced
      1 large green bell pepper, diced
      1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
      1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
      1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
      1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
      1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
      1/4 cup olive oil

      Bring the water, bouillon cubes, and garlic to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in the quinoa, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is tender and the water has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Discard the garlic clove and scrape the quinoa into a large bowl.

      Gently stir the chicken, onion, bell pepper, olives, feta cheese, parsley, chives, and salt into the quinoa.

      Drizzle with the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Stir until evenly mixed. Serve warm or refrigerate and serve cold.