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: asos.com, destinationmaternity.com, gap.com. 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. ASOS.com 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!