Pregnant in Japan – Choosing A Birth Facility

After confirming and registering your pregnancy, the next thing you would want to think about is where to give birth. The sooner you can get this done, the better. I made my reservation six weeks into my pregnancy and by then, the hospital I’ve chosen was already full up 3 weeks before my due date. Reading around the internet suggests that this is common for most hospitals (in Tokyo at least).

As a foreign mother-to-be, here are some things you might want to consider.

English-Speaking Hospitals

Having to deal with medical jargon throughout the pregnancy is tough enough. Having to do it in a foreign language can be very scary. It is possible to find English-speaking doctors and hospitals in Tokyo but your choices will be quite limited and prices are also expected to be considerably higher.

Some of the more popular options for those who want to work with doctors and medical staff that speak English are Aiku Hospital in Minato Ward, the Japanese Red Cross Medical Center which is in Shibuya and St. Luke’s International Hospital near Tsukiji.

I personally decided not to go to an English-speaking hospital as I found the cost too high (could go beyond ¥500,000 out of pocket even after you’ve applied the subsidy – which we will talk more about later) for services that I think aren’t that much different. I have also found a way around this concern because of the next point that I will be discussing.

立会い分娩 (Hiragana: たちあいぶんべん /Romaji: Tachiai Bunben)

Watch out for this Kanji when checking websites and pamphlets of hospitals you are considering. This basically means that your significant other is allowed inside the room during the delivery. My husband is Japanese and is able to sufficiently translate things to me in English so this was pretty high on my list of priorities. As long as he can accompany me during the birth, I’m pretty confident that I would be able to appropriately respond to the doctor’s directions.

無痛分娩 (Hiragana: むつうぶんべん /Romaji: Mutsuu Bunben)

This translates to “painless delivery” and is what you should be keeping an eye out for if you are planning on using an epidural. You would be shocked to know that this is actually not a very common practice in Japan and only a few hospitals offer this service. During my research, I also was not able to find any hospital that provides the option of using Entonox/Gas.

Note that even if it is offered in your hospital, slots can be limited and you would have to make a reservation for the epidural as early as you can. Another important thing you have to think about when considering painless delivery is the cost which is about ¥200,000 on top of the regular fee.

Hospital Facilities/Staff

The common practice in Japan is to have the mother and baby stay in the hospital for 5 days after the delivery. Of course, it would be good to spend those five post-medical procedure, crucial to motherhood life adjustment days in a place where you would be comfortable and feel stress-free.

Check the shared facilities as well as the type of rooms that they offer. It is typical for them to have different kinds of packages such as a room shared by two or a private room with its own bathroom. Know that not many establishments allow family or visitors to stay overnight so if this is something that’s important to you, ask about it in advance. Food is also an important consideration. A lot of the hospitals I found pride themselves for serving not only nutritious but delicious, even ‘hotel-level’, food.

When researching, be sure not to limit yourself to information provided by the hospital. One thing I found very helpful was reading customer reviews on Google. This was especially handy when I wanted candid opinion about the staff’s treatment and the patient’s overall experience.

Location

Of course! This is one of the things you should be thinking about right from the start. I don’t know if this is available in other cities but in Tokyo, there is actually a special taxi hotline for pregnant women. Still, not only for the delivery but for convenience during prenatal exams as well, choosing a place nearby is certainly beneficial. Start by searching from within your ward.

Cost and Subsidy

As long as you are enrolled in the National Health Insurance, the government will provide a lump sum payment upon your baby’s birth. The amount depends on where you live and the last time we checked, it is ¥420,000 in Tokyo. I’m not an authority on this though, so be sure to consult with the appropriate people at the hospital/city hall. Once you have the actual figure, you can plan around how much you are willing to spend out-of-pocket. We were also informed by our hospital that they would automatically deduct the subsidy from our final bill.

My Choice

In the end, I decided to go with Seo Clinic in Otaku. This maternity facility was first brought to our attention when my husband and I searched for choices within our ward. From our house, it is less than 15 minutes by car and a 20-minute train ride.

Upon looking into it more closely, I learned that they not only can allow my husband inside the delivery room, they also offer the option of using an epidural. I was further impressed by their food, facilities and experience in the field. Lastly, I was reassured by the reviews that I read about the place.

So, there you have it. That is how I arrived at my decision of a birthing facility. I hope the tips above would prove useful for you as well, mommy!

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