First of all, congratulations on your pregnancy!
Although it’s a happy thing, you may feel a lot of worries about being pregnant and having a baby abroad (in Japan).
This is a guide to pregnancy and childbirth in Japan. This article (Part-1) introduces the general flow of pregnancy and childbirth here. We hope this will help you get a full picture of the process.
When you think you might be pregnant…
In Japan, the first thing you should do is take a pregnancy test at home. You can get the test kit in drugstores and on Amazon, and the price for a single test is usually around 500 yen.
A pregnancy test is available from one week after the missed period.
If the pregnancy test shows positive, make an appointment with an OB/GYN.
In Japanese, it is called 「産婦人科 (さんふじんか / sanfujinka /”Obstetrics and Gynecology”)」.
Some hospitals offer prenatal checkups and delivery while others only offer prenatal checkups, but for a start, either hospital will do.
Your doctor will do some initial tests and check that the baby is developing in the womb. (Prenatal checkups are not covered by insurance, so that the first visit will cost between 10,000 yen and 20,000 yen.)
The digital booklet on this website is a good reference for questions commonly asked by OB/GYNs during the first checkup.
The Support Guide for Moms and Babies
The doctor confirms the pregnancy by checking the amniotic sac (known as “the bag of water”) and the baby’s heartbeat.
For the flow from pregnancy to delivery, this page is very helpful.
Parenting in Japan | Kanagawa International Foundation
*In case you have an unwanted pregnancy, Japanese law allows you to have an abortion only up to 21 weeks of pregnancy. For more information, please check the following link.
Abortion/Termination of pregnancy
Let’s get the Maternal and Child Handbook (Boshi Techō)!
The Maternal and Child Handbook (「母子手帳 (ぼしてちょう / boshi techō)」) as known as the MCH handbook is a small booklet that keeps a record of your pregnancy, the birth of your child, and your child’s health up to the age of six.
When you register your pregnancy at your city office (ward office), you will receive a copy of the MCH handbook along with vouchers for discounted prenatal checkups.
It varies from city to city, but basically, what you need is your (mother’s) ID card. A passport or residence card will do.
To register your pregnancy, you will also need information about the hospital that examined your pregnancy and your due date.
Depending on the city, you may also need a certificate of pregnancy from your doctor.
In addition to the normal MCH handbook, you can purchase an MCH handbook in English, Korean, Chinese, Thai, Tagalog, Portuguese, Indonesian, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Nepalese for 800 yen plus 440 yen for shipping. You can use it just like the normal one.
For more information, please visit the website below.
How to Buy (Maternal and Child Health Handbook)
Let’s choose a hospital to deliver the baby
If the hospital where you get your prenatal checkup does not have a facility for delivery, you need to decide where to deliver your baby.
Here are some points to consider when choosing a place for delivery.
- Do they support English or other languages that you feel comfortable with?
- Do they provide the birth style you want, such as epidural labor?
- Are halal meals or allergy-free meals available?
- Can family members accompany you during delivery?
- Are there any visiting rules?
- Do you have to be with the baby 24/7 during your stay in the hospital?
- Can your partner stay with you in your room, too?
- Japanese-style rooms (Washitsu)? , etc.
Once you choose the hospital to deliver, tell them your due date to make an appointment for delivery. (A deposit for delivery reservation may be required. The amount paid for the reservation will be deducted from the cost of the delivery.)
Also, you should ask them when you need to start taking checkups at the hospital.
You need to inform your current hospital when you move to the new hospital and ask them to write a letter of reference. (It costs about 1,000 – 5,000 yen.)
Make sure you get a prenatal checkup every time
There are basically 14 prenatal checkups before delivery. Urinalysis, blood tests, ultrasound and weight measurements are done to make sure that both mother and baby are in good health.
During the first trimester of pregnancy up to 23 weeks, checkups are held every four weeks; the second trimester up to 35 weeks, every two weeks; and the third trimester after 36 weeks, once a week.
For checkups and examinations, you can use the vouchers that you receive with your MCH handbook. The vouchers are worth around 100,000 yen in total, depending on the city.
Therefore, in most cases, the out-of-pocket expenses for the entire pregnancy will be around 50,000 yen. (Excluding the childbirth cost.)
At about 15 to 20 weeks of pregnancy, you will often find out the gender of your baby. (Well, my son frequently crossed his legs, so the doctor was not sure even at 20 weeks…)
If you don’t want to know the gender until birth, ask the doctor in advance to keep it a secret.
In Japan, it is said that a baby can be born at any time after 37 weeks. It is a good idea to prepare for the afterbirth by this time. (You can find the item lists in the next post [Part-2].)
If your contractions start to last longer and get closer together, or if your water breaks, call the hospital first and go to the hospital.
It is important to discuss how to get to the hospital with your partner or family in advance. (Car? Taxi? Who will take care of the other kids?)
In some urban areas of Japan, there is a “labor taxi” service (陣痛タクシー / じんつうたくしー / jintsū takushī).
If you register your due date and the hospital, they will pick you up and take you to the hospital right away. The seats are designed not to get stained with blood or amniotic fluid, and even if they do, you will not be charged for cleaning.
陣痛タクシー | 日本交通 (Only in Japanese)
Cost of childbirth
The approximate cost of childbirth (including the cost of hospital stay) is 500,000 yen.
*In the case of a cesarean section, there will be an additional 200,000 yen for the surgery, but since it is covered by insurance, the actual additional cost will be about 30% of that amount.
*In the case of a painless delivery, the additional cost is about 100,000 to 200,000 yen, not covered by insurance.
If you are covered by Japanese public insurance such as National Health Insurance (NHI) or company health insurance, you will receive 420,000 yen per child.
In some cases, you may have to pay the full amount to the clinic by yourself and receive the payment later, while in other cases, you may only have to pay the difference at the clinic. Please check with your health insurance provider and the hospital “before” you give birth.
While you are staying in the hospital, they will give you a form to register the birth of your baby with the local government.
Fill out the left side of the form and submit it to the city office within 14 days of the baby’s birth. (The right side is filled out by the doctor.)
For the next post, we introduce the lists of items you need during your stay in the hospital and for your newborn baby. We also answer frequently asked questions.