Giving birth to a child is a delightful experience, yet it can be very stressful if it happens in a foreign country where one doesn’t speak the language or know the culture. In Japan, for example, one of the first differences one may run into is that the Japanese consider a pregnancy to last 10 (4 week) months, not 9 regular months. Although there is this difference in the counting, the full term pregnancy is considered approximately 40 weeks like other cultures. It is also not that common in Japan for the father to attend the birth, however it is possible, though one may need to choose one’s doctor or hospital with this requirement in mind.
Using an epidural anesthesia or other types of pain-relieving drugs during labor is also not as common as in other countries. This is probably because doctors do not tend to encourage it and there seems to be a general consideration that a natural child birth should be the norm. Epidurals are available however, to those who want them and it is usual to have a more scheduled delivery when using them. There are many support groups for foreign women giving birth in Japan, so if they need support or advice, they can contact Childbirth Education Center (www.birthinjapan.com) which provides classes for birthing in Japan. They also offer private consultations and coaching sessions. Tokyo Pregnancy Group (http://tokyopregnancygroup.blogspot.jp/) is an informal support group which holds free meetings and offer classes and workshops every month. Blue Sky offers breastfeeding and parenting consultations via skype (www.blueskytokyo.com/lactation.html)
Another major difference in Japan is that after giving birth, the baby and mother are kept in the hospital for a full week. During this time nurses will conduct tests and provide coaching on baby care, but mostly it is just a period where the mother can relax and enjoy her new born while recovering from the delivery.
REGISTRATION OF BIRTH / NATIONALITY
There are a couple of things parents are required to do such as reporting a newborn’s birth to their local ward or city office within 14 days and getting a visa for the newborn to stay in Japan within 30 days of the birth. Born in Japan does not mean that the newborn can automatically acquire Japanese nationality. If one or both parents are non-Japanese, they also need to report the newborn’s birth to the home country’s embassy and apply for a passport. RELOC8 Asia Pacific Group – Japan can assist in the process of applying for the visa for the new born child.