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Expat Exchange - Having a Baby in Japan
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Tokyo, Japan


Having a Baby in Japan

By Joshua Wood, LPC

SJB Global
SJB Global

Summary: If you're going to be pregnant while living in Japan and want to learn what it's like to have a baby in Japan, this article is a must read. Topics covered include public vs. private hospitals, pain management, finding a doctor and more. Plus, expats share their experiences having a baby in Japan.

Having a baby in Japan as an expat or digital nomad can be a unique and culturally enriching experience. The country is known for its high standard of healthcare, cleanliness, and safety, which extends to its maternity and childbirth services. However, navigating the healthcare system, language barriers, and cultural differences can be challenging for foreigners. This article aims to provide an overview of what to expect when having a baby in Japan, from choosing a healthcare provider to understanding the nuances of prenatal care, hospital choices, and delivery practices in the country.

Choosing a Doctor

When expecting a baby in Japan, finding a doctor or midwife who can communicate in English is crucial for many expats. While there are English-speaking doctors available, especially in larger cities like Tokyo and Osaka, they are not as prevalent as in some other countries. It's advisable to seek recommendations from local expat communities or to contact international clinics that cater to foreigners. Some hospitals have English-speaking staff, and there are also services that provide medical translation. It's important to start looking for a healthcare provider early in the pregnancy to ensure a good fit and to avoid any language-related misunderstandings during prenatal visits and childbirth.

What to Expect for Prenatal Care

Prenatal care in Japan is thorough and frequent, with expectant mothers typically attending monthly check-ups that become more frequent as the pregnancy progresses. These check-ups often include urine tests, blood pressure measurements, and ultrasounds. Japan's healthcare system also provides a maternal and child health handbook, known as the "Boshi Kenko Techo," to all expectant mothers, which serves as a record for prenatal check-ups and vaccinations. It's important to note that some tests and procedures that are standard in other countries may not be routinely offered in Japan unless specifically requested.

Do Expats Typically Have Private Health Insurance when Having a Baby in Japan?

Most expats living in Japan are required to enroll in the national health insurance system, which covers 70% of medical costs, including childbirth. Some may opt for additional private health insurance to cover the remaining 30% and to have access to private healthcare facilities. Private insurance can also offer more options for English-speaking doctors and services. It's advisable for expats to review their insurance plans and understand what is covered before the baby's due date.

Giving Birth at Public vs. Private Hospitals

The experience of giving birth in public versus private hospitals in Japan can differ significantly. Public hospitals are known for their high-quality care and are more affordable, but they may have fewer English-speaking staff and less privacy, as shared rooms are common. Private hospitals, on the other hand, often provide more amenities, such as private rooms and additional services, and are more likely to have English-speaking staff. However, they are also more expensive. Expats should consider their priorities and budget when choosing between public and private hospitals for childbirth.

C-Sections in Japan

Caesarean sections are less common in Japan compared to some Western countries, with a focus on natural childbirth whenever possible. However, C-sections are available and performed when medically necessary. The decision for a C-section is typically made by the healthcare provider based on the health of the mother and baby. Expats should discuss their birth plan and any preferences with their doctor well in advance.

Pain Management During Delivery

Epidural anesthesia is less common in Japan than in many Western countries, and some hospitals do not offer it at all. Pain management during delivery often relies on natural methods, such as breathing techniques and labor positions. However, pain relief options are available, and it's important for expats to discuss these with their healthcare provider early on to understand the options and make any necessary arrangements.

Hospitals with Neonatal Intensive Care Units

Hospitals with neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) are primarily located in larger cities and regional centers in Japan. These facilities are equipped to handle high-risk pregnancies and any complications that may arise during childbirth. Expats living in more rural areas may need to travel to a city hospital to access these specialized services. It's advisable to plan ahead and know the location of the nearest hospital with a NICU, especially for those with identified risk factors or concerns about their pregnancy.

Expats Talk about Having a Baby in Japan

"I had a beautiful baby boy in an Army Medical Center on an Army base on the northern island of Japan. I was late arriving at the hospital, so only local anesthesia! It was so fast, I didn't have time to hurt! The care was wonderful. I went home the next day, feeling fine, and so happy," commented an expat living in Chitose.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


SJB Global
SJB Global

SJB Global
SJB Global

Tokyo, Japan

William Russell
William Russell

Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
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William RussellWilliam Russell

Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
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