Home pregnancy tests are available in pharmacies. The “Check One” brand has English instructions. Once a physician has confirmed your pregnancy, you must register your pregnancy at the Citizens Affairs Division (or similar department) of your city/ town hall. You will need your Alien Registration Card and a Notification of pregnancy, issued at obstetrics/gynecology departments. At this time you will receive the Mother and Child Health Handbook (母子健康手帳 boshi kenko techo). This handbook will record the course of your pregnancy, the birth, and your baby’s growth and immunization to the age of six. You will need to take this book to prenatal visits, the birth and visits to the doctor with your child after the birth.
Note: Tokyo English Life Line (03-5774-0992) offers pregnancy counselling and can refer you to an abortion counsellor.
Maternity Leave and Compensation
CLAIR’s model contract includes unpaid maternity leave, but there is a possibility that your Contracting Organisation has not included it. Check your contract carefully. Schools can shuffle teachers to cover Japanese teachers who are on maternity leave, but JETs are harder to replace. This requires a little extra effort on the part of the Contracting Organisations to accommodate your needs during this time. However, please be assured that even if it is not written in your contract, according to the Labour Standards Law, you are entitled to unpaid maternity leave.
While you are on maternity leave, your National Health Insurance will provide 60% of your standard remuneration for the period of 42 days (70 days if multiple birth) prior to expected date of birth (plus any number of days until actual delivery if the birth is overdue) and 56 days after delivery, provided you do not work or receive wages during that time. Payment is stopped or partially reduced when receiving wages in part or in whole.
To receive this insurance payment, you must apply at your local health insurance office (社会保険事務所, shakai hoken jimusho) using the application for Health Insurance Maternity Leave Allowance form (健康保険出産手当金請求書, kenko hoken shussan teatekin seikyusho) available at the health insurance office. Applications are generally made after the applicant has returned to work and are paid one month after the application has been lodged. Actual dates for unpaid leave must be confirmed on the application form by your place of work and both the expected date of delivery and actual date of delivery must be recorded. Application after return to work allows the forms to be completed and lodged just the one time. However, application may be made before birth for part of the leave period. Application for payment must be made within two years of the first day of unpaid leave.
Prenatal and Birth Expenses
You will have to get accustomed to different methods of pre-natal and post-natal care, and different attitudes of what parenthood means in Japan. You should also consider the expenses associated with pregnancy and delivery. National Health Insurance does not cover the cost of normal maternity and obstetric (pre- and post- natal) care since normal pregnancy and birth is not considered an illness. However, the Insurance does cover the cost of caesarean and other complicated birth procedures.
Upon delivery of a child by a person who is enrolled under National Health Insurance, or their spouse, the health insurance will award a one-time fixed payment of ¥300,000 for each child born for childbearing expenses (出産育児一時金, shussan ikuji ichijikin). This payment is made to the applicant’s bank account within three weeks of application after the birth. The average cost of bearing a child in Japan is between ¥350,000 and ¥1,000,000 (for deluxe facilities) for the usual five to seven-day stay. Check-ups, normal pregnancy and delivery are not covered by insurance. Check with your Supervisor to see that the proper forms are filled out when you wish to claim the payment.
You must register the birth of your child at the Municipal Office if you are a resident of Japan within 14 days of the birth. You will need to bring:
・the Birth Certificate issued by the hospital (出生届出書証明書 shussei todokedeshou shoumeisho)
・the Birth Registration Form (available at the Citizens Affairs Division).
1. You must register your baby as a dependent on your health insurance card within 14 days.
2. If the baby will have non-Japanese nationality you must obtain a passport for your child from your embassy. Contact your Embassy for more information regarding the passport procedures.
3. If your baby will stay in Japan you also need to apply for a resident status for your child. You have to apply for a visa from the Immigration Bureau within 30 days of birth.
4. Applications for Alien Registration should be made within 60 days of birth.
5. The Tokyo Childbirth Education Association provides support and parenting education.
Having a Baby on JET
The following is a personal account from a former programme participant. AJETPSG does not take any responsibility for the information contained within this article.
So the little plus sign came up! Congratulations! You're going to have a baby. Now what?? If you're first time parents, start with some books. The best bet for books in other languages is the Internet. There is no dearth of books on babies and parenting, so pick and choose what you think is best. If you can read Japanese, a trip to the local bookstore is also a must. Get something with lots of pictures and illustrations. It makes it easier to understand what's going on, especially when you encounter new medical terminology. Ask your parents or other people in the family about their experiences. If you're an interracial couple, ask other interracial couples about their experiences.
Going to the clinic for the first time is well, an experience. If your spouse is Japanese they may be more familiar with the whole process. In general, when you've found out for sure that you're pregnant, you will then set up an appointment schedule. (Once a month is standard.) Most clinics will take a sonogram every month. After the foetus reaches a measurable size, the doctor will take measurements of the circumference of the foetus head, length of the foetus leg bone, and an approximate weight at every checkup. The mother can also talk about her concerns to the doctor provided he has time. The nurses are very helpful when in comes to moral support. After three months has passed, the mother can expect a battery of tests, mostly blood work, to see if everything is going well, and also to allow the mother to see what foods she may need more of, or should avoid. Anemia is very common during pregnancy, so doctors may prescribe iron supplements. Each visit will run between 1,000 and 2,000 yen and medicine will be more. If all is well, the regular check ups become more regular toward the end of the pregnancy. Once every 2 weeks in the 8th month and once every week thereafter. If an internal examination is necessary, this will cost more also. Be sure you have enough paid vacation or daikyu for all the hospital visits.
The Big Day
You can expect total care from your nurses, checking the foetal monitor and general progress of labour. The trend in Japan these days is to make pregnancy as enjoyable and rewarding as possible. Many hospitals promote their own style of birthing and relaxation techniques. Newer clinics are shying away from the cold hospital- room look to a more homey, comfortable decor. By now you should have discussed all your nagging questions with your doctor. Standard procedure in Japan calls for women to stay in the hospital for anywhere up to one week. During this time, the nurses teach new moms breastfeeding and bottle-feeding techniques, how to bathe the baby and so on. More importantly, it gives the new mom and baby time to get to know each other, and to get some rest after all that work. Depending on your clinic and your area, prices tend to start from ¥300,000 and go up depending on many factors: type of room, emergency service provided etc.
More About Money
Monthly checkups, blood work, medicine and the labour and delivery all add up! A rough estimate to expect is around ¥500,000 to have a baby not including clothes, toys, strollers, etc. But you can get a payment of up to ¥300,000 from the government for having a baby. This comes in installments every two months. You can also apply at your town office for a monthly baby stipend. Check with your Health and Welfare Section.
Under Japan's social health care system, women (and the husbands) can be expected to see the doctor a lot more and stay in the hospital a lot longer. Since giving birth is not an illness, your insurance won't cover your costs, and they do add up. As with marriages, after your baby is born expect gifts of cash. Standard practice requires you return gifts of half the value received. These are called uchi iwai. If you're totally confused by the whole process, someone in your office should know what to do.
Another practice common after a baby is the mailing of birth announcements. There is no hard and fast rule that says you have to do this, but it's a nice way to let everyone know your good news. Depending on when your baby was born, you may opt to send out New Year's cards (nengajo) or Summer Greeting cards (shochu mimai) and kill two birds with one stone. However, if your spouse is Japanese and there's been a death in the family, you are traditionally not supposed to send nengajo or shochu mimai that year.
A Note on Dual Citizenship
If you and your spouse are of different nationalities, check with your Consulate or Embassy about getting dual citizenship for your child. If you are planning on travelling abroad with your baby, he or she will need a passport. Be sure to give yourself enough time to complete the paperwork on both ends. Again, check with your Consulate or Embassy and with other interracial couples for options and advice.
Located in Tokyo, Japan, Childbirth Education Center (CEC) was created to provide information and support to new parents. Private consultations and coaching for clarifying your birthing desires, choosing a caregiver who meets those desires, prenatal and postnatal sessions for helping you handle pre-birth worries and post-birth self- and child-care challenges, and breastfeeding consultations are all available.
Contact: Ruth Anna Tel: 0162-33-5734
La Leche League International is a volunteer, nonprofit, nonsectarian organisation dedicated to providing education, information, support, and encouragement to women who want to breastfeed. All women interested in breastfeeding are welcome to come to monthly meetings or call leaders for breastfeeding help.
Useful Articles and Blogs
10 Tips on Giving Birth in Japan – Japan Today, Elizabeth Tasker
Havin' Babies in Japan-A Gaijin Dad's Tale – Hiko Saemon
How to have a Baby (and not a Nervous Breakdown) in Japan – Surviving in Japan (if you enjoy this article, the entire Pregnant in Japan series may be for you)
Tokyo Urban Baby – The Essential Guide to having a baby in Japan and baby-friendly places in Tokyo