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Hospitals and clinics in Tokyo welcome birth partners

When my partner and I first considered getting pregnant again in Japan, I knew it would be difficult to find a clinic that would meet my needs. After a challenging experience in Canada, I really wanted to create a calm environment for my second birth experience. One of my main requests was that my partner be present at all times during the birth, but also with me after the birth for the extended five-day hospital stay. I also hoped that my oldest daughter would be able to stay or visit the baby soon after. And I strongly preferred to have a private room and bath area; While I know many people have great experiences with other new mothers, privacy is very important to me in the early postnatal period.

When I started my original research, I was alarmed to see that many women’s clinics and hospitals in Japan did not allow tachiai bunben (birth in the presence of father/birth partner). But with some searching I found two clinics, not disastrously far away, that met my criteria. Then COVID showed up.

Giving birth in the age of COVID

Image: iStock: Jomkwan

Ecstatic when I saw the two lines on my pregnancy test, I looked at the home pages of the two clinics to see where they were listed. Unfortunately, partners had been completely excluded for the delivery and hospital stay, as well as for all ultrasounds and check-ups. The other was more obscure so I went in person to check it out. I liked the atmosphere of the place and so despite having to do every appointment alone, even when the doctors were worried about the baby, I stayed. And in the few months before her birth, I obsessively checked the website for updates.

Luckily for me, when my daughter was born, her father was allowed to stay in the delivery room the entire time – after submitting to a PCR test on site in the middle of the night upon arrival. For the record, they also gave me a PCR test as I toddled to the labor and delivery unit, but I was more focused on my contractions than the swab up my nose. As for where to stay afterward, we were officially told no, but unofficially he was allowed to come and go almost as often as we wanted. However, my oldest daughter had to wait five days before she could see her mother and new sister.

I have undoubtedly been lucky in the age of COVID and many expectant mothers find themselves alone during labor in Japan. And although the nursing and midwifery staff are apparently present, stories from my environment and in women’s magazines paint a picture of a much lonelier experience. For foreign women in Japan who already give birth in a different culture and need to speak a different language, being deprived of a birth partner both during and after birth is a serious problem. Without the right emotional and language support, it is more difficult to advocate for yourself and your baby.

The importance of a birth partner

Click here to read more.

© Savvy Tokyo

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