A month ago, I was able to attend a birth at Tsuchiya OBGYN Clinic in Fuchu (土屋産婦人科). I have been there a handful of times before for labours with clients, and I briefly wrote about this latest experience on my Facebook page here, but I thought I’d also write up about this birthing facility here, too.
Tsuchiya Women’s Clinic is in Fuchu, which is about 20mins west of Shinjuku by train. It’s a very small clinic for birth run by Tsuchiya sensei and has 1-2 other doctors who also do check ups (for pregnancy or other issues). Tsuchiya sensei is the one who overseas labours and births but for the most part, unless an unexpected complication arises or an unforeseen medical procedure is needed, the midwives are the ones who “run the show” on the day for the most part.
In terms of how a woman can labour, it’s super flexible. There are 2 rooms – a tatami room (which really allows for complete freedom of movement and a very freestyle birth), as well as a standard LDR room. These rooms are first come first served in labour. But even if you have the standard room, they are still very flexible and allow you to move as you like (there is no expectation that you should stay on the bed). There are also various types of items a woman can use if she likes, too: huge bean bags, an active chair, foam mats that they can place on the floor (in the standard room) and so on. Plus, there’s also the option to take a shower during labour to help manage things a little more easily.
They are a clinic that focuses on natural childbirth, so epidural is not an option. However, in my opinion they really make an effort to help encourage women have a smooth labour experience and the freedom of movement they encourage goes a long way in helping achieve this. Monitoring is really minimal – which can’t be said for so many other hospitals. Again, this is good for a pregnancy that has been uncomplicated and a labour that is showing no signs of anything out of the norm because a woman is not restricted at all from this, and also the physical “fuss” that comes with monitoring is not a big issue (for hospitals that have longer and more frequent periods of monitoring, there can be times where the midwives are having to frequently readjust the monitors and this can be very interfering, interrupt a woman’s concentration in labour, and also add to discomfort (as hands on belly, even monitors on belly can feel too much for some women).
As mentioned above, with a freestyle labour at Tsuchiya comes the flexibility to really push in a physically comfortable and more beneficial position, especially in the tatami room. My latest client was on all 4s for this part and she even helped “pull” her baby out of her once the shoulders were free. Skin to skin really is immediate here – in most other hospitals, that skin to skin time comes after a period of checking on a warming cot, so there’s always some physical separation of mum and baby for the first 5-30 minutes…but in Tsuchiya, it’s straight away and baby stays with mum from that point on (aside from weighing and measuring). Delayed cord clamping is also possible there if everything has gone smoothly and discussed with the midwives and doctor in advance.
Breastfeeding support there is pretty decent in my opinion. There are some areas of support/advice that, in my opinion as a breastfeeding counsellor, need a bit of improvement from what I’ve seen and discussed with clients but on the whole they are towards the better end of the breastfeeding-friendly spectrum. If it’s a woman’s first baby, I’d still suggest being as informed about breastfeeding before birth as possible (by taking a breastfeeding education class with me or elsewhere, attending LLL meetings and so on).
Another benefit of Tsuchiya Women’s Clinic, especially currently with everything that is going on with the coronavirus, is that they are not restricting birth support. The woman can be supported by birth companions of her choosing – partner and doula if she wishes. Visitation is also not restricted afterwards and family, including other children, and (limited) friends can visit as long as it’s within visiting hours. This can’t be said for most other hospitals or birth clinics at the moment.
Although it’s a small clinic, they do have the capabilities to do c-sections of necessary. Unfortunately, even before the coronavirus partners were not allowed into the operation (this is not unusual in Japan) but supposedly Tsuchiya sensei is especially skilled in making sure that the scar is as neat and non-problematic as possible.
Overall, I was really, really impressed with how they supported my recent client in the best way possible given the current state of affairs with the coronavirus. I felt welcome and wanted as a doula there, and I think part of this is because they’ve met me a few times before. There is no English-support here, however. Tsuchiya sensei can speak very basic English and none of the current midwives are fluent (although some can communicate a little bit or at least understand a little). So part of the support I’ve given in past years with clients there has been some language help if needed. That being said, as I always say, your body does most of the talking in labour so you don’t have to.
So, for anyone who is not fully happy with their current hospital, this could be a place to consider (assuming your own birth preferences are for a natural, unmedicated birth). If you live in central Tokyo, don’t let the distance put you off. It’s easily accessible by train, a 30 minute drive in the middle of the night, or 45mins on average during the daytime. Discuss your birth preferences with the staff beforehand and be clear, hire a doula (me :D) if you’d like that extra support and guidance, and I believe you’ll have a positive experience there.