Today I met a potential new client at Aoba Birth House in Kanagawa. It was my first time to visit this place and also my first time to visit a traditional Japanese birth house.
Birth houses here are run by midwives only and they are the ones who perform all the pre-natal check ups and attend your labour and birth (although you will need to have 2-3 hospital check ups with a doctor for things such as a dating scan and a 20 week scan which makes sure baby is developing normally). In the event of any kind of emergency happening during a woman’s labour, they are connected to one or two hospitals that the woman would be taken to immediately by ambulance. Birth houses will only accept a woman to give birth there if her pregnancy is considered to be straightforward and not high-risk and everything progresses normally till the end.
There are lots of benefits to using a birth house. Firstly, you really get to know the midwives well since it is a small practice and this in turn means that you feel more comfortable with them during labour. Secondly, they have a very home-like feel to them as the setting is not clinical at all, which can really enhance the birth experience and help the mother feel more relaxed. Thirdly, family members including other children are all welcome to participate and be present during the birth (an experience I have had personally with my 3rd labour and which I found incredible). Perhaps the biggest benefit is the freedom in which a woman is able to labour there. The labour and delivery room is a tatami room with a futon on the floor, a birthing stool, a rope hanging from the ceiling (great to help an woman squat and bear down during contractions), bean bags, and so on. How the woman labours and births the baby is entirely up to her and she can feel free to follow what her body is telling her to do, unlike a maternity hospital setting where very likely you will need to be on a bed your back with your legs in stirrups.
At Aoba birth house today, I saw the midwives warm the mother’s abdomen and back with a special tool with incense inside. One of the reasons that they advocate keeping the abdomen warm is that it helps encourage the baby to stay in the head down position, the thought being that if the core is cold then the baby will turn to seek out the warmest part of the body which is the heart. Although this practice of keeping the abdomen warm even during summer months seems strange to many westerners, it’s definitely interesting to think about the reasons behind it.
I think there is a lot more I could say about today’s experience at Aoba birth house but I will finish here for now 🙂 It has made me think that if I were ever to have a 4th child, giving birth in a birth house would be something I’d seriously consider!
For anyone who is interested, here is a link for Aoba birth house (although it’s all in Japanese):