Aiiku Hospital Virtual Tours

Since 2015, I’ve been running tours of Aiiku hospital for patients of the International Unit. Originally these tours were in person at the hospital directly, but the hospital bosses decided to stop them in early 2019. After that, Dr Sakamoto and Dr Sen decided it would be a good idea to continue the tours virtually so we made a video and have been using it to hold virtual tours ever since.

With the virtual tour on Zoom, you are led (by me in the video) through the hospital, looking at the LDR rooms, the room options to stay in after baby has been born, other amenities available, and we also go through procedures and hospital policies so that everyone can be well prepared and informed (especially important now with the various changes and restrictions in place due to the coronavirus).

It’s a great opportunity to have an inside look at the hospital in advance, ask questions and hopefully come away feeling positive.

It’s also a great opportunity to involve grandparents overseas who may otherwise be feeling somewhat removed from the preparations and excitement. So if you’d like your family from overseas to join, that can be arranged. The fee for each tour is 1,000 yen only per Zoom screen and we run 1-2 of these tours a month (depending on the month).

If you’d like to sign up for one, let me know. Unfortunately as these tours are organised on behalf of the Aiiku clinic International unit, they are limited to only patients of Dr Sakamoto or Dr Sen.

September so far!

Since I’ve been back from my summer holidays, I’ve been to 3 births – all at Aiiku hospital.  2 with Dr Sakamoto and 1 with Dr Sen.  In all 3 cases, everything went very smoothly.  For anyone looking for some perspective and information about what to expect in Aiiku with either Dr Sakamoto and Dr Sen, please get in touch (you are in good hands, though).

Towards the end of this month, or possibly early October depending on when baby decides to come, I’ll also be acting as a distance doula for a client who isn’t able to have a doula for her birth in person.  I’m excited to see how that will go and hope that it will be a positive experience for my client and her partner.  If anyone is in a different part of Japan or has a very strict (less progressive) hospital that flat-out refuses doula support, please get in touch if you’d like to consider distance support instead!

I’m also now working on setting up a Facebook page for Tokyo Doula Support.  As I often post relevant articles, advice and so on on different Facebook groups, I though it was about time (after 5 years of running Tokyo Doula Support) that I have my own page for it all.  Watch this space!!

January Births Done!

January ended up being one of my busiest months birth-wise!  I was at 5 births overall – which I think is the most I’ve done in one month before!  All of the babies were delivered at Aiiku hospital with either Dr Sakamoto or Dr Sen, and, as expected each labour was very different.

Dr Sen continues to impress me with each labour I’m at with her.  She is definitely natural-labour-minded, allowing the woman to labour at her own pace and it seems to me that less women who have her as a doctor end up with an epidural – partly because she has to call Dr Sakamoto or another back up to administer it if a patient wants one, which puts a barrier in front of getting an epidural in the first place, but mostly because of her encouragement and approach to labour in general.  While she can’t spend all labour with her patients (that’s my job as doula when I’m there), she is hands on when she can be.  She often gives massages, stimulates pressure points and so on during labours which is a really nice thing and comforting thing for an OB to do.   She is also great at making sure women don’t have episiotomies.  I think I’ve only seen her do one once in the various labours I’ve been in with her.

My next labour so far will be a home birth, all being well.  My client will be using So san from Matsugaoka Birth House as her home-birth midwife.   I met her today and she’s lovely.  She can speak English well-enough and is very reassuring.  With Matsugaoka Birth House, you can choose to give birth there (with a midwife), at Nisseki in Hiroo with So san, or in your own home with So san.  Of course, conditions apply and they can’t take on women with any complications, but for those who are looking for a very natural labour, this is a great choice – an experienced English-speaking midwife with the back up if needed of an extremely well-respected hospital.  I’m looking forward to this labour very much!


Recent Birth at Aiiku

Last week I was at a birth in Aiiku, with Dr Sen as the OB.  It was a really wonderful experience and I quickly wanted to share some general details about it.

My client went into labour during the night and went into hospital that night where she was still very comfortable.  It wasn’t till around 5am when her contractions got intense and very regular.  The LDR unit was actually completely empty – she was the only patient for the whole day.  This meant that we got a lot of extra hands-on support from the midwives which was great.  My client was free to labour however she wanted – so we did a lot of walking, stair-climbing, she used the bath, used the balance ball, and also the active chair.  It was really great at how open she was to trying different things to help her labour along.  It all progressed really smoothly, although the last few centimeters of dilation did take quite a while.  Finding the motivation to keep going naturally not knowing how long there is still left to go and knowing an epidural is an option is a hard thing sometimes, but she really did wonderfully.  She was managing so well that I personally felt she could keep going without an epidural, and I think (I hope) having me there to reassure her that things were going well really helped 🙂

Dr Sen herself is a very laid-back and relaxed doctor when it comes to labour,  letting each woman do what works for them and not over-managing anything (unless the need arises).  She was hands-on during the times she was present doing some massage of foot acupressure points which was nice.  All the times I’ve been in labours with her, I’ve found her to be a really gentle and positive voice.

During the actual delivery, my client was able to have baby immediately placed on her chest and have the heart-rate check and oxygen check of the baby done while on the mother.  In Japan, even if doctors say a mum can have “Kangaroo care” (the term used here for immediate skin to skin contact), it’s not usually as immediate as we expect – usually the baby is quickly taken to the warmer, have the heart-rate check and oxygen checks done, wrapped in a towel and then given back to the mother for the skin to skin time.  So, with Dr Sen, you really can get that immediate contact with your baby which is great!

I’ve got a couple more births coming up with Dr Sen over the next 3 weeks, so I’m looking forward to them, too.

VBAC Success

A week ago today, I was at my first VBAC (Vaginal Birth After C-section).  Dr Sakamoto was the doctor, so the birth itself was at Aiiku hospital.   The mother didn’t have the best experience with the C-section she needed to have with her first child (overall stress of the experience, reaction to medication, and the long recovery time afterwards), so she was very determined to at least be able to try for a VBAC with this pregnancy.

As it was my first VBAC, I was very “excited”to be asked by the mother to be her doula 🙂 Throughout her pregnancy, as is the case with all my clients, we had regular meetings where we discussed things related to her pregnancy, the labour, what had happened at hospital appointments and so on.  I really hoped that she’d be able to get her wish of trying for her VBAC and that nothing unexpected would come up to change things.  Dr Sakamoto was willing to let her try but was cautious about the chance of success (I think this goes with his character and his role as doctor and main care-provider).

The mum went into labour the day before her due date.  A c-section had been booked already for the next week if labour didn’t start naturally because in a VBAC situation inductions are not done.  She was very very glad her labour started naturally and I got to the hospital as contractions were very close together and pretty intense.  Without going in to the full details of her labour (as that is the mum’s story to tell), her sheer will and determination to have a successful VBAC were what got her through.  There was a time where it looked like a c-section was going to be needed as the labour wasn’t progressing…but then literally in less than an hour she was ready to push and her baby was born beautifully.  It was fantastic and I was so thrilled for her!

For anyone who is considering a VBAC, I’d love to hear from you!

Lovely Testimonial and Dr Sen

One of my recent births, as I mentioned in my previous post, was at Aiiku hospital with Dr Sen.  It was the first time I had been at a labour where Dr Sen was the doctor and I was genuinely so impressed her skills, her manner and her “way” of managing things.  It was a really relaxed environment for the parents from start to finish and Dr Sen was wonderful in respecting fully all of her patient’s wishes and requests without question.  My client, her patient had the labour she hoped for from start to finish.   Of course, a lot of this is due to things just going smoothly on the day but I also think a big part of it is that Dr Sen was progressive in her practice to not manage the labour unnecessarily.  Once example is during the pushing phase.  quite often the expectation with most doctors here is to be on your back on the bed for this part of labour.  However, Dr Sen, was very much open to the mother pushing how she wanted – whether that be on the bed, on all 4s, squatting and so on.  Following the mother and how her body naturally wants to move (as it should be when everything is going very smoothly and without complications).  So I would certainly very much recommend Dr Sen to anyone!

As for myself,  my client in the above labour – the lovely Amanda – very kindly wrote a testimonial about me which I’m happy to share with all of you 🙂

“Having a doula for my first labor and delivery was the best decision my husband and I could have made in preparation for the birth of our son. I’ve always known I wanted a natural birth but I just wasn’t quite sure how to go about achieving this or if I would even be able to cope with the pain once the time came. Now I can honestly say that by having Stephanie there with me got me through the hardest parts and I also believe she helped speed up my labor.
My husband wasn’t keen on the idea of having a doula at first. He had never heard of a doula nor is it a very popular in Japan in general as far as I know. He now believes that every women should have a doula. Not only did Stephanie help me get through delivery she helped my husband help me which kept stress levels down for everyone.
Not to mention she was even able to capture photos of the delivery of my son, I will cherish these photos forever and am eternally grateful for  this.
I would recommend Stephanie to anyone wanting to have a memorable, relaxed, enjoyable labor and I have every intention of calling on her again once we try for a second child.”.




I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!

I just wanted to share a testimonial with you all 🙂  This is a birth I was at the start of this year and story I helped write for the mother.  She has given me permission to share it with you all!

I hope you enjoyed reading it 🙂


I gave birth to my son on January 10th, four days after his estimated due date. Contractions began the night before around 2am. They were similar to the practice contractions I had been having in the days leading up, and inconsistent in length and strength, so it took a while before I was convinced that I was in labor.

At 6am when they were roughly 10 minutes apart, I called Dr. Sakamoto, and at 8am we decided it was time to go to the hospital, so I called my doula Stephanie Kawai, and my husband and I ordered the labor taxi.

At Aiiku the midwives measured my cervix ­­ I was 3cm dilated ­­ and the contractions were still quite manageable, so Stephanie, my husband, and I walked the halls of the labor ward and breathed through the contractions. Four hours later, I was still only 3cm dilated, and Dr. Sakamoto broke my waters, though he told me that if dilation didn’t progress, we should consider administering Pitocin. I continued to walk the halls and labor with my husband as Stephanie suggesting different positions and techniques until 4pm when I was 5cm dilated, and the doctor said I was making progress.

The midwives suggested I try climbing stairs, so we climbed from the 3rd floor of the hospital to the 8th and back down again. I found the activity very focusing, and at the same time, I could feel the contractions growing stronger. At 6:15pm, the midwife checked my cervix, but I was still only 5cm dilated. Just as we were discussing whether or not to use Pitocin (and an epidural, as I was unwilling to have one without the other), the baby’s heart rate dropped, and they placed me on all fours and gave me oxygen. Stephanie and my husband remained so calm and collected throughout this, that I didn’t even think to worry and just focused on breathing deeply.

The baby’s heart rate stabilized, but Dr. Sakamoto prepared me for a c­section just in case ­­ at the same time, I was measured again, and we realized that I was now suddenly 8cm dilated. I continued to labor through contractions where I felt a strong urge to push though I was not fully dilated. Through these contractions, my husband held my hands and Stephanie applied counter­pressure with a tennis ball that helped relieve some of the pressure.

At 8:30 the baby’s heart rate dropped again, and we used more oxygen to stabilize him. Dr. Sakamoto measured me, and I was fully dilated, so he decided to proceed immediately with an assisted vaginal delivery using forceps. We took one practice push between contractions, and then on the following two contractions, I pushed (with all my might!) and my son was born! The cord had been wrapped around his neck (the cause of the heart rate fluctuations), so the pediatrician had to check him right away, and I wasn’t able to do kangaroo care, though my husband was with him in the nursery the entire time.

Thankfully he was perfectly healthy with a cry that quickly grew strong and demanding ;) Though there were parts of his delivery that were difficult for me, the challenges were mitigated by the unflagging support of my husband and the wonderful midwives at Aiiku. Dr. Sakamoto himself was stellar, and at no point did I feel like I wasn’t receiving the best, safest, most competent care possible ­­ care that also made efforts to honor my birth plan at all stages.

Finally, I cannot stress enough how important and helpful it was to have my doula Stephanie at my side throughout this experience. Her very presence calmed me and eased the rough spots, not to mention the many helpful suggestions and actions she offered and performed with me. If you are on the fence about hiring a doula, I cannot recommend it ­­ and Stephanie in particular! ­­ strongly enough. I am happy to talk to anyone about my experience if it’s helpful, so please let me know. Good luck ladies. We cannot wait to see the beautiful creatures you bring into this world!

A busy January so far!

A lovely start to 2016!  On Saturday, I did the first Aiiku tour of the year where I bumped into one of the ladies who had attended the Doula Cafe in December – she had just given birth and was definitely on a high.  Then on Sunday, I attended my first birth of 2016 at Aiiku hospital and a beautiful baby boy was welcomed into this world.  The mother did a wonderful job during labour and coped amazingly well in my opinion.  I joked to her that I’d seen much worse (mostly referring to my own labour with my first son!)!

Yesterday I had my second Doula Café get-together which was a lot of fun and there were 7 ladies who joined.  There are few things I enjoy as much as talking about pregnancy, labour and birth!  I’ll announce the date for the next one soon 🙂

I’ve got a baby care lesson this weekend coming and a couple of post-partum visits to look forward to over the next week and a bit, and then another Aiiku tour towards the end of the month.  It’s great to have such variation in what I do!

Finally, if anyone is considering using a birth doula in Tokyo, I will be able to start taking on new clients who are due from mid/late March onwards!  Please do get in touch if you’d like to meet and find out more!

Aiiku Tours

You may remember I mentioned in a previous post that I’d be doing tours of Aiiku hospital in English for Dr Sakamoto’s patients.  The very first one was just over a week ago on November 14th.

It went really well and I think the couples who attended left feeling a lot more positive about their choice of hospital and more reassured in what to expect when the times come for them to go there.

I’ll give a quick overview about what I included in the tour 🙂

We met in the lobby of the first floor and did some introductions and general conversation and questions about the tour and the hospital.  From here, I showed the couples the day and night time entrances and what they specifically had to do in the event they went into labour during the night.

Next, we went to the 3rd floor which has the LDR area.  We were able to spend a good amount of time looking at the open labour/delivery rooms, become familiarised with the environment and the equipment, and talk about labour positions for comfort and to help things along as well as show them additional tools they could use like the birth ball or active chair.  In the LDR area there is also a bath that can be used (providing the woman’s waters haven’t already broken).  Across from the LDR area is the operating area in the event a c-section is needed.

After this, we went to the 5th floor which has the NICU and briefly looked through the window into the room there.

We then went up to the 7th and 8th floors which have the rooms for staying in after baby is born.  There are 3 types of private rooms available – a suite-type room where the partner can stay overnight, too, a much smaller private room with toilet and shower (partner cannot stay overnight), and a private room without toilet and shower (patients are free to use the communal shower and toilets close by).  We were able to see each of these types of rooms and also wander around the floors to become more familiar with them, looking at the babies’ nursery and the day room. Although there is a nursery, it is absolutely fine to have your baby in your room with you (assuming everything is fine with baby and mother).

The 9th floor is where we went next and this has a restaurant and shop, very conveniently, where you can get anything you need during your stay in the hospital including breastfeeding pillows, slippers, nipple cream, a tokochan belt, drinks, snacks and much more.  It’s a really nice open floor.

The last floor we went to was the 2nd floor which has the maternity unit.  Dr Sakamoto is, I believe, there every Tuesday morning and it is where patients of his who choose to use Aiiku for their baby’s birth will need to go when they go to register at the hospital.  The maternity unit also has breastfeeding rooms,  breastfeeding consultation, and has aromatherapy.

Finally, we went back to the 1st floor lobby where we finished off with final questions or comments.

Celia and I will be doing tours of Aiiku monthly (each of us doing one tour a month) so if you’re interested, please check the schedule the next time you go to your appointment with Dr Sakamoto 🙂



My first birth at the new Aiiku

I always wish I could blog a little bit more regularly…ah well, the busy life of a mother of 3, a doula and everything else I have been doing and working on!

So a recent update from me 🙂  I finally experienced my first birth at the new Aiiku hospital!  I was there for most of yesterday and the mother had the birth she had been hoping for (which is always wonderful as it is not always possible for so many reasons).  The LDR rooms (there are 8 of them I believe) are all roomy and allow for lots of labouring positions.  We made very good use of the birth ball yesterday ourselves.  The hallway is just about roomy enough to walk down to pass time during labour and help things along.  We wanted to go outside the LDR area where there are much longer and wider hallways on the same floor, but weren’t allowed.  But no problem!  The mother was a patient of Dr Sakamoto’s and he was, as always, very gracious towards me and my role as a doula and the teamwork between him, the midwives and myself was great.  A really good birth I thought!

Speaking of the new Aiiku, security is a very big thing and patients are all given a card to scan to enter and leave certain areas.  I’m happy to announce that I have my own one now, as Dr Sakamoto has made me an associate of his.  This means I can attend births there with his patients (which previously had not been allowed at the new Aiiku as the security is tight and people allowed are limited).  This is also a good thing for Aiiku and for Dr Sakamoto because using me, for example, as a doula there makes their jobs easier as I can explain things, I’ll be with my client all the time to hep relieve anxieties (as well as doing my labour and birth coaching), and there will be less pressure on everyone else making things go smoother overall.

In November or December, it also looks like I’ll be starting to do Aiiku tours for any patients of Dr Sakamoto’s who are interested.  This is an important thing because currently there are no tours in English.  Seeing the hospital and all the rooms you’ll be using in labour and after is very important as it will help you feel comfortable and give you a chance to have your questions and any concerns answered.  Keep an eye out for further updates on that!