Home Birth in Tokyo

I recently had the exciting opportunity to attend a home birth.  It was my client’s 3rd baby but her first birth in Japan.  She’d had a previous home birth back in Canada and wanted to have another one here.

A lot of English-speakers in Tokyo don’t even know that home birth is an option  – mostly because of the lack of information in English about it.  I will share what I have learned about it over the past  little while.

Midwife-run birth houses are often able to support home births.  There are 2 birth houses that I know of who have midwives who can speak enough English for English-speaking patients:  Matsugaoka Birth Center and Mejiro Birth House.  I’ll put the links for these at the bottom.  There may be other birth houses that can support home births with some English-speaking midwives but I personally don’t know of them.

My client chose to be supported by So-san from Matsugaoka Birth Center.  She’s a lovely lady and very, very experienced.  My client was offered 3 options:  a birth at the birth house, a birth at a hospital but with only the midwife So-san as the care-provider during labour, or a home birth.

With the home birth option, my client had most of her appointments directly at the birth house with only 2-3 appointments at the back-up hospital (in case of emergency) so that she was registered there as a patient and for the more detailed 20-week anomaly scan etc.   The back up hospital with who So-san was connected with was Nisseki in Hiroo (the Japan Red Cross hospital).    I attended one of my client’s appointments at Matsugaoka Birth Center and So-san was very supportive of me being at the labour as a doula – apparently it would be their first time to work with a doula.

When my client was in labour, So-san, another midwife who was able to administer antibiotics via IV as my client was GBS positive, and a trainee midwife were there along with myself.  I can honestly say it was one of my most favourite birth experiences so far in almost 4 years.  My client had absolutely no restrictions placed on her on what she could or couldn’t do and it was as free as it gets with birth being completely patient-led.  With myself and the midwives all there together, there wasn’t a time at all where my client wasn’t being massaged or helped with positions, breathing or comfort.

For me as a doula, it was a great experience and I learned a lot.  It also made me wish I’d had that experience personally, too.

There are a lot more details to go and far too much for me to write, so if anyone has any questions I’d be more than happy to discuss through email or perhaps at a Doula Cafe get-together.

Matsugaoka Birth Center:  https://matsugaoka-birth.com/english/

Mejiro Birth House:  http://www.birthhouse.com/en/

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.

Recent Birth

I’ve just had a birth a few days ago at another new clinic to me – Oshio Women’s Clinic in Urayasu (Chiba)  http://www.oshio-w-c.net/original16.html

It was a small clinic (a one-doctor place), so the care felt really personal. The doctor spoke some English and the midwives were all very nice.  They couldn’t speak English really but luckily my clients and I could speak enough Japanese so that it wasn’t a problem.

The LDR room itself was small but had some great things to use during labour – including squat bar, bean bag, birth ball, and hooks on the ceiling to hang rope from to use for squatting/pulling on.  The midwives moved the bed out of the room and put a mattress down on the floor to make moving about more easy.

The labour was very freestyle for the most part in that the mum could be free to do what she wanted.  While she was initially induced, when the induction medicine was turned off (as contractions hadn’t really started), her body went into natural labour by itself – which can sometimes happen!

Always interesting to be at a labour in a new place 🙂