Pregnant in Japan

So you're pregnant (or think you might be pregnant) and in Japan. Likely terrified of overcoming the language barriers and cultural differences, hopefully this will give you a little more information (and peace of mind) as you enter one of the most exciting times of your life!
1. Pregnancy tests.
Buying pregnancy tests 妊娠検査薬 (にんしんけんさやく, ninshin kensa yaku) is easy here, as they are available at most/all drugstores. The tests are very similar to those abroad, although most of them seem to be 99% accurate one week after a missed period. The most common brands you`ll see are these ones...
Clearblue (クリアブルー)
Check One (チェックワン)
P-Check (P-チェック)
do test (ドゥーテスト)

2. Confirm your pregnancy (first checkup).
Most ladies` clinics in Japan will be able to do this for you. I visited Oak Clinic in Namba, and know of another Clinic in Juso where the doctors have English skill.
You will most likely be given a urine test, and then an internal examination. You will probably get an ultrasound print-out with your tiny baby`s picture on it.
3. Visit city hall.
Once your pregnancy is confirmed, you will have to go to your local city hall/office and ask for a mother/baby handbook, called a boshi techo (母子手帳) in Japanese. The staff will give you a small book (the size and design seems to differ by prefecture and year, so it may look different from your friend`s one, or one you`ve been given before). You will likely have to fill out a form with your name, address, job, husband/partner`s name, the expected due-date of your baby etc. At my local city office, the form was all in Japanese, but the staff helped me a lot. Show them your residence card and they`ll be able to copy that too.

You will also receive a cute little badge/bag strap to announce to the world that you are pregnant. This strap is supposed to be helpful on public transport so that people seated in the priority area will give you their seats. Personal experience tells me that it has mixed results, but you never know! Good luck!

4. Find a hospital
Most hospitals prefer that you register your pregnancy/upcoming delivery with them before the 12-week mark. So choosing a hospital is a high priority. There are few hospitals with English-speaking doctors here in Osaka, but if you are in Kobe, Yokohama or Tokyo you might have more luck. Try calling around to ask the hospitals directly, or join a mother`s group or chat-forum online to ask for personal advice and recommendations.
I had my husband come with me the first time which helped a lot, because although I can understand spoken Japanese, written Japanese is much harder. He helped me fill out the forms but was not allowed to come in to the small room for the physical check-up.
5. Visit the hospital regularly
In both my pregnancies, the hospital visits have been very similar. You will likely be asked to come once a month until you are about 28 weeks pregnant, then once a fortnight until you are 34 weeks pregnant, and then once a week from weeks 36-40 (or until you deliver).
Each time I have been examined internally and given an internal ultrasound. The pattern of external ultrasounds has been irregular in my experience, but about once a month I was able to get pictures of the baby and see the baby on the monitor. At my current hospital, they also take 4D images which is incredible.
You will also have to submit a urine sample and have your blood-pressure measured at each visit. The nurses check your weight each time which has been one of the most difficult things in my experience. With no consideration of my height, BMI or starting weight, I was instructed to gain 9-12kg through my entire pregnancy. I won`t go into too much detail here, but weight gain that is too fast or too `much` is highly frowned upon and I have been told to `diet` or limit my food intake on more than one occasion.
If possible, bring a weight gain chart or some information from your home country to show the doctors how things are looked at abroad (because a lot of it has to do with ignorance and lack of experience with non-japanese women).
6. Take supplements and keep healthy
During my pregnancy I have taken American and Japanese supplements and haven't noticed much difference. I bought the American prenatal through iHerb and have been able to find Japanese ones at drug stores, Amazon Japan and baby shops like Nishimatsuya and Akachan Honpo.
** Use my iHerb code for discounts on first time orders (PAZ981)
Look out for bottles with these labels...
Supplement    サプリメント
Folic acid        葉酸
Calcium          カルシウム
Iron               鉄
I took these two during my pregnancies which seem to work well together (the first is folic acid with calcium and iron) and the second one (with lactic acid and stomach friendly live bacteria) is a big help with bothersome pregnancy tummy-troubles.

There are also lots of Maternity teas, coffees and snacks available (enhanced with supplements like calcium) to be found. Look for de-caf (カフェインレス)or non-caffeine (カフェインゼロ) options as well.
妊娠おめでとうございます!Congratulations on your pregnancy!

Fran xx

Fran Japani