I'm honestly really happy that I'm in Japan to have my first baby because I would have been absolutely clueless on so many things if I was in Australia. It's a fact that there are fundamental differences between Japanese and Caucasian women especially in their diet which leads to big differences in their height and build, etc. For example, Americans tend to have higher body temperatures than Japanese people and their bigger boned so a lot of what I learned in Japan might not pertain to everyone. Obviously women have perfectly fine pregnancies and child birth without knowing what I learned, but for me it has really made my pregnancy easier.

Weight gain & exercise: they're pretty strict with weight gain and exercising to maintain your strength for when it comes time to give birth. They tell you at the start when they measure your height and starting weight how much you can gain max. I got into trouble the first few times I went to the hospital because I was gaining 1kg every two weeks lol. They said that's way too much and if I kept going like that I would end up gaining close to 20kg by the time I have the baby and I wouldn't be able to put my maximum strength when it comes time to push. It's also not too good for the baby. When you think about it it's pretty crazy the GP only weighed me at the very start.. I also started walking at least an hour a day, but since I hit 33 weeks my stomach tends to get really tight the day after which isn't good when you're pregnant so I haven't been walking much at all.

Tightness: talking about tightness, I used to think it was normal that my belly felt really hard because your uterus is stretching out. It made sense to me. When I started to show a little bit around 20 weeks and was still in Australia I'd be touching my belly and it felt like an exercise ball that's pumped up to the max or perhaps a full blown balloon -- pretty hard and tight when you poke it. I only learned that it wasn't good or normal when this happens. It's another sign that your belly's not warm enough and could lead to premature birth so one of the first things the midwife told me was if you're walking or doing anything and it starts to get tight or painful, to just sit and relax.

Stay warm!: midwives also tell you to keep your belly super warm ALWAYS and I didn't realize how important that was until I came here. In Australia I was sleeping in my underwear with the fan blasting (we didn't have a/c in our bedroom) and I was so hot every night I could barely sleep.. I tended to get really bad stomach cramps and get diarrhea and always thought it was because of something I ate/drank, but I found out after coming here that it's because my belly wasn't warm enough. The midwives say it doesn't matter how hotyou yourself are, you should always keep your belly warm and eat food that warms up your body like ginger. Lots and lots of ginger haha. I was also getting up to pee over 5 times a night, another symptom of a cool belly. When I got to Japan I immediately listened to the midwives and my sister and started wearing proper maternity underwear that covers your entire belly, a tube top looking thing that's designed go around your growing belly only, and up to 4 layers on top (it helped because I got here when it was still cold). I also started taking a bath every night which the midwives also said is a must to warm your body. In Australia I never took a bath, only showers, and that wasn't enough. Since I started doing all those things I only go pee max 3 times a night (even now  at 35 weeks) and I haven't gotten stomach cramps once since I've been back. Truly amazing and I felt I needed to apologize to baby Natalie because it must have been so cold for her..

The "Toko-chan belt": even when my belly wasn't showing, I started feeling some sciatic nerve pain in my left side near my tail bone. The pain didn't run down my leg or anything, it was concentrated in one spot and it would hurt when I put too much weight on it so getting up/down and walking was sometimes a bit painful. The pregnancy sites that I looked at all said it was normal to get sciatic nerve pain when you get pregnant either because the baby is pushing against your nerves (but Natalie wasn't even that big yet as I was barely showing) and also because of the hormone relaxin which starts to loosen up your muscles and joints to allow your baby to grow. The websites basically recommended you do some stretches to ease the pain and other than that you gotta live with it.
    Well!! That's only partly true. When I came to Japan I discovered this wonderful belt called the "Toko-chan belt". My sister used it throughout her pregnancy and for a while after giving birth. Over here it's recommended for every pregnant woman to use so it's basic knowledge and any midwife would tell you to get one if you were complaining of nerve pain. The story behind it is based on the hormone relaxin which I mentioned above. Back in the old days before cars and public transport etc. women did hard labour -- they walked for kilometers to get from point A to B, worked in the fields and the like. Today we all drive cars, we have convenient vacuum cleaners to clean the house instead of going on all fours to wipe floors, and in general we just don't move use our bodies the same way women used to. As a result they had very well developed muscles in their hips, thighs, and abdomen compared to women today and the hormone relaxin that's secreted to loosen your body and prepare you for birth worked perfectly well for them. Today, we don't have the same muscle structure anymore and relaxin loosens us up TOO much. This causes our pelvic bone to rotate in strange directions especially if you have bad posture when you sit or walk and the Toko-chan belt is designed to come right around your pubic bone (a little below your hips) and you tighten it as much as possible. It uses velcro so it's easy to do and undo and miraculously, as soon as I started wearing it when I went for walks my sciatic nerve pain stopped.CRAZINESS!!!! So my pain was basically coming from the fact that my bones were getting a bit too loose and I needed the belt to hold them in place.
    Another amazing property of the belt is that it prevents miscarriage. With your pelvic bones getting too loose too early, your bowels start to sink and so does your baby which can cause miscarriage (and constipation). By putting the belt on it keeps your hips nice and tight and prevents that from happening so it's seriously a MUST have! Helps prevent pain and miscarriage -- what more could a mother-to-be ask for?? I really can't live without it now that I've experienced it first-hand. Also good for after you give birth to help your body tighten back up :)
    At 33 weeks the pain tended to come back the day after I would go for walks and was extremely painful and the belt didn't help much then..plus my stomach got really tight so I haven't walked much since then and now (35 weeks) the pain is gone and the tightness in my belly is gone. The pain was probably a lot more intense because I'm getting further along in my pregnancy, but boy am I glad I've been able to avoid the nerve pains...!

Reaching up: only a quick one here. One should apparently avoid reaching for high places such as getting dishes from a high cupboard, window cleaning, or anything else that requires you to reach above your head. This posture apparently opens up your pelvic bones and could cause your baby to drop early and/or cause miscarriage. The midwife said though that once you reach 37 weeks you're more than welcome to do so because from that point forward your baby isn't considered premature and will be perfectly fine if he/she is born.

Oh Japan how I love your in-depth knowledge and little inventions!!

5/3/2013 11:22:24 am

Awesome knowledge

5/9/2013 03:00:06 am

hey these things are so similar to the chinese ones! i must have had a cool belly because i had to pee loads during the night :-(...
any postpartum knowledge you want to share?

5/13/2013 08:37:53 am

Well regardless of whether you had a cool baby your labor was so short all up! They say your first childbirth takes at least 12hrs but then again there's so much variation so it's hard to say whether that's really accurate.. The only postpartum knowledge I have so far I heard yesterday from my sis and my aunty and considering it's been 3 months for u already since you've had Madeleine it might be too late lol :P They said that it's really important that you have to rest for at least a month after you give birth even if you feel fine. When you hit menopause is when you pay for it apparently (who would think that resting up after giving birth connects with difficulties during menopause??) so the midwives get mad at you if you're out and about the first month after giving birth...so hopefully you rested up heaps and did nothing but breast feed and hibernate in your apartment in your first month!! Menopause is gonna be tough as it is hehe ;)

5/2/2018 07:25:31 am

I learnt something new. Never knew keeping the tummy warm during pregnancy is important.

5/3/2018 03:18:01 am

Hi Ana, neither did I! But it made a huge difference to know that and it literally changed a fair few things for me. I feel lucky to have learned so much from the midwives. I don't know how it is in other countries but was definitely satisfied with my experience in Japan :)


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