As you might imagine, with the one of the world’s lowest maternal mortality rates, Japan’s pre-natal care system is well-organised, comprehensive and methodical.
Once your pregnancy is confirmed by a doctor, you can visit your local ward office with your pregnancy certificate (妊娠届書) and register for a boshi-techo (母子手帳) Maternal and Child Health Handbook.
The book – which the government began distributing to expectant mothers in 1947 – should be taken to every appointment you have with your doctor, midwife or caregiver.
Your caregiver fills in the examination date, week of pregnancy, weight, blood pressure, and other measurements for you and the baby. In addition, you’re invited to write comments about how you’re feeling at each stage of the journey (counted as 9 months in the UK; 10 months in Japan!).
Once the baby arrives, the book gives you access to public services provided by your local government, including free check ups, dental care, and vaccinations. As the months and years go by, the book will contain a record of your baby’s immunisations, hospital visits, and all-round development.
The boshi-techo is standardised across Japan, adhered to by all health-care professionals, and used to record information until the child enters primary school. The continuity of care is pretty impressive.
As well as Japanese, a bilingual version of the book is available in 7 languages – English, Korean, Chinese, Tagalog, Portuguese, Indonesian and Spanish.
It’s great to have information related to your pregnancy and baby in one place, and I’ve enjoyed seeing the boshi-techo fill up with data (memories!) over the past 9 months.