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Japanese Women Essay

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another culture can be full of surprises. Just ask any foreign woman who has given birth in Japan.

Maternal and infant mortality rates are among the lowest in the world, making Japan one of the safest places to have a baby. However, some aspects of Japanese prenatal care may leave foreign women bemused, bewildered — or even belligerent.

The K-A International Mothers in Japan is an online community for foreign women raising children in this country. More than 130 women whose youngest child is under the age of 15 participated in an online survey for this article. Of these, half gave birth within the past three years. The majority of participants come from Western nations.

Based on the survey results, the biggest single issue for these
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“The doctor seemed to think my diet consisted of foods seen in U.S. movies and TV shows — potato chips and ice cream. When signs pointed to a raise in my sodium uptake, she accused me of eating sausage, when in fact, the sodium culprits were umeboshi and soy sauce,” recalls Amy, referring to the pickled Japanese-plum condiment.

The staff at Mejiro Birth House in Tokyo are familiar with the needs of Japanese and non-Japanese patients alike.

“While there are some exceptions, a weight gain of up to 10 kg in total is preferable for Japanese women, due to the fact that Asians generally have a smaller build,” explains midwife Yuko Hoshino. “Our non-Asian patients can safely put on a little more than this, though.”

Dr. Hideki Sakamoto, a bilingual Tokyo-based obstetrician and gynecologist, has many foreign patients among his clientele. He supports the more holistic approach currently favored in the West, using a woman’s BMI as a guide for weight gain, rather than adhering to a rigid set of criteria.

“If an expectant woman starts out underweight she should put on a little more, and similarly, if her BMI is in the overweight range, then she should put on less,” he says. “I know of no scientific research that supports the Japanese tendency to promote relatively small weight gains in pregnancy, but the practice is very likely a carryover from
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