Beliefs and Practices During Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpregnancy
The following information has been obtained from several interviews of Japanese women residing on the Island of Hawaii. Not all the beliefs and practices listed were consistent with all the women interviewed. Moreover, many Japanese women of the younger generations were observing less of the traditional beliefs that their mothers' practiced. There is a trend within the younger generation moving toward more contemporary practices.
This website does not recommend implementation of any of the beliefs and practices listed below, but rather has been presented for enhancing cultural knowledge of its viewers.
- Traditionally, it was dishonorable and shameful to become pregnant before marriage. Some members of the present generations are now occassionally having children out of wedlock, but are often still subjected to shame by their families and/or Japanese community.
- In general, presently, the ideal number of children in a family is one to three.
- As told by a 72 year old woman originally from Japan, the generations preceding hers did not use the hospital setting and OB doctors for prenatal care and labor and delivery. Instead, they were entirely the responsibilities of lay midwives, and special birthing cottages were available in each community for birthing process.
- The ideal chronological sex for having children is as follows: First boy, second girl, and the third child's sex is not as great an issue.
- A third generation Japanese woman stated that she wanted to raise her daughter the way her parents raised her, such as teaching respect for parents, listening, and following directions. The importance of family is also emphasized.
- The expectant mother is encouraged by the family to seek early prenatal care.
- A nutritious healthy diet was very much encouraged and followed. Items such as fish, tofu, soup, and fresh vegetables were emphasized.
- Since World War II, most Japanese women visit regular OB doctors for prenatal care. In general, the care provided in Japan is similar to the care provided in the United States.
- If a midwife was chosen for a home birth during this period, prenatal care included home visits by the midwife in addition to OB doctor visits. The midwife initially visited the women once a month during early pregnancy, then increased the frequency of visits as pregnancy progressed, especially if the pregnant women was experiencing any complications. In the old days, the midwife was usually a lay person ,who worked in conjunction with the OB doctor. Currently, more midwives are becoming liscensed.
- Thought and music were believed to affect the baby. Therefore, positive thinking, images, and music were encouraged during pregnancy for a healthy baby.
- In speaking about how a third gereration Japanese female found out she was pregnant, she stated: “My husband and I were trying to get pregnant for quite some time. We took a home pregnancy test to find out if our dreams came true. This is something different than my mother would do. When she was pregnant the only way you could get pregnancy results was from a doctor. You would never try to find out on your own.”
- Traditionally, Japanese men were not involved in the prenatal care. However, one woman related that when she missed a period, she took a home pregnancy test, and the result was positive. She then went to her OB/GYN, who confirmed the pregnancy. Prenatal care was begun at 6 weeks. Her significant other was supportive, and went with her for prenatal visits and ultrasounds.
- A woman and her partner chose not to share the news of her pregnancy immediately, but waited until her pregnancy was 3 months along.
DURING LABOR & BIRTH
- Foods rich in protein & carbohydrates such as mochi and eggs are sometimes offered and encouraged at the onset of labor to ensure adequate energy throughout the laboring process.
- Minimal noise and verbal expressions of pain were accepted. However, extremely loud expressions of pain are considered shameful. One woman, when asked whether or not her cultural beliefs influenced the way she dealt with pain agreed. She stated that in Japanese culture, you are expected to deal with pain in a stoic manner. She didn’t moan and groan, although she did experience quite a bit of pain. She did request and receive pain medication. She feels that the fact that she did not “make a lot of noise” caused nurses to believe that her pain level was less than reported.
- Traditionally, it is not custom for men/significant others to be present during labor and birth. Female family members, nurses, midwifes were main support. The only exception were male doctors. However, one women stated that her significant other and other family members were there to support her during labor and delivery.
- Traditionally, breastfeeding was encouraged a day after birth as emphasis on mom's recovery was a priority.
- A special food offered after birth was carp fish soup and mochi. These foods were thought to enhance breast milk production.
- Hot soups such as miso were also thought to help promote good health. Eating spinach and other green vegetables were eaten to help with blood clotting.
- One woman stated that she was advised by her mother not to shower for the first month post partum. Instead, sponge baths were encouraged. Grated ginger root was rubbed on the skin to promote healing.
- The mother and baby are not allowed to leave the house for 2-4 weeks after the baby is born. However with enculturation things are changing. One woman stated that her mother told her that she should not leave the house for 1 month. She did not do that. She had doctors appointments to go to and did not have time to sit in the house
- Upon returning home from the hospital, one woman stated that she felt an obligation to resume her roles, chores, etc., immediately. She believed that her recovery time was adequate, and stated that her views since then have not changed. She would still “jump back in,” post-partally, should she choose to have another baby.
- Traditionally, fathers occasionally helped with baby care, although their main role remained being the breadwinner.
- If midwives were involved, they stayed with mom for several hours after delivery, and then visited every day for at least one week to check on the health of the mother and baby. Afterwards, the midwife would still continue to visit occasionally for several months.
- OSHICHIA: This is a special ceremonial celebration that was carried out when the baby turned 7 days old. The baby was officially named at this time, often by the mother and father, but sometimes by grandparents. Only close family and friends were usually in attendance. In addition to various dishes, special foods eaten at this ceremony were red rice with beans, Sea broom fish (TAI), and many vegetables.
- HESONO O: This is a ritual involving the baby's umbilical cord. When the baby's cord dries and falls off, it was put inside a special wooden box and kept indefinately. This signified a well wish for the mother-child relationship in the future.
- HYAKUNICHIMAIRI: This is a special ceremony when baby turns 100 days old. It beginswith the baby, mother, grandmother, and greatgrandmother dressing in their finest clothes and visiting the family temple. A special prayer is given by the priest of the temple for the good health of the child. Thereafter, they would return home where all other family and friends would join in a celebration, with lots of various foods.
This page was created by students in the ADN Program at Hawaii Community College. We welcome your feedback. Please email us your comments.
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