Japanese Traditions
During pregnancy, labor & delivery, and the postpartum period

This information is not to replace medical care but is intended to enhance cultural awareness. We do not endorse any of the following customs or practices. If you are pregnant, please seek medical attention from a health care provider. The following information was gathered from personal interviews with women of Japanese descent living in Hawaii.

During pregnancy......

Foods encouraged: Foods prohibited:
  • Women should eat lots of soybeans, fish (especially sardines), mochi (to increase lactation), rice, ume, and lots of vegetables.
  • Women were not allowed to eat any seafood with claws such as crabs or lobsters. This was believed to cause the child to become a thief.
  • They were also discouraged from eating squid or persimmons (it was believed to make the uterus "cold" which could lead to miscarriage).


During labor and delivery......

  • It is now common practice for the pregnant woman to have only their significant other present.
    • Previously,  it was customary to have only the doctor and nurse present.
    • Some women choose to have a "Doula" coach.  "Doula" is a program designed to help the woman deal with labor pains by using alternative measures such as foot massage, music, or walking and recommends no pain medication.
  • It is considered inappropriate to yell out during labor as this brings shame to their family. Grunting is encouraged rather than screaming and yelling.
  • Vaginal deliveries are preferred without pain medication or an episiotomy (surgical incision made to prevent tearing of the vagina).
    • A normal vaginal delivery would require a weeks stay in the hospital, whereas a c-section would  require a two week stay.
  • In Japan, there are commonly 3 to 6 patients in each post-partum room.  During the day the newborns are kept with their mothers, but at night they are kept in a separate nursery, so the mothers can rest.
  • In many Western hospitals, it is now common to have mothers and babies stay together in the same room.

      During postpartum.......    

  • It is common practice to save the umbilical cord in a wooden box.
  • The mother is not to wash her hair for 1 week because it is not good to flex her neck.
  • In Japan, the new mom usually goes to her parents home for about 20-30 days.  The grandmother will perform all household duties, because the new mom is not allowed to touch water for washing dishes or doing laundry.  She is also not allowed to drive anywhere.  After that time period, the postpartum mom returns home to her husband with their baby.
  • Between 30 and 32 days, the family will then return to the shrine to pray, pay respect, and to offer thanks for a safe delivery and healthy child. The ceremony is called "omiya maeiri".
  • In Japan, the babies are frequently named after their grandparents.
  • An ideal family would be made up of a married couple with 2 children. If a couple were to have 3 or more children, they are thought to be wealthy.

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Updated October 6, 2005