During pregnancy, labor & delivery, and the postpartum period
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.
following information was gathered
from personal interviews with women of Japanese descent living in
- Women should eat lots of soybeans, fish (especially
sardines), mochi (to increase lactation), rice, ume, and lots of
- Women were not allowed to eat any seafood with claws such
crabs or lobsters. This was believed to cause the child to become a
- They were also discouraged from eating squid or persimmons
(it was believed to make the uterus "cold" which could lead to
- Pregnant women were discouraged from sitting with their legs
believing that it could lead to suffocation of the baby.
- During the the first three months they are encouraged to stay
fairly still. After three months they are to stay constantly
active (cleaning the house and yard) to ensure an easier
- Pregnant women are not to take big steps when they walk because
it shows a
sign of laziness.
- It is believed that if pregnant women look at fire, their baby
will be born
with a birthmark.
- Pregnant women are discouraged from attending funerals because it
believed that the spirit of the dead will come to take the baby"s
spirit. If they must attend, they are required to wear black and only
- Pregnant women should clean their toilet daily for a healthy and
- Pregnant women are discouraged from gaining too little or too
- During the 5th month of pregnancy the family will go to the
shrine to ask for a safe birth called an "annzan". It is a little
ceremony where they pray and the priest presents the woman with a sash
that is white with a picture of a dog on it. The dog represents an easy
and safe birth. The sash is about 1 foot wide and 6.5 feet long, and is
wrapped under the belly for support.
- It is believed that if the mother has a nice complexion, she
would have a boy, and if not, she would have a girl.
- It is considered shameful if the pregnant woman is unwed.
- If a miscarriage occurs it is believed that future pregnancies
will also end in miscarriages.
During labor and delivery......
- It is now common practice for the pregnant woman to have only
their significant other
- Previously, it was customary to have only the
- Some women choose to have a "Doula" coach. "Doula"
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
babies stay together in the same room.
- 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,
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
- 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
- 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.