HEALTH AND BEAUTY ARCHIVE:
538: Pool party
Keep your cool this summer with a visit to one of Tokyos many pools.
Metropolis shows you where to take the plunge.
536: Don't sweat it
With the hot and humid months upon us, Cristy Burne share some tips on staying
534: Swept away
Put away your broomsticksall you really need to soar through the clouds
is an armful of nylon and a good gust. Cristy Burne checks out the air up there.
532: Tee time
Cant keep it on the fairway? The yips invaded your game?
Rob Smaal finds a few experienced golf pros who can work out your kinks on the
530: Balancing act
An ancient science is helping modern men and women find peace, health and
the always elusive balance. Tama M. Lung takes a closer look at
528: Kicking on
Former K-1 Japan champion Nicholas Pettas shares his love of martial arts
at the new Spirit Gym in Nogizaka. Chris Betros goes along to watch.
526: On call
A revolutionary daily disease self-management system is making life easier
for diabetics. Chris Betros finds out about Lifewatcher.
524: Team spirit
From rugby to roller hockey, Tokyo is teeming with sports clubs for the
expat athlete. Rob Smaal shows you how to get in the game.
522: Type casting
Second-generation blood-type expert Toshitaka Nomi looks at the links between
blood classifications and health. Mick Corliss reports.
520: Like a rock
Climbing instructor Luke Kearns gets a grip on Tokyo's best indoor climbing
516: The personal touch
Madonna and Matsui aren't the only ones who need help staying fit. Hanna
Kite pumps it up with the top personal trainers in Tokyo.
514: From here to maternity
Kavitha Rao turns to a handful of Tokyo experts to track down baby basics
for nervous expat mothers-to-be.
502: Tour de Morton, part deux
Don Morton gets back on two wheels for a leisurely ride out toward Haneda
From here to maternity
Kavitha Rao turns to a handful of Tokyo experts to track
down baby basics for nervous expat mothers-to-be.
"I find that pregnant women everywhere tend to be
magnets for all kinds of horror stories, but this is especially
true for those in Tokyo," says Brett Iimura, a birth
educator and long-time resident of Tokyo. "It's
time to set the record straight."
For many mothers, giving birth is difficult enough. Expatriates
coping with culture shock and miles away from family and friends
may find it overwhelming. Fortunately, there are now all kinds
of local resources to help anxious mothers prepare themselves
for childbirth and the difficult early months.
Back to school
"Communication is the biggest problem mothers face,
especially if they are expatriates who don't speak
Japanese. Part of the problem is not being able to get information
on midwives, birth options, and caregivers," says Iimura,
who runs the Childbirth Education Center, which offers a range
of classes and counseling on topics ranging from childbirth
to such baby basics as how to put on a diaper. "Pregnancy
just magnifies the cultural clash."
Iimura says that Japanese mothers can sometimes face the same
problems as their expatriate counterparts. "Doctors
in Japan are often very busy and don't have the time
to discuss options with mothers, even if language is not a
problem. For instance, there is very little discussion on
how to deal with pain relief, how the body works during labor
and which hospitals offer relief. There is also little information
on alternative birth options, such as home or midwife-assisted
births. That's why it is vital for all mothers to draw
up a birth plan. Our aim is to provide as much information
as possible and help parents make an informed choice."
"Many expatriates are nervous because they don't
have a support system here, but they should realize that the
Japanese prenatal system is excellent," reassures Ann
Tanaka, a nurse and veteran childbirth educator, who has been
teaching pre-natal classes in Tokyo for 20 years. "Here
they may do things differently from your home country, but
that may be a good thing. For instance, natural childbirth
with little or no pain relief is the norm in Japan, which
is actually better for the mother and the baby in most cases.
American mothers, on the other hand, seem to expect epidurals
whether they are needed or not. Among other things, my classes
try to educate people on what's normal in Japan, the
implications of pain relief, how fathers can help, how the
body works and the health insurance system."
Exercising your options
Even if you're a regular exerciser, you need to take
precautions before exercising during your pregnancy. If you
haven't exercised before, it's a good idea to
start slowly. Either way, it makes sense to choose an exercise
routine specifically aimed at pregnant women. "When
you are pregnant, your body excretes more hormones, which
makes your joints and ligaments more lax. This can make you
more prone to injury and sprains. Overheating can also be
dangerous for you and your baby. In the last few months, your
pregnancy belly can affect your balance and cause falls,"
points out Vanessa Colless, a physiotherapist who runs prenatal
and postnatal exercise classes. "Apart from improving
your posture and helping with back and pelvic problems, exercise
can also help you cope with the labor itself because it is
quite an endurance event." Colless's exercise
classes include stretching and muscle exercise, low impact
aerobics, relaxation exercises, pelvic floor exercises and
a short talk on labor.
As for getting your pre-pregnancy figure back and avoiding
those "new mother" aches and pains, Colless
again stresses the need for guidance during postnatal exercise:
"Sit-ups are what everybody does, but you need to do
them in a specific way, or you could injure yourself."
Colless also offers breathing classes, which help to ease
and cope with contractions during labor.
Yoga is another gentle alternative for pregnant women, and
there is plenty of choice in Tokyo. "Yoga helps pregnant
women prepare for labor because it focuses the mind, makes
women aware of their bodies and keeps fear away," says
Dominica Serigano, one of two yoga instructors who teach prenatal
and postnatal yoga at popular restaurant Fujimamas. "Yoga
also helps tone and strengthen the back, abdomen and hips,
all problem areas for pregnant women. The exercises help open
up the lymph and thyroid glands, and help the baby's
head to engage properly." Some women may find the idea
of yoga intimidating, especially if they have never tried
it before, but Serigano says yoga is suited to just about
everybody: "I provide options for each person to do,
depending on their fitness and how far advanced they are in
Says yoga beginner Isobel Arnell, who is seven months pregnant,
"I've had back problems since I was 17, but
none in this pregnancy. The breathing exercises help me to
relax as well." Amanda Wheway, eight months pregnant,
does yoga twice a week and also exercises at Colless's
class. She says exercise has helped her stay flexible, fit
and free of the aches and pains usual in the last trimester:
"I feel great, and ready to cope with labor."
Many new mothers, say educators, mistakenly expect breastfeeding
to come easily. "Breastfeeding is a natural process,
but it's not easy. It needs a lot of work and a support
group, which many expatriates do not have. You also need to
learn the correct techniques," says Ann Tanaka. That's
where the La Leche League comes in. A non-profit organization
with offices worldwide, La Leche was set up 45 years ago to
"I think Japan on the whole supports breastfeeding,
though often the midwives and hospital staff are unable to
explain techniques because of the language barrier,"
says Beckie Oxley, a volunteer at the group. "The biggest
obstacle is that women of our generation haven't been
exposed to babies, and have no idea of how to feed a baby.
The reality versus the expectation is the biggest problem
When a woman has a baby that doesn't feed and cries
all night, she can come to our monthly meetings and find out
that most babies find it difficult to feed and cry all night!
Your doctor may be really great at solving medical problems,
but we can help with the emotional issues."
"Having a baby can be very isolating, and especially
so if you are having it in a strange country, away from your
family and friends," concludes Tanaka. "Many
foreigners want to leave the hospital straight away, but I
always advise new mothers to stay longer and try to learn
as much possible from the hospital staff. Find as many people
to support you as you can, from midwives to professionals
and volunteer services."
Photo credit: Kavitha Rao
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