THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
April 21, 2020 at 18:57 JST
An online class for expectant mothers and their families who are worried about childbirth is held in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on April 17. (Reina Kitamura)
Local hospitals are turning many Tokyo residents planning to give birth in their hometowns away, due to concerns that Tokyoites may transmit the virus to their facilities.
This in turn is leading expectant mothers back to the metropolis to search anew for hospitals.
A company employee in her 30s living in Yokohama planned to give birth to her second child in August in her hometown in Akita Prefecture. However, on April 14, she was notified by a hospital there that it could not accept her.
Until then, she remained undecided whether to return to Akita because she doesn’t want to risk infecting her diabetic mother.
She said she was able to find a hospital in Yokohama where she can give birth, but “I have nothing but worries about life after childbirth.”
The woman also said she expects she will be forced to take care of her newborn and child alone since her husband is self-employed and can only take time off for a week or so.
“I’m not sure if I’ll be physically fit enough to go for walks with my 2-year-old, who is full of energy, while carrying the baby soon after giving birth,” she said.
Another company employee in her 30s in Tokyo is planning to give birth to her first child in September at a hospital near her parents’ home in Kumamoto Prefecture.
In the event that the hospital refuses to accept her, she called numerous medical institutions, mainly located near her home in the capital, to make an appointment to give birth, but all were fully booked.
She finally managed to find one an hour and a half away, but is still worried about giving birth in the capital due to the surging infections there.
She said she asked her employer to push forward the start of her maternity leave by a month so she can return to her hometown sooner.
128 TOKYO HOSPITALS AVAILABLE
Responding to growing concerns about where to give birth, a number of Tokyo hospitals and medical facilities have begun offering support to pregnant women searching for a place to have their children.
In early April, as an increasing number of women were canceling or giving up on giving birth in their hometowns, the Tokyo Association of Obstetricians & Gynecologists conducted an emergency survey of hospitals in Tokyo and produced a list of 128 that said can accept pregnant women, which it released on its website.
“I hope pregnant women will use the list to consult with their primary care doctor (about where to give birth),” said Akihito Nakai, director of Nippon Medical School Tamanagayama Hospital in Tama, Tokyo, who initiated the list.
Seibo Hospital in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward, which delivers about 1,500 children a year, announced on April 16 that it will accept pregnant women who have abandoned plans to give birth in their hometowns.
The hospital believes providing childbirth support will contribute to maintaining the health care system in the community, a Seibo representative said.
The website Babycome, which provides information about pregnancy, childbirth and childrearing, on April 17 held an online class for concerned pregnant women and their families after many municipalities and hospitals canceled their classes for expectant mothers and fathers to prevent the spread of the virus.
During the class, 12 expectant mothers received instructions on what to watch for during pregnancy as well as dealing with bleeding and when their water breaks.
“You can’t go outside, but don’t be pessimistic,” said Tomomi Yamamoto, who works as a midwife and served as a lecturer in the class. “Instead, take this as an opportunity to make thorough preparations with your spouse before giving birth.”
(This article was written by Midori Iki, Hiroko Saito and Kai Ichino.)
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