Signs that you are pregnant
Check for the symptoms of pregnancy!
- You miss your period
- Persistent mild fevers
- You feel drowsy and sluggish
- Your breasts swell
- You lose your appetite
- You become sensitive to smells
- You feel discomfort in your stomach in the early morning or when you´re hungry
- Your tastes change, such as craving more sour food
- You urinate frequently
- The amount of vaginal discharges increase
- You have more spots and freckles
- You have dark shadows under your eyes
Note the symptoms of pregnancy as soon as you can
If you have missed your period by a week or two, it is possible that you are pregnant. Medication in the early phase of pregnancy may affect the fetus; it is also a time when the fetus is more vulnerable to miscarriage. So it is important to take note of any symptoms of pregnancy as early as possible. In order to work out whether you are pregnant as early as possible, it is helpful to know your basal body temperature. Start tracking your basal body temperature when you start planning to get pregnant. If the high-temperature period continues longer than three weeks, the chances of you being pregnant are high.
Check that the pregnancy is normal at hospital
Even if you confirm your pregnancy by checking for a positive result using a commercial pregnancy test, you should visit the ob-gyn (obstetrician and gynecologist) as soon as you can for an internal examination and ultrasound. Modern commercial pregnancy tests are highly accurate and you can safely use them to find out if you are pregnant. However, even if you see a positive result in a pregnancy test, it does not tell you whether the pregnancy is normal or abnormal. Sometimes there are hidden problems and there are various kinds of abnormal pregnancy such as an ectopic pregnancy, so you will need to get all the facts at the hospital.
At hospital, you will also be given blood tests. Pregnancy-related tests cannot be covered by health insurance; you will need to cover their costs yourself.
On a related note, pregnancy-related checkups such as prenatal checkups are also not covered by insurance. However subsidies are increasingly available from local authorities. You have to cover your own expenses for a normal delivery. After you give birth, ask your health insurance society for reimbursement and the delivery expenses will be paid by them, but basically, you have to cover your own prenatal and delivery expenses. However, in some cases such as that of low-income families, you may qualify for national or municipal support. Check with your local authorities.
In addition, fees such as delivery costs vary with each medical institution. You may as well make inquiries about them ahead of time.
In the case of an unwanted pregnancy
When you find out that you´re pregnant but cannot continue with the pregnancy, you may have an induced abortion.
In Japan, induced abortions are regulated by the Maternal Protection Act; this specifies that they can only be carried out by authorized doctors. The Act also specifies that abortion is only available up to 22 weeks into a pregnancy.
If you are in the early phase of pregnancy, up to 11 weeks, you will only need to be hospitalized for a short time (1 or 2 days) to get an abortion. If it is your first pregnancy, you will also need to stay in the hospital one night in advance in order to go through pretreatment. However, if you have been pregnant for a longer time, the abortion procedure will be different, as the fetus will have grown bigger. You will be hospitalized for a longer time as well (although it is a one-day outpatient procedure at some clinics.)
In any case, it is important to use birth control if you do not wish to get pregnant.
Maternal physiological changes during pregnancy
How to count pregnancy weeks (in Japan)
In Japan, we generally count the first day of the last menstruation as week 0, and the due date is 40 weeks from then. Nowadays ultrasound is used to measure the size of the fetus in its early stages, to figure out the due date and calculate the number of pregnancy weeks.
In order to have a relaxed delivery, it is important to choose the right childbirth technique for you. The options depend on the facilities of the particular medical institution as well as the conditions of the mother and child. Discuss the options fully with your partner, doctor, midwife and experienced mothers to choose the childbirth technique that matches your wish.
The process of childbirth
Pregnancy and childbirth of women from the age of 35 or over
Nowadays, there is nothing unusual about giving birth in your thirties. According to Ministry of Health statistics for 2005, up to about 16% of all childbirths are to mothers aged 35 or over. One in three of them are first-time mothers.
Medically speaking, giving birth at the age of 35 or over is considered late childbearing. Bearing your first child at this age, so-called late primiparity, has especially high risks.
The older the expectant mother becomes, the more of them have chronic diseases such as diabetes, which lead to maternal complications such as pregnancy-induced hypertension and more deliveries are through caesarean sections instead of being natural deliveries. In addition, the older the mother is, the greater the risks of the baby having Down syndrome, which is a chromosomal disorder.
Of course there are advantages as well. For example, as the mother is psychologically more mature than she was in her younger days, she can take on pregnancy and childbirth in a solid state of mind. More people are giving birth in their forties; there are many people who are physically capable of doing so, so you need not worry too much. However, even though it is different with each person, it is worth bearing in mind that late childbearing does run higher risks to the mother´s body and to the baby compared to younger expectant mothers. If you are worried, it may be reassuring to choose specially equipped hospitals with sufficient resources to cope with complications.