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Rona Y

It's funny that you mention the importance of folic acid in the diet of pregnant women. When I lived in Japan, my dentist had a very large number of young patients with cleft palates. Early studies have shown that the intake of folic acid may reduce the incidence of cleft palates, so clearly, a lot of Japanese women aren't taking their folic acid supplements! Asians do have a rather high rate of cleft palates (according to Wiki, twice as many Japanese are likely to have cleft plates compared to Causasians), but I wonder if that number would be reduced if the importance of taking folic acid were emphasized.

(As an aside, I remember thinking, "Is there something in the water in this area?" since it's rather rare to see cleft palates in Canada these days. But I later discovered my dentist was a specialist in treating kids with cleft palates, so people from all over Kansai would bring their children to him.)


nicely put! I was craving sushi my whole pregnancy (popped at 38 weeks) and apparently it's the rice that has the risk of listeria! LOL, it's always something. I hear in europe they all eat brie/camembert cheese without a second thought, and in UK they actually don't advise against hams as in most western modern countries and with common sense it's difficult to get listeria/bacterias in regular supermarket grade stuff. Yet here in aus they advise against...(so conflicting).

It's funny they tell you not over 8 kilos regardless of bmi or previous weight! lol At least they advise here according to bmi, but I don't think putting on 15 is necessary. I happily put on 16kg but not from eating anything too crazy. I reckon overall Japan has a more natural/common sense approach which is reflected in most health related aspects, they tend to shy away from too much interference and manipulation and just stick to what your mama told you. I like it...less hassle! The paranoia alone makes you lose your appetite!


Very interesting post. I was always fascinated by the low weight gain thing for pregnant women in Japan. It's stressful but it does make sense overall. Where I come from, Singapore, also encourages women to eat for two and I'm sure nine months of binging will do more damage than good.


Did/does your clinic offer classes? I gave birth in two different clinics, and they both had two different classes. One in the first trimester that covered nutrition and such. I got a huge handbook to study. Of course, some of the do and dont things were different from my home country, but it was information about nutrition and what to eat. The second class was in the third trimester and gave info about the actual delivery and what to expect. So, not to argue, but they do provide this sort of information, at least at some places.

Also, as for those restrictive undergarments you mention, yes, some of it is to get, or at least, look skinny again; but often after birth you will find that your muscles in your stomach and waist are very week and painful. Those undergarments provide nice support until you are able to get some muscle tone back.


Rona, that's fascinating. It would be a real shame if a lack of folate is causing a higher rate of cleft palates here; I hope someone is studying this. One thing I wonder about is morning sickness and vitamin B6: I had very, very mild morning sickness and can't help but think my prenatal supplement, with its high B6 levels, didn't have something to do with that. Whereas virtually every Japanese woman I know who's been pregnant claims to have had terrible morning sickness- and of course they weren't taking a supplement.

Lil, I agree about the paranoia! Listeria seems to be such a new concern that I've rarely heard of it specifically linked to sushi (except that in the strictest sense all raw foods can potentially carry listeria). When I hear about sushi being off limits, it's usually more about general food poisoning from bad fish. Very interesting about the rice!

Astrorainfall, I imagine the best weight gain is somewhere between the Japanese 8 kg ideal and the western "eat for two" concept.

Sherry, both my clinics offer classes. I opted to take an English-language class offered elsewhere, so only had to take one (out of four) of the classes held at my midwifery clinic. It covered the birth only, but I assume one of the other classes covered diet. However, most women take the classes in the second and third trimesters, which is way too late for nutrition advice. And besides, my complaint isn't so much that no information is provided, it's that the information is completely decided by the person giving the classes and is not based on any official, universal, scientific guidelines.

As for the undergarments, I know there are some designed for support (such belts and corsets are used in my own country). But I have never heard a Japanese woman (or read a Japanese catalogue or ad) that describes the wraps and belts as anything other than for reducing the size of the waist and hips. There's a reason they call them "waist nippers" here! There is nothing wrong with wanting to regain your figure, of course, and I intend to use such undergarments myself (but certainly not while I'm still in the clinic).

dr. Gabriell Kadar

Folic acid deficiency during pregnancy results in cleft palate, atrial septal defects and spina bifida. All of these can be present at varying degress of severity. Palatal clefts need not be open. They can be covered by soft tissue and not be immediately apparent. Spina bifida also has a varying expressivity. Sometimes it's only cystic deformities of the spine and can be overlooked as well.

Hyperemesis gravidarum (excess vomiting during pregnancy) can result in protein malnutrition. Asian peoples usually have a somewhat flat midface, however, when children have maxillary crossbites and what appear to be excessively long lower jaws, then there has been a disruption in normal fetal development during the first trimester. These babies are born appearing 'normal'. However they have difficulty breastfeeding because the palate and soft palate are too far back towards the throat.

Sushi is an excellent source of protein for pregnant women because it is easy to consume and does not have potentially strong, offputting, adverse flavour.

A great source of Vitamin K2 necessary for the sorts of bone which develop in the midface is natto.

After folate was added to the breadflour in the province of Quebec in order to decrease the incidence of cleft palate, the incidence of atrial septal defects also decreased accordingly.

Given the extensive variety of foods you have been consuming during your pregnancy, the baby should be very, very healthy.



thank you for your post! i am japanese but raised/living overseas and sadly lacking in a lot of my understanding of cultural norms there. having recently given birth to my first child i've been curious about pregnancy/child-rearing in japan. congratulations!

donna morgan

Dear Amy,

I have written to you before to comment on food and have always wondered why you and another favorite blogger (http://sistaintokyo.blogs.com/sista_in_tokyo/about-sista-in-tokyo.html) have never crossed paths. I wrote to her as well b/c you are both in similar situations far away from home in Tokyo and pregnant. I wish you all the best and good luck with your new arrival!!


Thanks so much for posting this. My Japanese wife and I are currently trying for a kid and learning that sushi is ok is going to make her feel much better. It never made sense to me that one's diet should change completely and the article you linked to makes a lot of sense.

Chuck Greer

Belated congratulations on your expectant child. He or she is sure to be very cute, given the attractive parents. Still enjoy your blog so much. Arigato.

Alex Case

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I'd love to know which of the possible factors means that the infant mortality rate here is lower. I have a feeling it's probably due more to lack of poverty though

Hypnotherapy Downloads

Loving this in-depth post. We have recently had twins and the contradicting advice we were given just astounds me. It really is all about diet, however it is not a one size fits all program, there are so many factors to consider.
Well done you.

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