Pregnancy & Delivery on Okinawa, Part 1

Should You Bring The Kitchen Sink?

CONTRIBUTED BY MEREDITH NOVARIO

We recently received this e-mail. Let’s help a lady out, shall we?

A couple of months ago my husband and I learned that we would be  moving to Okinawa in the fall.  There have been ups and downs through the process of finding out where to live, how to get there, what to bring, etc.  Now I have come across an issue that I can’t seem to find an answer to.  I’m pregnant – unexpectedly and joyfully!  I had always imagined myself fully in tune with Okinawa and the health options open to me by the time I had a child there.  Now I’m faced with moving, finding housing etc. while around 6 months pregnant.   That doesn’t worry me as much as not knowing my options for birth, lactation consultants, midwives, OB’s etc.  As I know many of you have had children while stationed there I am wondering if you could give me some information on how your pregnancy and birth went in Okinawa!  Thanks!

NOTE: We have closed the comments on this post as of October 3, 2011.  We have two other posts on the subject (second in series is HERE; comments are closed) and a third, published October 12, 2011, HERE where we have continued with an updated conversation.  If you have asked any questions on this post that have not been answered please ask on the more recent post or head over to one of our online communities to get some answers there.  Thanks!

97 COMMENTS

  1. […]the time to read or visit the content or sites we have linked to below the[…]……

    […]here are some links to sites that we link to because we think they are worth visiting[…]……

  2. Hi, I dont know if anyone on here heard or mentioned about water birth in Okinawa. My midwife at Lester told me about it that they have on in Itoman City but does anyone else know the name of it??

  3. GIVING BIRTH OFF BASE: When I got back to Okinawa, I did the rounds looking for somewhere to give birth.

    Thanks to a friend of a friend (Japanese midwife who has worked in various countries ), I found Kamiya Ha Ha to Ko Clinic in Itoman. She said this the only clinic (Off base) to offer women real ‘birth plan options’.

    It certainly is the ONLY clinic/hospital in Okinawa to be approved as a Baby Friendly Hospital (BFH) by the World Health Organization AND UNICEF

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby_Friendly_Hospital_Initiative

    It is also the only place that I know of on island that you can have a clinic water birth – which I did.

    It seems that if you want a natural woman-oriented birth, birth plan, ‘active’ birth, ‘kangaroo care’, and approved breastfeeding support – then this is the place to go.

    AMC seems to be the place to go if you want an doctor-controlled, lie on the bed, epidural or a Cesarean birth. AMC site says they offers birth plans, but the reality is far true by modern standards.

    Of food? They are good in both places.
    AMC – vegetarian only
    Kamiya – you can request vegetarian

    Urasoe hospital is on par with AMC, but will give you more options to in labor – like soaking in the bath.

    Komori San in Ginowan is said to the best home birth midwife (off base) on island.

    Happy birthing

  4. I had a baby at Lester in 2005 and had a great experience (you can see above somewhere). But I know there are a lot of valid negative experiences people have had as well. HOWEVER, I just had a tour of the “improved” labor and delivery wing at Lester for my upcoming birth and I was thrilled. Triage is no longer all in one room (beds separated by hanging curtains like they were 2 years ago) — there are 5 new separate triage rooms!! And there is a new HUGE shower — you could have a party in there!! And two (?) new labor/delivery rooms. I was SUPER excited. It’s not Beverly Hills — but I was very impressed that they’ve tried to make some nice changes.

  5. Question about Adventist-
    do they do sperm sorting and IUI? We are considering another child, but would like to tip our chances on getting the opposite sex of what we (current children are all the same sex). So, how do I go about finding out if they do this if you don’t have any fertility issues, and how much it costs? Thanks for any info you might have.

    (and if you are personally against this sort of thing, please don’t flame me-I’m just here to ask questions. you don’t have to respond. 🙂 )

  6. I just had a baby at Adventist and I highly recommend it. It cost about $4,000 USD (payment due upon discharge, cash or credit card) for a natural childbirth and a three-day postpartum and nursery stay. I had the basic private room and bathroom. I could have stayed 6 days (as is standard for Japanese mothers). My husband stayed with me for three nights and the staff brought him a cot with bedding.

    Routine prenatal visits ran about 5,200 yen each (not included in the $4k mentioned above), and labwork varied in cost. I saved some money by having most of my labwork done on Kadena; Adventist accepted the copies of the records I took to them.

    The staff at Adventist accommodated all of my desires relating to my birth experience (labor positions, when I checked in/out, if I wanted to eat/drink, lights, room temp, music etc). I was free to move about, and I was never unattended for a single moment during labor (the nurse/midwife to patient ratio was 1:1). Unlike the doctor that delivered my first child at the USNH on Camp Lester in 2006, Dr. Vaughn presented the information and let me decide what to do with it, he coached me through the entire delivery process, and he didn’t do anything I didn’t give him permission to do. Dr. Vaughn wrappred things up by saying a prayer for us after it was all over.

    They do things a little differently than in the States, for example, I was free to eat and drink during labor. I had intermittent external fetal monitoring (continuous monitoring would have interfered with my freedom to move around during labor). Vitamin K was administered to my baby orally, instead of via injection as is standard in the US. Also, most babies are kept in the nursery and only brought to the mother to feed, but you can keep your baby in your room with you if you want, like I did. The staff was respectful of my wishes not to give my baby pacifiers or bottles without my permission.

    All the Adventist nursing staff seemed very knowledgeable about and supportive of natural childbirth and breastfeeding, which was great. In addition to a 4-week post partum checkup, my baby and I also went to a two-week breastfeeding checkup, which was very helpful.

    Dr. Mathumoto, an English-speaking pediatrician saw my baby as an in-patient, examined him before discharge, and again at a 4-week check up at the outpatient unit.

    I do not speak Japanese, but I had no significant difficulty communicating with the staff at the OB clinic, the L&D/postpartum/nursery unit, billing department, lab, pharmacy, or the outpatient unit. I requested copies of my record and both Dr. Vaughn and Dr. Mathumoto provided summaries of our records in English.

    Incidentally, my child has received two Hepatitis immunizations at Adventist (first one done prior to discharge, second one done at the outpatient unit during the four-week check-up). I did have to pay for these immunizations, though they might have been free if I’d had them done at an on-base immunization clinic. At any rate, I don’t regret it.

    Having a baby at Adventist was the right choice for me. I’m glad that I didn’t have to go back to the USNH on Lester again. The only thing my two childbirth experiences had in common was that both times I walked out of the hospital with a baby!

    I am grateful to Okinawa Hai for providing a forum to exchange information. Okinawa Hai put me on the right path to me make an informed decision. In the interest of paying it forward, I am going to try to double-post this under Healthcare and Pregnancy, Childbirth and Beyond. I hope others can benefit from the information I’ve provided! Feel free to request more info if necessary.

  7. I just had my daughter 3 weeks ago and figured I would post my two cents. I had a midwife at Lester- LCDR Scott. She is wonderful and I recommend her to everyone. Second, the labor and delivery nurses are very nice and they made me and my husband very comfortable. Post partum, not so much. You are kinda on your own there. They were understaffed, in my opinion. Also, TAKE CLOROX WIPES OR BABY WIPES. The bathroom cleanliness leaves much to be desired.

  8. Hi Natalie,
    Welcome to Okinawa Hai! If you have any specific questions regarding moving, what to bring, what to store and other PCSing advice, I’ll be happy to steer you in the right direction. As far as immunizations, I would definitely ask your OBGYN. Also, you can network and make friends before you even arrive if you join our sister site, Okinawa Hai Society.
    http://okinawahai.ning.com/

  9. I am just now pregnant. We are due to report in Okinawa june 2009. Can I get all my immunizations while pregnant? This is a big worry on me right now. Any help would be appreciated.

  10. Denise — just double checking… Hokkaido is in the upper part of Japan, not here on Okinawa. Is the baby going to be born at Lester Naval Hospital — is that where she’ll deliver? That’s here.

  11. Hi I live in North Carolina and I have a stepdaughter in Okinawa who is in the marines and she is due to have her baby boy born at the naval hospital on base.She is in Hokkiado Okinawa.The baby is due Feb.11,2009 and I was wondering if the hospital does newborn protraits like they do in a lot of our hospitals over here in the United States.

  12. Denise, Congratulations on the upcoming addition to your family! Unfortunately the Naval Hospital here doesn’t have a company come in to take newborn photos but they do allow you to hire someone privately to come to your room. I have a photographer’s website if you’re interested:) Here’s her site…http://www.okidokiphotography.com/default.htm. Her name is Laurie and she’s fantastic! Some photos of my girls are on there:) Good luck and Congratulations to you and your family!

  13. Tara…You can contact the Red Cross for a list of certified baby sitters and I think the CDC for a list of in-home child care providers. Not sure what branch you’re with or anything, but sometimes your husbands squadron CO (and their wife) can help out or at least point you in the right direction as well. Welcome to the island and congratulations on your growing family! Let me know if I can be of any help!

  14. Tara F-
    I would try to meet your neighbors and see if you have any candidates there.

    If not, check with the family child care offices on the bases-usually, there is at least a few family child care homes that do overnight care, so you might be able to arrange with one of them to drop your child off.

    Beyond that, you could try advertising in JapanUpdate or Okinawa Yard Sales and see if you can find someone that way. Or post on Okinawa Hai Society-there are lots of friendly people around who I’m sure can give you a hand (including me, if you need anything!)

  15. We are having a second child in eight weeks,and we are looking for a 24 hour on-call babysitter or agency to watch our 4.5-year-old while we are having the baby. We are new to the island and aren’t sure where to begin our search. If anyone has any input or ideas it would be greatly appreciated.

  16. I have had no problems with my new doctor at Lester. she is great. I m a complicated high risk pregnancy, I have lost 3 other pregnancies
    I am now 20 weeks along. I have had some problems so far but that was in early pregnancy. They doctors there have been great for me. even when i was having issues worried. They took me back and did an ultra sound to make sure things were okay.

  17. I feel compelled to leave a comment…as previously stated, every person and every situation is different….But!! I have NO complaints about Lester.
    I had my second child at NH Camp Lester in February 2006. We were high risk from the get go…then developed more issues along the way….
    I received top notch care the entire pregnancy!!!…I actually saw a Dr in Family Practice and intermittent appts with the Maternal Fetal Specialist….my FPractice Dr then turned me over to the specialist after it became too complicated for him….

    We knew we would deliver early so they gave me the steroid shots to help boost my son’s lungs… we just didn’t know how early when I then ended up going in on an Emergency basis because I developed Pre-Eclampsia and severe HELLP syndrome….
    I wasn’t feeling him move enough…I knew something was wrong…
    I saw a DR in L&D that I had never seen before, who immediately called the specialist…they all agreed we needed to deliver right away… He was absolutely wonderful…he helped save me and my baby…My blood platelets were 26..they should be in the 250 range…blood was seeping from the skin on my hands…
    My son was not breathing when he was born…he was at 33 weeks…he was immediately taken to the NICU….a NICU which serves the entire Pacific region and is Wonderful!!
    We spent 5 weeks with him in the NICU..

    Honestly, maybe I didn’t notice all of the bad surroundings, etc…because I was so thankful for he and I to be alive….

    But sometimes, there are bad situations, but we can change our attitude about those situations…and make the best of it…I did have a private room because of my C section, so that probably helped…
    But my husband and I would never have any complaints about Lester Hospital…they were all wonderful and we have a Beautiful 2 1/2 year old to show for it..despite having major complications along the way…

    Bottom Line..in my opinion of course, if you are in Okinawa and thinking of having a baby…make the most of your situation, decide what place is best for you and go into it with smiles on your faces..:o)

  18. Horrible experience at the OBGYN clinic at Lester Naval Hospital and very surprised by the lack of support for people who are having problem pregnancies. If you are having a perfectly healthy pregnancy without any complications, and you just need someone to be there for the delivery, then you are fine. However, if you are a high risk patient, you will have to struggle to get the care you need and be seen by a physician if you have a problem. Also, good luck finding someone who cares about your situation in their office…you are just a number to them. As a result of our experience, we have decided to wait until we return to the States where we can get better care. It is very unfortunate.

  19. Hey Brittany. When you get to the island, go over to the tricare office (there’s one at Lester Naval Hospital and I think one at the Kadena Clinic?) and they’ll set you up with a primary care provider on the island. I think they usually will stick you with family practice and then if you’re high risk or have a special need (like you had a previous c-section, etc.) they’ll refer you to OB. They sent me straight there when they found out I was pregnant but I know a few people who never saw anyone from OB until the very end of their pregnancy. It shouldn’t take long at all to get into any appts. though so don’t worry about that. Have a safe flight over!:)

  20. For those of you who have moved there while pregnant, how long did it take you to get set up with an OB there and be seen? I am 23 weeks and just saw my nurse midwife here in NC for the last time today because we will be leaving sometime in October. I’m supposed to have the blood glucose test done in 5 weeks. She told me I should be able to get an appointment within a week’s arrival. So just thought I’d ask some of y’all who have been through it before. Any other advice would be great too!

  21. Hi- We were in mainland Japan and had to send originals (in 2005). We did get all the documents back. Hope that helps!

  22. I have a question for all of those who have had kids on the island…when submitting your package to obtain a social security card, did you send all orig. documents through the mail or did you make certified copies to send over? The birth registration office mentioned something about not being able to get back original documents once you mailed them in and that I should go to legal to get copies instead. Anyone else ever done this? I’m thinking of chancing(sp?) it and sending in my originals to avoid the hassle but don’t want to have to start everything all over again. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks:)!

  23. Hey Heidi…my paperwork took about 5 weeks total from the time I submitted everything until I picked it up at the hospital. I hear it takes longer though depending on the time of the year and whether or not you pay for your own passport which we chose to do. I think they tell you not to plan to go anywhere for at least 2 months though If I remember correctly?? Good luck with everything:)

  24. I had a baby at Lester less than a month ago. I had a wonderful experience with my mid-wife and doctor. To put it simply the care is great and the facilities are meager (to put it nicely).

  25. my husband and i are planning on starting a family next year and we want to go fly back to the states soon after the babies born to visit family. how long does the paperwork usually take for the baby?

  26. I really don’t see how having to walk through a construction zone filled with workers while in a hospital gown, trying to cover yourself up with a blanket, just to go to the bathroom , equals “never being happy with anything”, to be honest.

    I’m sure there are tons of people who have had lovely L&D at Lester, just as I am sure that the people here who had terrible experiences aren’t exaggerating. To belittle their bad experiences just because you had a good one is what is unfair, in my opinion.

  27. I am currently 14 weeks pregnant. I have a son that I had while we were in the states and I had no complications. With this baby, we had to have fertility help, which my doctor at Lester was able to do. I also came down with pneumonia(sp?) last week. I went to the ER very sick and was told what was up. The OB on duty came down and checked me out. They did blood work and also an ultra sound to put me at ease. He had the pharmacy tech walk me through my meds and they both assured me that they would be safe for the baby. I know this does not have to do with labor/delivery, but it does have to do with the staff at Lester. They are thinly stretched. They do have limited resources. But they are good doctors. To judge the whole OB/labor/delivery staff and quarters on the opinions of a few is not fair. Some people are right in their complaints, but some people are just never happy with anything. I am going to deliver at Lester and I am not going to get all crazy over the negatives said about the clinic. Go in with the best in mind- if you have a positive attitude it will make a world of difference.

  28. WOW I am reading through all this and I wonder if I gave birth at the same hositpal as everyone else. My son was born 12 weeks ago at Lester needless to say its not the best in world but it is funtional and the staff and Dr. Day who delivered my son were wonderful. My hats goes off to the staff at Lester my experience from start to finish was awesome and this is baby number three for me my other two weren’t born at military hositpals.

  29. We are not going to have a baby while we’re here, but I would be terrified of Lester as well. A friend of mine who’s 7 months pregnant had to be admitted due to early labor that they were trying to stop. She was placed in a horribly depressing room with wires hanging out of the ceiling, peeling paint, and no bathroom. She had to walk down the hall through a CONSTRUCTION ZONE, her husband wrapping a blanket around her, to go to the bathroom…while she was supposed to be on complete bedrest. Ridiculous and inexcusable.

  30. Wow, this is a very informative site. I haven’t read all of it but I am scared to death to deliver at Lester now. Anyways, how much is it is you want to get a 3-D ultrasound at Yabiku Obstetrics Clinic? I would love to do that!!

  31. I am expecting our second child and plan on giving birth at Lester for the simple fact that there is a NICU there! I had our first child in the states and didn’t have much say in anything that happened with that birth so I am not concerned with having that option again. My husband is a civilian so we have to deal with insurance companies wherever we are and there was only one doctor that could deliver my first and only at one hospital and that hospital decided that I couldn’t have a “birthing room” because I was being induced. The first night after I had given birth the room was not cleaned well and let’s just say when I woke up and saw the floor I almost threw up! All this to say that poor care can happen anywhere for a number of reasons. The likelihood of something happening to my baby is low but my comfort is not worth the risk of wasting time getting the baby to the NICU! Everyone needs to make the decision that is right for their family and most importantly the new baby!!!

  32. Jennifer,

    Going off-base for OB care was a serious decision for me, and I did a lot of research before I made up my mind. I had discussions with the Tricare office on Kadena, the Adventist billing and obstetrical departments, and people I know have had babies off-base. I even took a field trip to Adventist to look around.

    You are correct about payment procedures at Adventist. I am enrolled in Tricare Prime and I am using the Point of Service option (off-base care without a referral). I pay up front and then file for reimbursement with Tricare (I do not have Japanese health insurance). I have a $300 deductible, and after that Tricare will reimburse me for 50% of “Tricare allowable charges”, whatever those are. In other words, I could end up paying more than half of the total expense, if Adventist charges more than the rates set by Tricare. I do save some money by having routine tests (blood, urine, Pap Smear etc) done at Kadena, and taking a copy of the results with me to Adventist.

    How do I manage? Well, the prospect of having another baby at Lester truly frightens me more than the prospect of having to pay to deliver elsewhere. I would go back to the States to deliver, but I want my husband to have the opportunity to be present at the birth of our child. It’s tough because if I were in the States, I could choose my obstetrician, where to deliver my baby, I could stay on Tricare Prime, and it wouldn’t cost me a thing as long as I chose a Tricare network provider. Heck, I probably wouldn’t even have to file the claims myself if I were in the States.

    On the advice of the Tricare office at Kadena, I have elected to stay on Tricare Prime (50% reimbursement), instead of switching to Tricare Standard (80% reimbursement). If I switched to Tricare Standard, I would be locked out of re-enrolling in Prime for one year, AND I would only be seen at military treatment facilities on a space-available basis.

    Dr. Nussbaum at Kadena Flight Medicine couldn’t tell me whether or not Flight Medicine sees space-available patients, and he said that nobody else at Flight Medicine could answer that question either. It would be a wait-and-see experience. That scared me because Flight Medicine recently gave the boot to about 80 dependents and sent them to the Family Medicine clinic due to staffing concerns. I want to continue having priority access to my primary care manager (at Flight Med) for my perennial allergies and a myriad of other things I that I have experienced but which I won’t list here.

    Dr. Nussbaum was pretty clear that he didn’t understand or approve of the fact that I refused a referral to the Lester OB department. Good luck getting a referral for off-base care. To get a referral for off-base care, you have to require Tricare-covered services that aren’t provide on base, like infertility treatment. I also know of a family whose child received care at Chubu hospital when she had epiglottitis, a serious medical emergency. I don’t know whether or not Lester has a Pediatric ICU, but I think the child was transferred from Lester to Chubu’s PICU, where she recovered.

    I don’t totally discount the value of having Lester hospital available. If I’m having a true medical emergency, I want to go to an ER where language isn’t a barrier, even if it is a grungy place. I have had good experiences with Lester’s immunization clinic, occupational therapy and pediatric departments, and the lactation consultant that I saw (Johanna Gilbert, RN, IBCLC) was absolutely fabulous. I am also grateful for the Birth Registration office at Lester. I simply will not give birth at Lester again, due to previous experience, even if the cost is sobering.

    I hope I’ve provided the information you wanted. I’ll be happy to continue to share info about off-base OB care as I experience it.

    L.

  33. RE: acupuncturist-

    I saw an acupuncturist on Gate 2 street, right. His clinic is on the corner of the next little street after you pass the parking lot for China Petes (if that makes sense). He speaks English-and it’s not expensive. 3000 yen for the first visit and 2500 thereafter.

    I had severe, severe, siatic nerve pain-I was having trouble walking (and this was only at 20 or so weeks!) and I’m now at 36 weeks and have been almost completely pain free after 2 initial sessions (1 week apart). I’ve had some additional minor discomfort as I have gotten larger, but another session a few weeks ago really helped tremendously.

    I recommend at least trying it-it can’t hurt, and it’s pretty inexpensive! I got the location of the place originally from Lester-though they can’t “recommend” anyone.

  34. Thanks L. I have so many questions. One big one was how does Tricare cover costs of being seen and delivering at Adventist? I’ve heard I would have to pay up front and have Tricare reimburse me, even with a referral. Is this true?? I know back in the states the doctors office usually just deals with Tricare and billing. Isn’t it a lot of money to pay upfront? How do you manage?

  35. I just wanted to throw my two cents in, as well.
    I gave birth nine days ago to my first baby – at Lester.
    And I had the most wonderful experience I could possibly have hoped for!
    I delivered via c-section, and my Dr. came in off leave to deliver me especially. Which meant I saw the same Dr. from the day I found out I was pregnant, through to delivery. And now she will continue to see my son. I could not praise her enough. She continually goes above and beyond with her patient care and bedside manner.
    Also, during post-partum, I had a great experience, too. My nurse and corpsman also went above and beyond continually. I had a few problems recovering, and I’m very modest – they never once made me fee humiliated, or uncomfortable. MY room was ALWAYS clean and tidy. I had everything I needed bought to me at the push of a button, no matter the time of day.
    The staff there – all that I had contact with – were friendly, caring, concerned and had no problems going that extra mile.
    I work in the medical field myself – and my husband is a Corpsman. BOTH of us were impressed and continually rave about how great out experience was to anyone who’ll listen.
    I hope you have the same great experience!!

  36. Anyone know of an accupuncturist for pregnancy needs? Still tired of the vomiting and headaches at 20 weeks…

  37. Jennifer, it is my understanding that Japanese first-time mothers stay 5 days after birth at Adventist. However, I was told that barring unforseen complications, I could choose to leave earlier (2 or 3 days postpartum) because I have previously had an uncomplicated pregnancy, labor and delivery. I am not sure what the situation would be for a foreign first-time mother.

    Please note that I had the conversation about length of post-partum stay with someone in the billing department. I will ask my doctor about this at a future visit. Incidentally, my doctor is an American and he is a board-certified OB-GYN.

    FYI, according to my doctor, epidurals are available at Adventist, but they are uncommon at off-base hospitals. This is speculation on my part, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the length of post-partum stay at Adventist is related to whether or not you have an epidural. It stands to reason that the staff would want to observe you longer if you have had an unusual intervention (by their standards) just to make sure you don’t experience any adverse effects from it.

    They don’t seem to get very excited about the length of observation at Lester. True story: my friend, A.D., said she was booted from Lester’s L&D unit with the epidural catheter STILL IN HER BACK! When she got to the post-partum unit, the nurse asked if she would need help getting up to go to the bathroom. My friend replied, “Umm, yes, I’m still numb from the waist down and I can’t move my legs!” Not the post-partum nurse’s fault: you are not supposed to go to the post-partum unit until you can feel your legs and can walk to the bathroom…L&D just kicked my friend out before she was ready because somebody else needed the room. Nice, eh? At Lester, people’s experiences, the standard of care, and the length of observation seem to vary widely depending on how many women are having babies at the same time.

    L.

  38. Ooh, I forgot to ask, do you have to stay 5 days at Adventist if you do decide to go out in town? Or is it your choice to leave early?

  39. Not sure if you guys said it yet, but the name of the 3-D ultrasound place by Kadena is Yabiku Obstetrics Clinic. I don’t have the number right now, but it is in the yellow pages for the island. I’m going next week for a 28 week 3-D.

  40. We moved to the Island Sept of last yer. I was Due in April. I am extremly High risk and needed a cardiologist to assist during my labor. All my Apt were here at Lester NMC. W/ the high Risk OBGYN and the Perinatoligist. They (naval hospital) actually medivac’d me off the Island to Either Hawaii (we opted no) or San diego CA (my family is there) for the remainder of my pregnancy. We had to pay for our kids plane tickets. But my hubby’s cammand paid for the rental car, hotel and per diem pay for me (I’m the dependent). We had an eventful but safe delivery and flew back 3 weeks later. They really took great care of me at Lester and did what was best for me and my baby. Good Luck!

  41. Giving birth to my second child on Okinawa, I had an experience closer to L’s. When I was admitted to L&D there were already 4 women in the private rooms and 2 women in triage (one was in preterm labor and did not deliver, but the other woman delivered after me), so I labored and delivered in triage (only separated by a curtain that didn’t close all the way). I didn’t expect them to kick someone out of their room, but I must say I am no longer self conscious about things (I got over it very quickly that day…lol). Oddly enough, I was the last admitted, but the first to deliver by a long shot! Four hours after being admitted, I had my second daughter.
    I LOVED my prenatal care for both of my daughters. I hated the post partum care though. With daughter #1 I had to share a room and a bathroom (with 3 other women…I went down the hall and used the community one which I recommend to everyone I can now), with daughter #2 I only shared a room for a few hours, so that was nice. My bathroom mate though allowed her whole family (her husband, and 2 kids) use the patients only bathroom despite the many signs. because of that I used the community bathroom once again because that family seemed to always be in the bathroom :(.
    Now I am pregnant again and will be delivering at Lester yet again. I am not too happy, but it could be worse. I am praying to not deliver in triage again (but I have been told by the time I am due that will no longer be an issue). I do see that the OB clinic is a lot busier than the last 2 times. I have only been for 2 appointments, but I have had no problems getting in. The first provider I saw was very nice, but I don’t think she is the right fit for me. I loved the second one that I saw and hope to be able to have more appointments with her.
    I already know what to expect as far as who will deliver me and I am fine with whoever is on call at the moment. I have had 3 different doctors deliver me (2 for my first daughter and 1 for my second and he is still on island so maybe I will get him again).

  42. Since many of you had children on Okinawa could you tell me as to how they are registered? Are they considered U.S citizens or Okinawan? Tell you something funny but sad. Tried Chinese needle trick to see if it could tell me that I had two boys.It said I had a girl then two boys. Many swear this works and is always correct. Then I remember that the local Lady of the Evening-it was legal on Okinawa back in 69 got pregnant and had her child after I returned to the states. I never had any doubt that I was the father. She would be about 38 now and live in The Toguchi village area in northern Okinawa. Anyone want to help me find her while you are there. Help would be a blessing. It is cost prohibitive for me to fly over there just now.Lewis parker in Anderson,S.C U.S.A.

  43. Wow L. What a horrible experience. I feel so bad for you guys and I can’t believe how opposite both of ours were! My husband is an IDC so I had him as my health care advocate so I was never worried about medical care. I was, like you, worried about cleanliness but I seriously had someone cleaning my room on a very regular basis. My trash cans never even had the chance to fill up. This could be due to my very helpful mother who stays on top of things and by that I mean everything:). She at one point had the nurse in charge of the floor cleaning up a spill in our room. So funny. The Corpsmen there did everything for me. I never saw the gally room where I guess you get Ice and I still have no idea where all of those little diapers came from that magically appeared in my room:) I actually just had a friend who delivered via c-section too and she buzzed them whenever she needed the baby picked up or needed diapers etc. We were both lucky I guess that neither of us had to share rooms in the postpartum wing. My bad experience was the first time around in 2005 at another hospital and it was seriously terrible there. We were left on our own for everything (after having a c-section). My husband even had to change my sheets smong other things that are just too nasty to mention on here. I hope you have as great of an experience this time around as ours was. The second deliver was soooo much better! How about a post with info when you do deliver out in town? We’d all love to hear about it along with costs and other great info! Good luck!

  44. I had my baby at Lester in February 2006. I am seeking off-base care for my current pregnancy. I am an RN and in my opinion and in my experience, the facility at Lester is inadequate and unclean, and there is not enough staff to adequately care for the number of patients. These problems are not the fault of the medical or nursing staff; they simply can’t do anything to improve the situation. Take your own Clorox wipes and be patient (no pun intended) if you plan to seek care at Lester.

    First I will tackle the lack of sufficient staffing. My prenatal care at Lester was okay. However, due to lack of sufficient staff/over-abundance of patients, when I reached the point where I was supposed to have check-ups every two weeks, there were no appointments available for 3 to 4 weeks and they wouldn’t let me book more than one appointment at a time. Also, because there were so many patients and very few class slots, I could not enroll in a prepared childbirth class until right before my due date. Too bad for me; my child was born after only one class and I was unprepared for my mostly unmedicated labor experience.

    The trend of insufficient staffing continued after I gave birth; I had a 9-week postpartum check-up instead of a 6-week check-up due to lack of availability of appointments. I should add that I wasn’t holding out for appointments with a designated care provider; I was taking appointments with ANY care provider that had availability.

    My childbirth experience at Lester was pretty desperate. Nobody remembered to give me a packet of pre-admission paperwork at my 34 week check-up, so I was filling out paperwork while I was busy dilating from 5 to 7 cm. I was in so much pain that I have NO idea what I actually signed; I certainly wouldn’t say that I gave informed consent to any procedures.

    Speaking of consenting to procedures, the physician that delivered my child did not ask my permission prior to breaking my waters (nor did he even mention it in passing), he simply did it at his convenience. The physician DID respect my request not to use vacums, forceps, or an episiotomy unless there was imminent danger to my life or the life of my baby, and for that I was grateful.

    I never saw any evidence of birthing balls or squat bars at Lester’s L&D unit, despite the fact that I asked about them. There were no stirrups to help hold up my legs while I was pushing either (I sure could have used them)! After I received an epidural, I was left flat on my back for several hours until it was time to push. I had been told someone would come back to check on and re-position me after 45 minutes, but nobody did, probably due to lack of staff (see below).

    The night I had my child, there were SIX patients in labor, only TWO nurses, one physician, and one anesthesiologist. I don’t know how many corpsmen were there. NO additional nursing staff were called in or floated from another unit. A nurse DID return to help me when it was time to push.

    Next I will address the inadequacy of the facility. After moving to the post-partum unit,I initially shared a room. My bed was next to the door and my curtain would not close completely, so everyone who walked by (and there were plenty) got to see my breasts hanging out as I learned to nurse my baby.

    There was so little space in my section of the room that the bassinet was literally wedged between the wall and my bed. I had to climb down to the end of the bed to pick up/put down my baby because the corpsman who brought the bassinet oriented it so that the bassinet faced the foot of the bed (where she could easily reach my baby), not the head of the bed (where I could easily reach my baby).

    Next, I will address the standard of cleanliness at Lester. Because somebody was always using our four-person bathroom, I never saw the inside of it. Instead, I used the communal bathroom in the hallway. There were NO biohazard boxes in which to throw bloody pads etc; they just instructed me to pitch biohazardous material in the wastebasket. When I asked for warm water to fill up my peri bottle (there was no warm water in the communal bathroom), I was told to fill up my peri bottle at the sink IN THE GALLEY where they fill up water pitchers and keep food!

    The practices I mentioned aren’t merely gross, I believe they represent a system failure and a pattern of dangerous lack of cleanliness. In 2005 I was seen in an ER room that still had blood on the floor from the previous patient. In 2007, my husband spent several days at Lester following an appendectomy. After he was discharged, we didn’t even make it home before we had to return to the ER because my husband was having alarming new symptoms. He had to have immediate emergency surgery to rule out potentially fatal necrotizing fascitis (flesh-eating bacteria). After a night in the ICU and another surgery, we were not told the name of the pathogen responsible for my husband’s mystery infection, but the surgeon adamantly denied it was a nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infection.

    I am convinced that my husband’s close call was caused by pattern of lack of cleanliness. In all the time I’ve spent at Lester, I have never seen anyone cleaning anything. Cleaning is not the responsibility of medical or nursing staff; it is supposed to be the responsiblility of housekeeping staff. Where are the houskeeping staff? Where are the biohazard boxes? Lack of cleanliness and insufficient staffing is a problem that begins at the administrative level. I feel bad for the medical/nursing staff and corpsmen at Lester because their hands are tied; there is nothing they can do about the adequacy or cleanliness of the facility and they certainly do not choose their level of staffing relative to their patient load. I believe that they did the best they could under the circumstances.

    I’m sorry if my post offends anyone; but every word about my experiences and my husband’s experiences is true. If you are a patient at Lester, try not to be frustrated with the staff, but you will need to be your own advocate and bring your own Clorox wipes.

    I wish you good luck and good health!

  45. I can’t say enough great things about my c-section that I had here. It was my second as well and it was fabulous. It was planned so it was easier in that aspect than the first time around and the recovery time was a million times easier too. Don’t let the asthetics of the hospital scare you. The care that I received here was so much better than what I received at a brand new (pretty) hospital in VA when I had my first daughter. I’ll never have another child there but would gladly here if we decided to expand our family. Oh and b/c you’re having a c-section, you’ll more than likely get your own room and maybe even a private bathroom. I was told to pack shower shoes and lysol wipes just in case but I lucked out and didn’t share:) Anyway, good luck and if you have any specific Q’s feel free to ask away! I’ll be more than happy to share.

  46. I am currently 12 weeks along with my 2nd child. I will be delivering at Lester. I plan on having a c-section, like I did with my first child, and was wondering if anyone has had experience with this here. Any info or tips you can share will be greatly appreciated.

  47. Does anyone have updated info on La Leche League meetings as I see the last message mentioned they were moving from Lester chapel. specifically I am looking for times/dates of meetings and contact details (as I did not see an Okinawa chapter on the official website). Thank you!

  48. Hi everyone. I will be moving to Okinawa at the beginning of August. I will be six months pregnant with our first child. My husband is military, and I’m wondering about doing a home birth with a midwife. Does military pay for this? I’m pretty clueless about the situation, so any info would be appreciated. Thanks!

  49. The Kids Cottage on Lester has them. (There is a post on here somewhere about them – maybe under To Shop.) One of the local spouses makes them. When I was last there they only had a pink one and I was buying it for a lawyer friend who I knew needed something more “understated.” I asked the woman working there and she said, “what color do you want?” I said a black print. She made a note of it and called me a week later saying she had 3 for me to choose from! Awesome service! And I LOVE the one I got. 🙂

  50. Does anyone know where I can get a nursing cover from? I know they have black ones at the Exchanges but I’m hoping to find a cute or at least colorful one….other than ordering online? Thanks!

  51. Hey Nicole! The Ultrasound place wants you to be 28 weeks before they’ll see you. Something to do with the baby having enough fatty tissue so that you can get a better photo (not so translucent(sp?). BUT…I hear if you wait too long the baby is too cramped so if you want to go early you can just say that you’re 28 wks. I went 2 wks early for ours and still couldn’t get a good shot (we really wanted to know gender and it still couldn’t be confirmed). I think the quality was so so. I had seen some really great ones online and ours were kind of hard to see for some reason. Maybe it was their machine??? Anyway, good luck with the baby! Oh and the local nurses at lester OB gave us the phone number for the place so if you need it you can call OB:)

  52. Mia do you remember if the was a min # of weeks. I found the place and when I went in he lady showed ne the form and pointed to something that said 28-32 weeks. That seems late to do a good 3d u/s.

  53. Nicole – you can get the 4D ultrasound at an OB clinic/hospital off-base (sorry, I can’t recall the hospital name, but it’s reputable and I went, along w/numerous other pregnant friends) near Kadena Gate 1. Heading north from Camp Foster, you will take a left before you get to Kadena Gate 1 (where you will have Pizza Inn, GI Billpay, etc on the right side), then take the first right where you will see a small sign for the hospital – a heart w/red and purple colors. Then take the next right and you will see the OB hospital on the corner w/parking near. For non-patients, it’s a waiting game as there are no appts however I called ahead and was advised to come at around 2pm (I was seen at around 3). Apologies I no longer have their number. You will fill out a form stating that you agree to pay the Y5000 (cheap compared to US 4Ds!) even if you cannot see the baby well. The cut-off is around 32 weeks – you can still do it after then but you may not see the baby well. The staff are very friendly and some speak English, at least the one who performed the ultrasound. Bring a VHS. My hubbie brought a video camera just for fun as well.
    I hope this helps!

  54. Great – thanks for all of the tips! It seems that a regular simple step trashcan, etc may be just as (or more) efficient and easier to use than the diaper genie, appreciate all of the advice ladies, many thanks!!

  55. Mia, I swear I saw some of the replacements at the Kadena Commissary if you do end up getting a diaper Genie. I was never a big fan of it. I did what Bambi and Lan suggested. It worked fabulously for us. But, we take the trash out on a very regular basis. Also I found some great little bags in the states that were blue and scented and would use those too before I threw the diapers in my trash can. The don’t carry the same brand out here, but I did see something similar made by Summer Infants??? at the Foster BX (over by the cups and bottles) so I picked up a couple bags of those for the next baby:)

  56. Hi Mia,
    After 3 kids, I’ve never been a fan of the diaper genie. Just a simple step trashcan has worked for me b/c it’s hands-free. If you find that you really need a diaper genie once you arrive, I’m sure the PX/BX carry them or you could find one inexpensively at a flea market.
    Best of luck!

  57. We had diaper genie with our first and only for a little bit. We then switched to a small trash can that had a lid and would take plastic shopping bags! The cutter on the diaper genie broke so you had to have scissors to get the bags out when full. It also didnt help with the smell like it would say.

  58. A Diaper Champ uses regular trash bags, you can get it on Amazon.com (though you do have to ship it) – I’m not sure if they have them on base. But anything with a lid that holds a regular trash bag would work. I always felt that Diaper Genies were a bad call; special bags you can run out of, and having to take out a daisy chain of stinkies wasn’t appealing 🙂 (Plus we live out in town, and I’m certain those bags wouldn’t be appreciated.)

  59. Does anyone with babies/infants in Oki recommend getting a diaper genie? Reason I inquire is because it seems that I would have to order the refills online and that perhaps it would be more effient/economical to simply get the diaper pale available at the PXs. Any recommendations?
    Thanks!

  60. for katie and others interested in natural birth, here are a few links that might be helpful . . .

    http://mothering.com/articles/pregnancy_birth/pregnancy_birth_main.html
    Source for many articles relating to pregnancy and birth

    http://www.spinningbabies.com/
    Method of achieving Optimal Fetal Positioning for an easier birth

    http://www.hypnobirthing.com/
    Official site for the Hypnobirthing method.

    http://www.bradleybirth.com/
    Official site for the Bradley Method of Husband-Coached childbirth

    http://www.baystatehealth.com/forms/yourbaby/labor_guide/comfort.html

    http://gentlebirth.org/

    http://ican-online.net/
    International Cesarean Awareness network site.

    http://www.thebusinessofbeingborn.com/
    official site for the new documentary. it will be out in march

  61. I have “Husband Coached Childbirth” — one of Bradley’s books — if you want to borrow it. Email me at “[email protected]” if you want me to get it to you.

  62. Katie et al,
    I too am interested in taking a Bradley childbirth class however I have yet to locate one in Okinawa (the official site: http://www.bradleybirth.com/ shows that there are no instructors currently listed on the island). I won’t give up hope though! Thus far, I have been able to get my hands on the book “Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way” by Susan McCutcheon at the Foster library and hope to become as educated as I can, with or without an instructor [though I prefer to find someone who can assist]. I’ll let you and others know what I can find.

  63. Thank you guys so much for all the great comments and information, especially from the “insider” and Joelle. I’m a first time mom and knowing facts is really all I’m seeking in this whole process, as I don’t have much to rely on in terms of personal experience! I was thrilled to hear all the detailed information. Thank you.

  64. La Leche League has the most update information on Breastfeeding. There is a LLL group that meets on the second tuesday of each month at 10:00. We recommend mamas start coming to meeting durring pregnancy and mamas with babies are welcome! We have a lending library with many topics; such as, breastfeeding and working, co-sleeping, pregnancy, natural birth, working from home, caring for young children, nutrition and health food books galore. LLL meets on Lester in the Chapel, yet their location is moving soon. You can check out LLL on the web at http://www.lalecheleague.org or you can call the local leader for phone help and meeting information at 932 7033. Mamas who come LLL find information, support, guidance, and friendships.

  65. Wow. Thank you, Insider, for the genuine opinions given from both the patient and provider perspectives. I just had a baby at Lester Hospital about 3 weeks ago and have to agree that while the facility was definitely institutional and functional, the staff present during both labor and delivery as well as post partum were extremely professional, but also warm and friendly. At no time did I ever feel out of control of our situation, even despite an emergency situation with my older daughter while I was in the middle of labor with our baby boy. Both the ER (who handled my daughter’s injury) and the Labor/Delivery staffs were very accomodating and communicated with each other. Overall, a very positive birthing experience for this mom of 3!

  66. Joelle – thanks for your note; I should have been more specific on those points. Intermittent monitoring usually entails a 1-to-1 nurse/patient ratio. If it is a slow day and you have a low risk pregnancy and labor course, intermittent monitoring is possible. But if there are multiple patients on the labor floor or a delivery is occurring, there may be insufficient manpower to achieve intermittent monitoring. So while it is possible, I’d advise patients not to count on it.

    What you had is called a heplock, meaning the IV is in your vein but not hooked up to IV fluid. The issue here is that in an emergency, you don’t want a delay of care to occur because it takes 20 minutes to find a vein.

    I often reflect that all of this stuff boils down to a concept I call perception of risk. This is the source of much conflict between patients and providers in obstetrics. From the perspective of many patients, labor and delivery is a beautiful, natural process that does not require the medicalization that occurs in the developed world. From the provider perspective, you only have to be involved of one case of life-threatening postpartum hemorrhage, or any number of other obstetrical emergencies, in order to feel pretty strongly about things like IVs, pitocin, and easy availability of anesthesia and an OR. Luckily, most patients and providers are reasonable people who can reach common ground on this stuff.

  67. I second the WOW. That is such a detailed and insightful peek. Thanks for sharing with so much respect for both sides of the experience. The medical side & the patient side.

    Many people will appreciate your candor. Again, thanks.

  68. WOW — that was a very fair assessment from “an insider”! Thanks for all the info. The only thing I’d add is that during my deliver (last summer) I only had to have the “port” or whatever it’s called for an IV in my hand, I never had an actual IV during labor or delivery. Also, I was only on intermittent monitoring. The only time I had continuous monitoring was during the initial consult when I came in in labor — 15 minutes or so.

    Again, thanks for the frank review of the offerings here. Very helpful.

  69. The Ob/Gyn department at NH Okinawa currently has 1 Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, 3 Certified Nurse Midwives, 1 Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist (ie high-risk doctor), and 6 generalist Ob/Gyn doctors. All providers are certified by the appropriate boards. These positions are 2 or 3 year billets, so individuals change frequently. As a practice, they deliver almost 1000 women a year. Given the number of different practitioners, most patients can find a provider that suits their personality and philosophy. Military Family Practice physicians are also trained / certified to care for pregnant women and attend deliveries. Patients with pregnancy complications or who require surgery are referred to the Ob/Gyn physicians.

    The Ob/Gyn clinic is very busy, there may be delays to get an appointment, and due to overbooking or emergencies providers may run behind schedule. Once you know a provider, that person often goes out of their way to get you in to be seen if you have a problem.

    One issue throughout the military system is that doctors and midwives do not have the administrative and clinical support staff enjoyed by civilian pracitioners. Doctors and midwives do all their own paperwork, follow-up on all their own labs, book their own surgeries, arrange all their own tests and consults, etc. In a civilian practice, an office nurse and secretary manage all of this, freeing the doctor to see patients. In addition, military doctors have to spend time doing military things, ie standing inspection, getting random drug screens, doing online military trainings, etc. Corpsmen and nurses rotate frequently, especially given deployments to the Middle East, so doctors and midwives spend time doing things that a more experienced staff would already know to do. All these things take providers away from direct patient care, and may cause inconvenience to patients.

    There is a common misconception that military doctors and midwives are somehow substandard in training and experience to civilian providers. Actually, almost all military doctors attend civilian medical schools (places like Dartmouth, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Columbia) and those who didn’t went to the military medical school in DC. Quite a few underwent residency or fellowship in civilian hospitals. Moreover, military residencies are credentialed by the same bodies that credential civilian residencies, and their training compares favorably to civilian residencies. In fact, since military training programs tend to not have as many fellows, military residents tend to have “hands-on” experience in more complex procedures than some cilivian residents.

    That said, there are fantastic and mediocre physicians / midwives in the military, just as there are in the civilian community. Great and not-so-great providers often work side by side in private practices and very prestigious academic hospitals all over the country.

    There is an Ob/Gyn physician and an anesthesia provider on call 24/7/365. The NICU is fully equipped to take care of sick newborns, even the tiny 24 weekers. Usually, the on-call physician or midwife delivers patients who come in that day. Some physicians and midwives come in on their own time for deliveries if available, some try to schedule patients for the day they are on call.

    NH Okinawa was built in the 1950s for the Army. The space is institutional, not ergonomic, and probably insufficient for the demands of the current patient population. Labor and delivery rooms are individual, but there are only four and at busy times they fill quickly. Patients in active labor have priority for these beds.

    The corpsman and nursing staff on labor and delivery, like all military hospital units, adhere to protocols ie Standard Operating Procedures. This has positive and negative aspects, but was established to help promote patient safety and facilitate training of new corpsman and nurses. There are birthing balls and nurses will help with different labor positions, but the staff and facility are not set up to indulge a variety of natural laboring stratgies (ie things requring intermittent monitoring, water birth, etc). Birth plans are reviewed by staff and every effort is made to comply with the patient’s wishes, but some requests (no IV, intermittent monitoring, requests having to do with neonatal resuscitation, etc) cannot be met due to safety and staffing concerns. Vaginal birth after cesarean is offered for patients who meet standard criteria. Episiotomy is not routinely done.

    Triage consists of 3 beds with curtain partitions, although a renovation planned this year will provide individual rooms. If the midwife / physician is not busy in a delivery or consult, you will be seen right away, otherwise you wait until the on-call provider is available.

    Most postpartum rooms are shared with another patient, with 4 women to a bathroom. Sick patients, pregnant women with complications, and those who have a cesarean delivery have priority for the few individual rooms on 5E. There is a “rooming-in” system, meaning you take care of your own baby the majority of the time (compared to the system of sending your child to the newborn nursery all night). Usually, patients with a vaginal delivery stay 1-2 days, and those with a cesarean stay 2-3 days. Most patients find the beds and rooms unpleasant enough that they choose to go home earlier rather than later.

    In summary, there are a a lot of reasons some patients seek care outside of the military facility. Having a sense of control over who is your provider and where your delivery takes place is a key issue here. Some patients resent that NH Okinawa has a “monopoly” on Ob/Gyn care on island. This page nicely details that there are choices, but they are limited, and you have to go out of your way to arrange for that care. Many patients find the facilities at NH Okinawa laughable, compared to the beautiful hotel-like amenities of some private birthing clinics/hospitals. The lack of ancillary staff at the hospital – ie no doulas/labor coaches/classes, only one lactation consultant – is frustrating for patients who are accustomed to these services. The large volume of deliveries done given the amount of staffing means that some patients feel they have not had an “individualized” service. Patients with expectations for plush facilities and nurses/ancillary staff catering to their and their baby’s every desire will be sorely disappointed by their experience at NH Okinawa, and should consider seeking care elsewhere.

    However, the nurses and the OB, FP, and Peds providers at NH Okinawa seek to deliver excellent quality medical care to their patients. Most providers work hard to overcome the challenges described above. Many times, your provider is just as frustrated as you are at the limitations of the military system. Sometimes you have to take a step back and realize the military is providing all this care, free of charge, to its constituency, under significant budgetary restrictions. So if you can work through the “bare-bones’ facilites and staffing, you will probably find a provider you like and trust, and have a healthy and safe pregnancy, delivery, and baby.

  70. Katie, Congrats on your pregnancy and on trying to be as prepared as possible! I’ve had two natural births and for me, the most important thing was to be informed before hand. So I understand your interest in a class. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any classes right now — they used to have a Lamaze teacher but I think she left — I would love a “Birthing From Within” class, but none of those either. There is pre-natal yoga taught on Foster…

    But, if you are a “reader” I’ll suggest some books that helped me (I’m also a pre-natal yoga teacher and my textbooks are included in the list). It’s a “Listmania” list from Amazon and it’s a really long link — let me know if it doesn’t work.

    http://www.amazon.com/Best-Birth-Books/lm/R2RREVOTLNU5GR/ref=cm_lm_pdp_title_full

    I was really happy with my midwife at Lester because I was VERY clear with her about what I wanted and she totally stuck with that during my labor (which is when you sometimes want to throw all your plans out the window). Her reminding me of my intentions was very helpful. AND most importantly, my husband knew what I wanted and was able to keep a more level head to keep me on the path I’d chosen.

    I’d also be happy to chat with you if you are interested ([email protected]). Best of luck!!

  71. I’m trying to take a Lamaze or Bradley method class (i.e. “natural childbirth”) — does anyone know of any classes available on the island? I called the Lester OB clinic and they told me they only offer an “informational” class that basically tells you “what to expect.” I’m looking more for actual education on and preparation for trying to give birth naturally (without an epidural). It’s my first baby, so I’m nervous that without all the facts/classes, I won’t know enough to fight for the natural birth if necessary!

    Thanks,
    Katie

  72. I don’t know about here on Lester, but at the Naval Hospital in 29 Palms, CA I had my son delivered by a midwife. I didn’t get the epideral until a 6 and then I lost my focused(from the excitement of a new edition, he was also the first) and couldn’t control the pain anymore. The midwife was able to get me the epideral there so I am sure they can here as well!

  73. Kimberly, I’d also love to get info on the doula on island…I am interested in becoming a doula and want to ask her some questions on the subject.

    Thank you!
    Stacey

  74. HI! I have read many of the posts above and just appreciate ANY information on using a midwife at Lester for my first pregnancy? I was also wondering if I will have the option of medication/epidural if labor becomes too difficult “au natural” under a midwife’s care? I just want to know I have options….Thanks for input!

  75. Wow! 10 lb 10 oz, you go girl!

    Kimberly, can you please give me the info for the one doula on island?
    Thanks!

  76. For those looking for a more “granola” birth — I was VERY happy with my midwife led delivery at Lester. However LCDR Larson has just moved back to the mainland. I don’t know much about the other 2 midwives. But I found that since I was very clear with her during our appointments, she new exactly what I wanted during labor & delivery. It was fab! Even pushing out a 10 lb 10oz-er…

  77. As far as I know, there is only one doula on the whole island. She’s not sure if she’s taking any new clients right now though because she’s due herself at the end of the year. But 9 months or more from now would be fine I’m sure!

    I am currently exploring all of the other birth options here as well and although I don’t have any real answers yet, it seems like you have a few choices as long as you are willing to pay something out of pocket. There is a homebirth midwife if you can find a Japanese translator and a few OBs and midwives at Adventist that will take American patients. I think it’s a battle, but you can get Tricare to cover some of the cost whichever way you go. As soon as I figure all of this out, I’ll write it up and post it!

  78. Does anyone know of any doulas in the area? I had one for my first birth in the states and it was very helpful. Does Tricare cover any expenses if you go to Adventist? If not, how much can I expect to pay on average? We are trying for child number two and I want to know what I’m getting into here….

    Thanks.

  79. Hi I gave birth to 2 of my 4 chikdren here, I am extremly high risk when I a pregnant. My babies go straight to NICU. I loved it there it is not pretty Ill give you that. The corps men and nurse where so great, and if your baby has to go to NICU they are wonderful. I would not have not considered going off base I am sure they are wonderful but like I said I have 4 kids and could not be gone for 5 days.

  80. Congratulations! I’m pregnant with our second baby and I currently see Dr. Vaughn at the Adventist Medical Center. I’m Japanese from the main land, so I don’t know if my opinion will be helpful, but I’ll put the reasons why I chose the Adventist for our second baby.

    Before I start, I would like to mention that I have an option to go see a doctor at the Naval Hospital. In fact, I have previously seen an OBGYN’s there. I was happy with the services. Then why did I chose Adventist? I gave birth in Tokyo for our first baby about 2.5 years ago and I was extremely happy with my experience, so I always thought that I would like to give birth again in Japan. I would love to go back to my first doctor, but this time I’m going to give birth in Okainawa so that our first child and I could be near my husband.

    The main reason for me to chose a local doctor, especially the Adventist Medical Center, is that I can stay at the hospital for 5 days after birth which is the norm in Japan. This will allow you to rest your body after birth. You will be able to ask the nurses to take care of your newborn baby at night which will allow you to sleep through the night. After I delievered my first child, I could not walk for 2 days, plus I was under pain for a while, so I cannot imagine going home after 24 to 48 hours.

    When you stay at a hospital for 5 days after birth, you can simply press a nurse call button to ask any type of questions and a nurse will come see you immediately. This made me feel comfortable for my first baby.

    Our first child had jaundice and had to have a light treatment on the 3rd day. This was easy because I was still at the hospital.

    I wanted to have epidural and it is an option at Adventist.

    I had some problems during my first pregnancy, so I have always prepred myself in my mind for pregnancy related problems this time again. My guess was right. The great thing about the Adventist or other Japanese clinic/hospital is that you can call the doctor’s office and make an appointment for a walk-in service within the same day if you call in the morning for an urgent to emergency situation. The office will find the time for ypou to see an available doctor of the day right away. Not all the doctors at the Adventist speak English, so if Dr. Vaughn is not available for the situation, this might be different for English speaking patients. I have used the emergency room at the Naval Hospital and they do try to accomodate the need of each patient, but you have to expect to be in the emergency room for hours regardless of your condition. Compared to that it is much easier and less painful to see a doctor at a Japanese hospital.

    Being Japanese, I prefer Japanese meal when I am admitted at a hospital. The Adventist’s meal is all vegitarian. I am not vegitarian, but I love vegitarian meals, so it works for me. I was admitted at the Adventist Medical Center for 2 nights for a problem that I had a couple of months ago and I was happy with their meal.

    Dr. Vaugh is very nice and has great reputation. Nurses and midwives are very friendly and personable which made me feel very comfortable.

    I’ve never delivered in the U.S., so I don’t have a point of refrence to compare the Adventist with a standard OB clinic/hospital in the States. The Adventist is nothing fancy, but the nurses are very caring which gives warm atmosphere.

    I hope that my observations will give you some ideas about the Adventist Medical Center. Good luck with the move! Don’t strain your body and take a good care of yourself!!

  81. Hello!! I was in pretty much the same shoes you are in just over a year and a half ago. I was 6 months pregnant with my first child and moving to Okinawa. My experience at the hospital for my delivery was very positive. My midwife went above and beyond to make sure that I had a great pregnancy and a positive delivery. She came in to deliver my son (just in time)!! She also came in to check on me in the hospital a couple times after I had him. The nurses I had were also great!! I had a fantastic guy nurse on the night shift and a wonderful woman on the day shift. I was lucky enough not to have to share a room with another patient, but I did have to share a bathroom, which is a bit gross. I think the biggest thing is to make sure you have a birth plan and let your doctor/midwife/nurses, know ahead of time.
    There are classes you can take i.e. Baby Boot Camp, Breastfeeding classes, etc that were all, I thought, worth my while as a first time mom. The whole pregnancy is such an exciting time, I think if you come out here knowing that the Naval Hospital isn’t your stateside labor and delivery upscale center and know that the hospital does deliver tons and tons of babies, you will find comfort in just enjoying your special adventure.

  82. Hi, I did not give birth in Okinawa or in a military base in particular but gave birth in Japan 4 years ago. The hospital was great and the staff were polite and helpful, very supportive company during my 40-hours labor!

  83. Hi! I had my son at the Adventist Medical Center and it was truly a wonderful experience. My OBGYN was an amazing American man who was very patient, open to all of my questions and concerns – he just made us feel so safe. Most of the staff there speak English so you don’t have to worry about that aspect. I had a very smooth and quick delivery thanks to Dr. Vaughn. I completely recommend that you make an appointment to see him, you won’t regret it!

  84. hi and congratulations! i hope you have a wonderful birth experience. i arrived on the island just 2 months before giving birth to my second son (who just turned 2, so this could be a little outdated). the experience was a positive one, but i found the staff to be somewhat rigid in their routines. before my first son was born, i read much and took classes on the bradley method and hypnobirthing. we had a fantastic, natural birth in a hospital with doctor and doula. hoping for a similar experience, i went to see one of the midwives on staff at the navy hospital (i think there are 3). i saw lt cmndr larsen. i think that the standard practice is for whoever is on call to deliver, but she came in special for the birth. the staff that prepped me for the delivery (i am thinking that they weren’t even nurses) seemed overly concerned with their regular procedures – forbidding me to drink water and suggesting that an iv was totally mandatory (as opposed to the hep lock that i volunteered for to be ready to plug in if needed). they didn’t seem to appreciate my ways, but when the midwife got there, she ok’d it and they were full of yes ma’ams and salutes. anyway, everything went great, and there was an excellent lactation specialist there at the time as well. i would just suggest good communication with the caregivers – especially those of higher rank. i was very glad that it was my second birth, just because i was able to communicate with more confidence and feel like i knew what i was doing a little. on the other hand, the age of the building and the sharing of a bathroom were a little more noticible since i had something to compare it to.

  85. I heard too many horror stories from the Navel hospitals on base so I went ahead and had my son out in town. He is three weeks old and doing great. The clinics off base are bound by the Japanese traditions along with Okinawan traditions and they went above and beyond to make sure everything went great for my family.

  86. If you are giving birth outside of the US, Okinawa is the best place to be in the military within the Pacific. Granted the facilities are not luxurious but you will have access to a Neonatal intensive care Unit, Neonatal specialists, and a high risk OB specialist if you need it. There are many prenatal classes, lactation consultants, etc. The important thing is to have a healthy baby and hopefully nothing goes wrong but if it does, it is nice to know that you and your child will be taken care of.

  87. I had my second son here at the Naval Hospital last June. It was an uneventful pregnancy and I had fewer questions and different concerns with the second kid. Really, I’m glad I didn’t have my first kid here. Not that the care was poor at all because it was fine to great. No major complaints. I just wasn’t as indulged as I was with Eli who was born in a fancy-looking civilian hospital with an endless list of people to cater to your exact birth plan.

    There are options here. I’ve heard of midwives and lactation consultants and there are plenty of classes to join. I did a prenatal refresher that was great and included a tour of their facilities which I appreciated so I could imagine giving birth there. There are also prenatal yoga classes. And breastfeeding groups and playgroups and all sorts of support.

    There are a TON of babies born here so the hospital and staff are prepared for a lot. It may be crowded and institutional-looking but I was happy.

    You can also choose to go off base. Adventist Medical Center.

Comments are closed.