Pregnancy & Delivery on Okinawa, Part 3

CONTRIBUTED BY HEATHER GELORMINE

Baby Kira

We have two types of posts on Okinawa Hai that receive a huge amount of comments from our readers, both in the form of questions and answers.  One of these is about housing, for pretty obvious reasons: we all have to sleep somewhere at night.  The other is about being pregnant and delivering babies while on Okinawa, because, well… babies happen. 

We’ve got several posts on the site that cater to the interests of those who want to know more about the latter subject, but reader Amanda recently brought to our attention that some of this information is a bit outdated:

My husband and I are moving to Okinawa in exactly 40 days! For the past month or two I have diligently used Okinawa Hai! as a great resource for finding information about the island.  Now I have come across a topic that has not been recently updated and I need some help. I am 28 weeks pregnant (due Dec 15th) and will be delivering on Okinawa.  I have already read through old posts regarding being pregnant/giving birth on Okinawa that were posted back in 2007/2008. In all honesty the overwhelming majority of the posts were terrifying. 

As a first-time Mom, I was wondering if we could make a new post for people to respond to in regards to the Naval Hospital Labor and Delivery facilities/services for today (2011).  I realize that a lot of things can change in 3-4 years and I want updates from new moms who have recently given birth at Lester, especially since I have read that they did some remodeling/upgrades a year or so back.  If you could please make this post for me for people to respond to, I’m sure all new incoming preggos out there would appreciate it as well.

To read the other posts and reader comments, check out this one, our first post on the subject with 95 comments/questions.  Or this one, which is basically an extension of the first post and with 49 comments/questions.  Or you can take a look through all the posts we have on the following topics: Adoption, Pregnancy, Labor & Delivery.  Because we’re hoping to initiate a new conversation on the subject of pregnancy, labor, and delivery while on Okinawa, we’ve closed the comments on the previous two posts and will hopefully begin anew here.

So readers: have at it!  Have you recently delivered a baby at Lester Naval Hospital and have some feedback for those who are going through the process soon themselves?  For those of you for whom this was not your first birth experience, how did it compare to a stateside birth?  Is there anything our new moms and dads should know to expect?

Note: Because many times questions asked in the comments on posts will often go unanswered, also try taking them to one of our online communities to get some answers from those fast-paced groups.

Thanks to all of you who can help make this process (a teeny, tiny bit) less frightening for all our parents-to-be!

73 COMMENTS

  1. Hi, I will be having a baby at the NHO this summer, and I have a couple of questions. Does anyone know if they do cord blood banking here? Also, is there wifi on the mother baby unit? Any other tips are greatly appreciated! Thank you,

  2. Thank you to all who contributed to this post! I have one additional question about the Naval Hospital (not sure if it’s still Lester or now Foster) staff. Has anyone ever heard if they have maternal-fetal medicine doctors or maybe a perinatologist? I have high risk pregnancies because of my own health and wondered if anyone had experienced complications in pregnancy there, and what the care was like. Any information would be very appreciated! Thank you!

  3. I had my 1st son at the Adventist Medical Center back in 2008. I’m a local hire civilian therefore a pay patient so I opted to go with the hospital that I felt I was getting the quality and quantity of care I wanted for the amount I would have to pay after my insurance kicked in. I was born at Lester Naval Hospital (a long time ago) and go there for all my medical needs but for pre natal care and child birth I wanted to go with my Japanese roots. 🙂

    I saw Dr. Vaughn for my entire pregnancy and he is great! Speaks perfect English and Japanese. 🙂 He was a bit overbearing when it came to my weight gain (I’m only 5’0 ft tall and started off at 120 lbs but finished my pregnancy at 168lbs. That’s almost a 50lb weight gain. Yikes!) but I understood why. I just couldn’t stop gaining weight. Anyway…with your prenatal visits at the AMC you are seen monthly until you hit 24 wks I believe. Then it switches to every 2 weeks, and your last month you are seen every week. The clinic offers weekend appointments so if you work it’s pretty easy to get seen. You also get an ultrasound conducted by Dr. Vaughn at each and every appointment. He even prints out pictures for you. That’s great piece of mind for a first time mom. I loved it! I have a small album full of ultrasounds from my pregnancy that I will cherish forever. Appointments are usually Y5500 but can be more if you have any lab work that is done. Payment must be made in full that day for your appointment.

    Labor and Delivery: I filled out a birth plan and opted for no medication. My water broke and I began having contractions 5 min apart 10 days before my delivery date. I went to the hospital and checked in. They immediately set me up in a room to wait until I was fully dilated. (I was already 3 cm dialted 2 wks before I went into labor). Once dilated they wheeled me into the delivery room where Dr. Sakugawa was the on call Dr. My Dr, Dr. Vaughn was on leave at the time. I didn’t deal with Dr. Sakugawa other than when he got updates from the nurses that were attending me until it was time to deliver. In the delivery room my husband, my dad (videotaping the birth-don’t ask. lol It was his 1st grandchild. lol), and my mom were there to support me. My entire labor and delivery lasted 7 1/2 hrs. Though no meds made it painful in my opinion, it could have been worse. I’m due with my 2nd boy in November and am opting for the epidural this time. 🙂

    Post-partum: I asked for a private room that my husband could stay overnight in. It was huge, on a separate floor from the nursery so it was quiet, included my bed, fold down couch for hubby to sleep on, mini fridge, tv (you had to pay per hour though), recliner, small closet for belongings, and my own bathroom w/shower. I loved the privacy and quiet! The nurses would call me on the phone to let me know when it was time to come down to the nursery to feed my son and do breast exams to check on my breastmilk. I could also opt to have my son brought up and feed him and spend time with him in my room. They would come get him in a couple of hours. This allows the new mom to get some well needed rest. I had a lot of pain with my stiches so there were times I could not move to get out of bed to feed my son and the nurses brought up pain meds for me and fed my son formula, with my permission. This actually allowed my son to transition from breast milk to formula with no problem. I stayed 4 days in the hospital by choice. I could have stayed longer if I wanted to. The meals were healthy but could have used some salt and pepper, maybe some hot sauce. lol But there’s a family mart down the hill as well as a japanese super market and mcdonalds not too far away. During the stay they conducted hearing tests, did the circumcision, taught me how to bathe my baby, and gathered all my necessary paperwork for me. Check out was a breeze.

    I did have to pay $4000 out of pocket to check out (included my labor, delivery,post partum care, and baby care) but again, I’m a pay patient no matter if I’m on base or off base so I was prepared for that. I’m not pregnant with my 2nd and am being seen at the Adventist Medical Center by Dr. Vaughn again. This time with the Yen rate I’m looking at $5000-5500 to have my baby but again, I’m prepared for that and will be submitting claims to my medical insurance to get reimbursed.

    The staff at the Adventist Medical Center have plenty of English speaking nurses and Dr’s who are always happy to help and ensure you have a great experience. 🙂

    • Jules, quick question: You mention that you went to the hospital. Is that a separate building from the Adventist Center or is it the same place?

      Thanks

  4. I work as a Active Duty Hospital Corpsman at the hospital and just want to say a few things. These opinions are my own and do not reflect Naval Hospital Okinawa, the Navy, or Department of Defense in ANY WAY.

    When patients come to the island and AUTOMATICALLY want referalls, it is very frustrating, and discouraging. Especially when the basis is that the patient dislikes the care at military hospitals, our hospital specifically, etc. Usually this patient has never had an experience at our hospital, or just through Google.com or okinawahai. It’s a huge slap in the face and makes us feel very tiny, as if we don’t do anything. Please give us a chance. My co-workers and I care very highly about patients, that is our highest priority. The tools we are given, or lack therof, and the pace we must work at sometimes grinds us down to almost nothing. But we give 150% every day and all I ask is that patients give us some credit and respect, which most do but the OCCASSIONAL (not all) patient thinks that because their husband has rank ($#$&^#!!!!) or they somehow think that military medicine just sucks in general that they can be rude, downright demeaning to the staff, or skirt the rules that are set in place. Not only for your safety, but the liability of staff and the hospital.

    Going off that point, it seems to be a common misconception that military medicine is of poorer quality than the civilian counterparts. In fact, it is just the same care, if not sometimes better (where else can you get multiple pregnancy tests, labwork whenever, monthly STD checks, etc. FOR FREE 🙂 ). Sometimes the red tape makes it hard to get certain things done, but the important thing is you ultimately get the care you need, and FOR FREE. Welcome to socialized medicine 🙂 (and yes, that is what it is.) If multiple doctors, Corpsman, nurses and other providers are telling you something is not medically indicated, please do not call the Commanding Officer because you feel differently because you read something on Google (this has actually happened, multiple times). In my workplace alone we have over 100 years of combined medical experience and education. 15 minutes on Google and some random schmoe’s opinion on Wikipedia is not a substitute, and does not override, actual medical school. I’m not going to lie, myself and the other staff here use Google and other medical resources (usually official ones) but these are only used as quick reference or starting off points. Final word always goes to the doctors, because let’s face it – anyone can put up a website.

    Most of our patients are absolutely awesome. But there are a few, as well as a few general misconceptions about military medicine I just wanted to help clarify. I welcome discussion. I want to reiterate, these opinions are MY OWN and are NOT in any way, shape, or form – those of the Navy, Naval Hospital Okinawa, or DoD.

    Have a great day 🙂

  5. I recently gave birth at Adventist and wanted to share my experience for anyone considering this option. My preference was to give birth with as few interventions as medically possible, and Dr. Vaughan and the staff at Adventist supported that. My labor progressed very slowly over 3 days and I wanted to stay at home as long as I could for it. We went to Adventist on day 2 thinking things were progressing but I was only 3.5cm and they let us go back home since my water had not broken. 24 hours later we returned and I was 7cm and they took me right into the delivery room. The midwives and nurses were wonderful. My birth was primarily attended by a Japanese doctor (Dr. Sakugawa) since it happened so quickly but they called Dr. Vaughan and he stood by the bed to assist and make sure everyone followed my birth plan. Here are the things I requested: no induction, no epidural, ability to move around and eat/drink during labor, intermittent fetal monitoring, no breaking of water if sac is still intact, immediate skin-to-skin contact with the baby, wait to cut the cord until it stops pulsing, give us an hour of bonding time before weighing/measuring, oral vitamin K. Most of that is standard care there (except for maybe the cord cutting delay and not breaking the water). My water never broke on its own and Dr. Sakugawa waited to break it, with my permission, until my baby was being born. After delivery they wheeled us into a little recovery room and left us in the quiet with dimmed lights for at least an hour. Then a nurse came back and asked if she could take the baby to weigh and measure him. After that, we went to our room for the night. We had a private room with a bathroom that had a nice clean shower and a Toto toilet. Nurses checked on us every few hours but didn’t bother us. The food was really good – Japanese meals in large portions that were always too much for me to finish. I can’t ell you what most of it was but there were enough different things at each meal that I could find plenty of tasty things to eat. We stayed for 2 days, and they waited, at my request, to bathe our baby until the last day. I think the Japanese standard is to stay 5 days. At discharge, they scheduled a 5-day check and PKU test as well as a one-month baby checkup with a pediatrician. Dr. Matsumoto is the pediatrician we saw for this checkup. He grew up in the US and speaks English as a native speaker.

    I asked a bunch of questions at my first appointment, and here is the info I got… Only about 10% of Japanese women get an epidural and a lot of Japanese hospitals don’t do them but you can get one at Adventist. Apparently circumcision is also not very common but Adventist does that too if you want. Japan only gives the hep B shot to children of mothers who have tested positive, but if you want the hep B shot you can get it, you just have to sign an additional waiver. The C-section rate at Adventist is about 18-20%, and has gone up recently because they are doing fewer VBAC’s (I didn’t ask why since it didn’t apply to me).

    I switched to Tricare standard for this, which requires us to pay out of pocket and file for reimbursement. The reimbursement amount is 80%, and the form is really simple and available from the Tricare office at Lester. The birth and hospital stay cost $5,200, and each checkup appointment was 5,500 yen. I found Adventist to be very organized and the administrative staff very helpful. They get your paperwork together at the end of your appointment, send you to the cashier, and you are checked out in no time. The receipt is in English and easy to file with Tricare. Our reimbursements took 30-60 days. A nurse suggested at my first appointment that I go to their little store and buy a little blue book of maternal and child records. I brought that to every appointment and the nurses updated it with my weight, blood pressure, urine tests, and other information. They also included details about the birth including how much blood I lost, as well as all the baby’s information. The book has pages for baby records (height, weight, immunizatios, dental checkups, illnesses) up to 5 years. I think it’s a nice way to keep all that information together, and it’s something I get to keep rather than having to ask my doctor for all that information in the future if I want it.

    In order to get a US passport and the CRBA for our baby we had to go through some extra steps. We had to take a form that Adventist gave us in Japanese over to the Nishihara Town Office to register our baby’s birth. This is required to be done within 14 days of birth. It took about an hour, and there was an employee there who spoke English and she helped us. Then we had to take 2 copies of the filled out registration form from the town office in Japanese to a translator for an official translation. The translation and the Japanese form were required for the CRBA application.

    We were very happy with our experience at Adventist and Dr. Vaughan is a great doctor and a great person. The staff was always friendly and helpful even if they didn’t speak English. I hope this information helps anyone out there considering Adventist for your birth. Feel free to email me if you would like more detail or have a question I didn’t answer.

  6. I thought I’d add my 2 cents in here since I recently gave birth at Lester. I had heard the horror stories and my hubby and I had discussed going off base to deliver a few times, and the discussions always seemed to stem from a frustrating experience at Lester OB (not the drs, just the process of getting in to be seen since they’re so busy–the docs/midwives I saw were all really nice always willing to answer my questions, but if I needed a non-routine appt I would get the runaround). The uncomfortable typhoon berthing during Bolaven put an even more sour taste in my mouth about the hospital…anyway, we eventually just bit the bullet and decided to stay with Lester.
    I went in after my water broke at home and was seen immediately and was admitted within 30 minutes. It was pretty quiet there and they only had a couple other ladies laboring. I wound up having to be induced and the doctor who attended as well as the nurses and anesthetist were all extremely attentive to my needs and questions. I had my daughter late that night and then went to couplet care, and was again treated very well. Because it was so empty I did get my own room the entire stay (2 nights), but even so, the facilities were quite clean and housekeeping cleaned my bathroom twice a day. I came armed with my lysol wipes and never had to crack the container open.
    The hospital is old and not luxurious but definitely not terrible; the staff was nothing short of amazing to me from the doctors on down to the nurses and the corpsmen who came in to check vitals. I think things are definitely looking up for Lester, and I’d just ask people to not discount the hospital because of outward appearances or previous experiences from years and years ago. Our experience was nothing but wonderful.

    • I agree with DL. I also had really low expectations after reading the reviews here on Okinawahai and I explored the option of delivering at an off base Japanese hospital. I just delivered my daughter at USNH Lester at the end of August. The L&D, Couplet Care, and OB/GYN staff were awesome. It’s truly unfortunate that they have to work in an aging facility, but every staff member that I came in contact with provided me, my husband and new baby with outstanding care. The staff attentiveness and quality care make up for the antiquated hospital.

  7. So does anyone know the names or phone number of the places off base that you can go to have ultrasounds done? I have heard that there are several but I cannot find information on them. Thanks.

    • Stephanie,
      See my post above (from April 28th) regarding the off-base ultrasound facility that I went to and had a great experience. It is called the Chubu San Fujinka OB Clinic and they do both gender identification ultrasounds there as well as 3D ultrasounds. It was a little difficult to find but I included the address in my post above… if you put that into Google maps you can get turn by turn directions from where you live.
      The other facility is just outside of Kadena Gate 1 and I will be going there this weekend for my 3D ultrasound (27 weeks). To get there…if you leave gate 1, go straight across 58 and cut through the parking lot…turn right (as if going to the sea wall), make your first right going behind the eateries, then make one more right. The road looks like it dead ends, but it goes 90 degrees left and the building is right on the corner. It is called Yabiku (the words are on a small sign in small lettering). The building is concrete grey with dingy pink horizontal stripes…you can see it from the light if you exit gate 1.
      The cost at both facilities is 5000 yen. They are both walk-in only and do not take appointments. They are both open Monday – Saturday.
      I will update Okinawa Hai after my 3D ultrasound this weekend with more details on how it went.
      Good luck Stephanie!!

  8. So I gave it some thought and this is how I see it when it comes to post-partum… It sounds as though it won’t be pleasant, but it’s only temporary. I heard for first timers you are required to stay for 3 days at the hospital. It’s only 3 days I guess…. 3 days of hell? Lol.

    If I take a bath and make a mess, I’ll be sure to call someone to come and clean it up. Simple. If I walk into the shower and see a mess, then shame on the person who was using it last… It’s up to the person who makes the mess to have it taken care of. You can’t just leave the mess behind and expect it to be cleaned the minute you leave. I don’t know… Common courtesy? As for sharing a room with another patient and their baby well… that’s medical you don’t have to pay for. So I suppose you get what you’re given. I’m just trying to be positive as I’m petrified enough of giving birth as it is. I’m due at the end of May and I’m more concerned with delivery rather than post-partum because I hate needles and pain!!! I will definitely put together a birth plan so we’re all on the same page, especially if it’s encouraged. Fingers crossed everything goes well!

    Wishing future mommies all the best with their experiences!!! Will keep you posted! Thanks for all the information 🙂

  9. Wondering about signing certain paperwork that allows you to go home shortly after L&D. I not due until December, but am doing all kinds of reading up, so I’m well informed of the hospital here. This will be our second child and my husband’s first time being here for L&D (he missed the first by 3 days). I had our daughter in CA at a Naval Hospital and the whole experience was awesome, but the things I’m reading about post-partum make me really nervous and want to look into possibly going home and doing my recovery there. We’re living on Kadena. Any info on who to ask about this would be great! Thanks so much!

  10. For anyone interested in getting an ultrasound off base here is some info on the facility outside Kadena Gate 2:

    I just had an untrasound done at Chubu San Fujinka OB Clinic to determine gender. I am at 19 weeks. The facility is incredibly nice, clean, and state of the art. VERY HAPPY with the facility, customer service, and technician we saw. We are also very happy to learn that we are having a baby girl. 🙂 I used a compilation of directions listed from past posts and it was very very difficult to find. I ended up doing a google search for the facility by name and found a very helpful PDF publised by the Japanese government with all medical facilities that offer english speaking staff. Through that I was able to find the exact address… see below. Put the address into google or iPhone map app and you will find it. Hours are below as well. Price is still 5000 yen. They can do a standard ultrasound to determine gender from 16-22 weeks and they also have 3D ultrasound option. At my appointment today, actually, the tech determined gender (“see there… it’s a hamburger! girl girl” he said) and then switched on the 3D to show us her feet, her little hand and kicking foot. It was very neat. Hope this helps. 🙂

    1-3-20 Ageda Okinawa City
    Hours: Mon-Sat 9:00-18:00
    Walk in only (but we only waited for 15 minutes on a rainy Saturday afternoon)

  11. Amber – congrats on your pregnancy. You and I sound like we are due around the same time!! 🙂
    There is only one base hospital on the island and that is at Kadena. It is about an 45-60 min drive on the normal roads and 20 – 30 min on the toll expressway. I agree with LaLa (above)… my husband and I prefer to live off base. And the area around Hansen is beautiful. Also, we just got here in January and almost all ranks were at the 95% capacity mark so most likely you will be given the option to go off base or wait for on base (but you do not get a “choice” if you wait for on base, you have to take what they assign you no matter what or where it is… just a warning).
    As for your birth, there are options off base. I have investigated and visited Adventist Hospital. They have english speaking staff and are very very nice. Their birthing facility is very similar to the modern birthing centers and suites you can find back in the states. A 6 day stay after the birth with a private room ranges from 5000 – 7000 yen. This would be a 100% out of pocket cost for you.
    Since you will be quite far along when you get here, be sure to get to Lester Hospital right away to sign up for the “Welcome to Pregnancy” course… you have to go to this before they will allow you to see a doctor (no matter how pregnant you are… I know, it is silly). Also, bring a copy of your medical record from your previous OB with you, because it is extremely unlikely that the medial record you spent so much time getting approved to get over here to Okinawa will be made available to the OB staff. So, just so you have all your ducks in a row I would have an additional copy of all your prenatal records for your new OB.
    There are MD OBs as well as midwives as an option at Lester. Unfortunately, the end of summer is a time of a lot of turn-over… the last 2 I have seen (and several others that I have tried to see) are all leaving before I give birth.
    If you have any more questions (about this or anything else)… feel free to email me…
    [email protected]

    Have a great day and enjoy the states while you can. Okinawa will be a great adventure for you!

    • The hospital is not on Kadena- It is located on Camp Lester until the new hospital is finished on Camp Foster. I would investigate both on and off base housing before you decide. Both have pros and cons, it just depends on what you can tolerate.

    • Amber: Thanks so much for the info!! I’m sure you’ll be receiving an email from me once we arrive 🙂 We’re at the Seattle airport getting ready to board our AMC flight to Okinawa! I’ll be sure to head over to Lester as soon as we get there…depending on the typhoon! Thanks again!

  12. Amber-Congratulations on your pregnancy! Yes, there is only one on base hospital that delivers babies. It is on Camp Lester which is a small base located between Kadena Air Base and Camp Foster. A new hospital will be opening on Camp Foster and the one on Lester will no longer be used. The last date I heard for that opening is January 2013. Lester or Foster is a pretty good haul from Camp Hansen, but I you will not be living up there anyway unless you live off base in the area around Hansen. Hansen does not have family housing. I believe the housing office will try to place you on one of the bases that is closest to Hansen if they are able to. Personally we have lived off base twice and on base once. We prefer off base. There are some beautiful places off base near Hansen. Any more questions, just ask. Congrats again!

  13. I have not given birth on island… yet. I’m due in 7 weeks. This is my fourth pregnancy and I can assure all the new mothers that nothing ever goes as planned. I have had two of my children in different military facilities and one in a civilian facility. Not once did I have the same doctor deliver that I selected for my prenatal care. Sometimes you have terrible nurses who are cranky and they can spoil your day, but only if you let them. You would think working in labor and delivery you would encounter the happiest people. That’s not always the case, we all have bad days. I absolutely love giving birth and going through the entire process, even if the after care is unpleasant.

    Post-partum care is messy, you can also expect (with subsequent pregnancies) contractions while nursing. The more kids you have the more intense they get. There is a lot of reading to be done but you can’t prepare for everything. Each pregnancy, delivery and postpartum care/experience is different.

    I haven’t yet found anything during my visits to make me feel like it’s worse than the states, if anything I’ve found it’s quite similar. I hope this helps a little, there is nothing to fear.

    • Hi. We’re moving to Okinawa in June and I’ll be about 6 months pregnant. My husband will be at Camp Hansen and I have no idea where we’ll be living yet. Is there only 1 hospital where women deliver? If so, what base is it on. Also, I’ve heard that they’re opening a new hospital…is this true? Thanks!!

      • Amber, you can go to Adventist under Tricare Standard, which I beleive they will cover 80% of the fee. Thing is you will probably have to pay up front and then get reimbursed. Your baby will be covered as Prime, you will just have to stay under Standard for a certain amount of time before changing back.

  14. How is Lt Underwood? I heard she will be my midwife. My first appointment with her is next week. I am almost 7 months pregnant and I hope to get into some classes. I’m very nervous…. but I will remain positive and be very clear on what I want.

    I actually went to the emergency the other day because I hadn’t felt my baby for 2 days and was worried. I must say, it was my first time at the hospital and they were really wonderful. I didn’t have to wait and there were about 20 people already there waiting. They sent me right up to the OBGYN floor in a wheelchair! I told them I was ok to walk and the nurse insisted they take care of me. I was very impressed. They monitored the baby for 20 mins and did an ultrasound and I never asked them to. I just thought they’d check for the heartbeat and that was it. Nope, they did everything they had to do and they even praised me for coming in and said it was important and that I did the right thing. They were really great and I just hope it stays that way. I hear the horror stories about what happens after you give birth, but i’m hoping I won’t be in hospital too long after I deliver. It’s only temporary I guess. I am mostly concerned about the care of the Doctors/Nurses and their behavior/attitude towards me and the labor. So far, so good. Fingers crossed!

      • Hi Amanda,

        I took the general pregnancy class and then recently the breastfeeding class. Both were very informative. I’m glad I went because I know nothing about babies!!! 4 weeks to go!

        Lt. Underwood is really lovely. I’m happy 🙂

  15. Ladies, do you know if you can leave the hospital a few hours after birth if you sign the necessary papers? It will be my third and I am not thrilled about the post partum situation at Lester, also I will be tandem nursing, and I just want to be home with the new baby 🙂

  16. This has been some wonderful information, thank you! I’m due with a little one in June, and have been terrified at the birthing process here. I want to do a natural birth, and it just seemed to me it wasn’t really too much of an option here, but I’m so glad to see I was wrong. I just have a couple of questions that I don’t think have been answered yet.

    First, regarding breastfeeding. Are there lactation consultants available at the hospital after birth? If so, how are they? Any experiences on the breastfeeding process here on island would be very welcome! This is not my first child, but it will be the first time I’ve attempted breastfeeding.

    Second, two women I know who have given birth here both said that they were kept on pitocin after the birth (one said until she was released!) in order to help their uterus contract back. Has anyone experienced this? I have three other children, and I’ve never had this done before, and it scares me. I don’t like any medicine pumped in my body that I feel isn’t absolutely necessary.

    Thanks again for all the info!

    • Melissa, from my understanding there are lactation consultants that work there. There is also a La Leche League here in Okinawa. I believe there is also a breastfeeding support grouo here on Okinawa Hai.

      Pitocin can be used as a precautionary measure. That doesn’t mean you can’t say no if it isn’t nessecary. Of course there are things that can lead up to the need of pitocin after delivery. Doing some good reasearch can help give a clearer picture on what you can do, i.e., natural delivery of placenta, immediate skin to skin with breastfeeding. A woman’s body is still going to do what it needs to do. I think we just need a little extra time and trust that our bodies know what’s needed to be done and if something needs to be administered then it can be discussed with the provider.

  17. So here’s a question… My wife and I are coming there in July and we are thinking it’s about time for another little one. I only have one right now. Obviously my wifes mother won’t be able to come out and she would want me in the L&D room with her… What would we do with our first child during the L&D and also during the postpartum part in the hospital???

    • Corey, I always had someone pick up my children when labor began, but some women like their other children around for the process. I’m sure you will make wonderful friends who you will trust to keep your oldest during the hours you are away. My mother was there for one of my births and was taking care of my older son – she actually brought him to the hospital and he was asleep in his stroller, so he was actually in the bathroom area asleep while his brother was being born 10 feet away! 🙂

  18. I want to know how you get a midwife. I have a regular doc at LFMC and he is good and all but I just don’t feel like I get any one on one time unless he is examining me. I really really want to look into the natural birth and actually stick with it. I would love to have a home birth but it doesn’t sound possible out here. Can anyone give some insight. I go in again in two weeks and intend on asking about the midwife. I want to have as free a birth as possible and be able to move around.
    Thanks

    • I would call now and ask if they can change you to seeing a midwife, no reason to “waste” another appointment with an OB if you’d rather see a midwife.

  19. Hello all,
    My husband and I are PCSing in 8 days to Okinawa. The entire move has been one nightmare after another and I am at my wits end and so stressed out. On top of it all… I am pregnant for the first time. I am only 8 weeks now so we have plenty of time but reading all of these blogs is scaring me.
    My questiongs/concerns deal specifically with natural birth and midwifes. I understand that most women deliver at the Naval Hospitals… and that is great and I would also like to do that… but I am very very firm with my desire to deliver naturally with a midwife in a hospital. Obviously, if there are any issues or problems or health concerns, my birth plan would change… but as I plan and prepare I want to know if natural is even an option. I have a large fear of male OBs that think that they “know what is best” and hospital teams that do what is “convenient” rather than what the parents want or what may be better for the infant.
    Has anyone out there experienced a natural birth experience in Okinawa? Anyone know of or worked with midwifes? What is the attitude at the Naval hospital toward natural birth and a mother with a specific birth plan??
    Any advice would be great. At this point I no longer think anything will go smoothly or correctly with this move and after 4 months of insanity I am ready to just get there. But now that I am pregnant I feel a mounting terror and incredible stress.
    Many thanks.

    • Amber — I delivered two babies naturally at Lester (in fact, that is my daughter & me at the top of this post). One was with my midwife (who had made me a “personal patient” so that she was called in when I was in labor — this is not usual and not all midwives at Lester do this) and the other was with the doc on call who happened to be the neonatal specialist and was awesome and hippie! 🙂

      My feeling is that you just need to tell everyone over and over. THIS is what I want (assuming all goes well). THIS is what I want. Tell everyone. In fact, when I walked into L&D in labor, I walked to the desk and said, “Please assign to me the nurse who is most comfortable with a natural labor.” They nurse I had was great (and you’ll learn that in this situation, the nurse is usually more important than the doc or midwife who you don’t see as much. Also, learn to say, “Could I try this a little longer?” when they suggest induction or whatever to speed you up. You can also asked to only be monitored for a few minutes each hour — and be free to walk the halls the rest of the time. Just keep asking Can I? Can I?

      But it is no problem to see a midwife — there are usually several at Lester at any time. But you may like one more than another, so just request them for your appointments. Unfortunately, you will get whoever is on call when you actually deliver. But I asked around and knew who I wanted to avoid and then I got the schedule for who was on call when during the time I expected to deliver. The mind is a powerful thing — I didn’t deliver on the day the BAD GUY was on call. 🙂 Good luck!

      • Joelle, I just talked to a midwive at Lester and actually, they have a third one PCSing in right now. However, she did also tell me that there are days and shifts when NO MIDWIVE is on duty. I delivered #2 at NHCL, also as a private patient of a midwive there and had such an amazing experience. She knew I wanted a natural birth and it’s what I got 🙂 However, it’s good to know that there are nurses at Lester who are not comfortable with an unmedicated birth. Thanks for all the info!

    • Amber, there are a couple of midwives that work there. I would definately request to be seen by one. The one I’ve attended a birth with is Lt. Underwood. I feel like if a woman goes in informed and educated about her birth and the process she can have a successful natural birth. I wouldn’t want anyone going into a situation being afraid and stressed out. I could suggest maybe looking into hiring a doula or taking a childbirth education class.

  20. I had my son here at Lester and had an amazing birth. My doctor (not one I had ever seen before) was Dr Leonard (the male). I had a birth plan I made sure everyone one read it (they said they did) so No one ever pushed meds on me. Never! I intended to go completely natural (however I opted for the Epidural, by my choice and only my choice after 12 hours of pitocin, I just couldnt relax). I only had a Nurse and a Dr in L&D. The corpsman was only there in the beginning to set me up (I was being induced), then never saw him again. I opted for limited lighting and No Tv, No interns or trainees. I can say it was completely calm and quiet the entire time. I have nothing but positive amazing things to say about L & D.

    Now Post Pardem, Yeah to me this was a nightmare, since having such an amazing birth I was sort of shocked it was this terrible. I had a roomate (that came in at 430am, I delivered at 1256am so needless to say baby and I were almost asleep by the time the roomie appeared.) then to boot the room we shared the bathroom with also had 2 women in it. So there was 4 of us sharing the restroom. DISCUSTING! The nurse on my night shift was Awful! The room was freezing, I was trying to Breastfeed, exhausted And cruela was my nurse! And the corpsman are young and most were male, I absolutely hated Post Pardem and was thoroughly ready to go home.
    This was just my experience though, everyones will be different and all I can say is make the best out of it! And enjoy your new baby!!

  21. So I’m reading this post and am honestly freaking the F*** out!!!! I’m due end of July and although everyone keeps telling me I’ll be in the new hospital they also keep moving the opening date back. I have heard some horror stories from people who have delivered out here. I just want to clear up a few of my biggest concerns. First one woman told me that the doctors and nurses were not thrilled about having her husband in the room while laboring and delivering. She of course got her way but with a not so thrilled hospital staff. The second is that I have been told they really push the meds and drugs on you and make things very stressful. While the idea of sharing a post partum room is not thrilling I’m more concerned about the labor and delivery portion. If I could I would have a relaxing home birth with a bath and candles but my husband won’t allow it. And like other women I feel as if I’m just another wife that got pregnant while on Oki. I have a nice doctor but so far it’s not feeling nearly as special as I would like. I have not liked the corpsmen when dealing with them and I am nervous I won’t get to enjoy this monumental moment as I and my husband had hoped. Any advice or anyone that can clear some of this up, because honestly I’m thinking about running to the states and having my baby without the military.

  22. Thanks ladies. Positivity is definitely the only way however, it’s hard when you’re being haunted by all these stories… Right now i’m in California and i absolutely love my OB and the clinic i go to. I’m so nervous about the change. The thought of having a different Doctor for the delivery (as mentioned several times above) and then nurses who aren’t particularly nice… hard to be positive. I can also admit my experiences with military hospitals have not been the best which is why i go to civilian Doctor’s. I really hope i’m proved wrong this time around… Fingers crossed! Thanks again 🙂

  23. Tania, there is allot to learn about the delivery and everything in between leading up to the big day. Having a positive attitude is such a good thing, as in today’s society birth is portrayed as a scary event. There is a ton of good info on what your choices are and options you have in the birthing room to help you and your partner make informed decisions. Maybe taking a good childbirth education class or hiring a doula could be greatly beneficial. I hope for you the best!

  24. Ok so i’m preggo with my first child and will be delivering in May 2012. I am very nervous now. What does everyone mean about how gross it is to share a bathroom with someone else? What happens in the bathroom? What comes out??? Am i missing something? Or is it just sharing with someone in general? Which i guess, can be gross… i’m more stressed about delivery. Young people? Inexperienced? If there is ONE person in the delivery room that rubs me the wrong way i will force them to leave! I won’t tolerate bringing my baby into a room full of negativity. Please help!!!

    • Tania — I think they are just referring to the fact that there is just quite a bit of blood postpartum in the first days. So showering and using the toilet is complicated and not the tidiest thing. Knowing I was sharing a bathroom just meant that I called the nurse and asked that someone clean the bathroom after I showered and stuff. I think that helped keep things cleaner for me and for the other roommates. Attitude is huge in labor and delivery, so having a room full of positivity (starting with you!) is a great plan!! 🙂

  25. Has anyone delivered at Haha To Ko Clinic in Itoman? It was mentioned on an earlier post as the only WHO baby friendly certified clinic on the island, and they offer birth plans. Wondering if they have English speaking staff or did you bring a translator?

  26. I am due November 4th with my 3rd child. My 2nd child was also born here. I have no complaints about it except for having to share a room with someone. (I got the small side of the room) and it seemed very crowded for us! My husband stayed with me but slept in the WIFI room down the hall! I only had to share the bathroom with the girl in my room. I didnt like the fact that they dont have a nursery though. You can not leave the baby unattended for anything at all. So they expect you to either carry or roll the baby bed in the bathroom if your there by yourself. The bathroom was just not big enough for that, which was the main reason my husband stayed!

    • Oh god, sharing a room? Like through the whole thing? Like pushing phase and all? There is no way in hell I would be comfortable with sharing a room with some random person while I’m in labor. That would be awkward…Oh the joys of the military! LOL

  27. I’m due next May, any reccomendations for female Docs? To be honest my first dealings with the OB clinic have not gone so great. Looking for a better provider. Thanks in advance!

    • We PCSed here half way through my pregnancy. I’m due in Dec and this will be my second delivery. I am being seen at Lester and let’s just say I don’t have the warm fuzzies. I’m so nervous, I feel like I’m just another person in the processing line. When I delivered my daughter I tore pretty badly. My current doc is advising a c section this time. I saw another doc my last appointment received different advice. I’m so confused and did I mention I’m nervous?:0). Any advice on good providers ladies.

      • I think I would make them tell me what they think is best and stick with the answer you feel better about. Sometimes the doctors and nurses here dont act like they know or even care! I can not say I have had the best experience with them. I cant stand my doctor now. This is my 3rd pregnancy and it has been very hard on my body, in the states I feel they would have already put me on bedrest. Here they give me the same reply every time….”your almost done” or “its part of being pregnant” They are not the most sympathetic!

    • Dr. Smith on Camp Kinser is WONDERFUL!!! She can only take 3 pregnant patients that are due in the same month though because Kinser is small but she delivered me in March 2011 and I have nothing but goocd things to say! If you don’t like OB you can always check out the Family Practice clinic on Lester.

  28. I came over here at 34 weeks, but depending on the airline, whether you have a high risk pregnancy and your current doctor, I would make sure to check if you plan on going any later. I had a signed noted from my doctor at our last duty station giving me the go ahead just in case any problems arose. Good luck on the flight, it is not pleasant so far along!

    Does anyone have any experiences with how they accommodate natural births? Would love to know all that is offered before I go in very, very soon!

  29. So, what I am getting is I can fly well into my third trimester if I have a doctors note? I will be anywhere from 32-36 weeks. We are really hoping for 34 or under, but has anyone PCSed to oki at more than 34 weeks?

  30. i have had a child inn the states and then my daughter here in april 2011. while my experience here wasnt as good as in the states it wasnt horrible either. I was seen in OB which some people arent but i had a repeat c-section so i was automatically refered up. i was only in L&D for a couple hours but they were extremely nice in there. I did not like post partum. i would ask for something and they would completely forget about me and 4 hours later i would have to call a nurse again to ask for the same thing. since you share a bathroom whoever i was sharing with kept forgetting to unlock it so i could get in. my daughter unfortunatly went into NICU and i have nothing but praise for the staff in there.

  31. The new Naval Hospital will (hopefully) be opened for business Oct 2012 – so for all newcomers in the upcoming months who expect to deliver later next year, they may have a completely new experience 🙂

  32. I had my 3rd daughter here in April 2011 (my other 2 where born state-side)
    The delivery room was big with a small bathroom, I labored at night and had her right before noon…the night crew just left me be. The daytime crew wasn’t bad (I’ve had worse) and they didn’t push drugs on me that I didn’t want/need. I only had one nurse I didn’t like.
    The postpartum room to begin with I had to myself, the following night I ended up getting a roommate after 10pm, which meant that I was up even though my baby was sleeping, and then sharing a bathroom with atleast 2 other women….postpartum let’s just say EWW!!! The shower is small and gross.
    The postpartum staff was great though, if I needed anything they where willing to help me.

    So that said, it wasn’t my best experiance but it wasn’t the worse either…it deffently would have been tons better if I didn’t have to share a room or bathroom with anyone!

  33. I had my first baby here a year ago. The labor and delivery part was good. The staff was very friendly and helpful. Like many others have said, the recovery part isn’t as nice. They don’t let your husband sleep on the extra bed just in case they need to move someone in there. There is a small pull out chair for him to sleep on. The bathroom was very unsanitary. I suggest bringing cleaning supplies to make it smell nice and lots of Lysol or something for the showers. The staff during the day time was very friendly and responded asap every time we needed something. I don’t have anything nice to say about the night shift however. They were all very cranky and treated us like another number than a patient or new parent.

  34. I had my second baby in February 2011, my first in Okinawa. My experience wasn’t as horrible as I thought (after reading the old posts as well). The delivery room was very big. Doctors, nurses, and corpsmen were all nice and helpful. I had my own recovery room, but did have to share a bathroom which was the worst part of my experience at Lester…not something I would ever like to do again. The hospital’s cafeteria is not 24 hours, so if you give birth after hours like I did, plan on sending your husband to get you some food or bring it with you. My nurse did offer me a frozen dinner, but that did not sound appetizing at all.

  35. I have had two children here and am currently growing my third which I will also deliver here. So while I can’t compare the accommodations here with the states, I had to say that I wasn’t too disappointed. I’m seen at Bush Clinic and NEVER had a problem being seen by the doctor I wanted. I would call two weeks early and request to be seen by “my” Dr and I never had an issue. When I was reaching the point of my pregnancy where I needed to make out a birthing plan and what not I asked my Dr. specifically if they would be there to deliver the baby. He told me he’d make a note of it in my file but to make sure to let the staff know when I got there to call him. (I have NO idea if this is unusual or not). It ended up not mattering in the least once I got there b/c I just wanted the baby out, I didn’t care who caught him lol. When I was moved to recovery I got stuck with a roommate for a few hours b/c she was due to leave that afternoon. It SUCKED until she left b/c her baby would not stop crying and her husband was there b/c it was the morning. But once they left I was good to go. They try really hard to not give you a room mate and will only do it when they know that the other person is due to leave soon. I also was lucky enough to get one of the rooms that had its own bathroom. When I made a mess in the bathroom ( sorry tmi) I just buzzed the corp men in and they cleaned it up. Which I had to chuckle about b/c come on, its a guy.
    For my second child, I saw the same Dr. I saw with my first and this time he delivered my baby. So if you have a doctor that you like, just ask them if they wouldn’t mind being the one to deliver. They may be military Dr’s but they’re Dr’s all the same. Recovery the second time around I didn’t have a roommate at all but I did have to share the bathroom.
    For the third and final Okinawan pregnancy, I hope to deliver at the new hospital (assuming its open by then) and I hear its supposed to be more “state-like”.
    But in all honesty, having babies here is not bad at all. I’ve enjoyed it every time to be honest and can’t wait to do it again!

  36. I arrived in Okinawa when I was 32 weeks pregnant with my 2nd baby, and delivered at Lester Naval Hospital. Don’t expect to have your specific OB be the one to deliver your baby as it will just be whoever is on call that day. My first baby was born stateside (non-military hospital), and I thought the delivery aspect of the experience was similar. I had an epidural, and everything went smoothly. The nurses were kind, helpful, and informative. The corpsmen were also kind, but as they are usually young and just assigned to work in labor & delivery rather than choosing it, sometimes they weren’t as professional as they could have been. It felt like it took 30 minutes for them to clean off my baby when he was screaming on the table, and I just wanted them to hurry up and put him back in my arms!

    The post-partum side of things were not quite as nice as my stateside accommodations. At Lester Hospital, I was lucky enough to get a room to myself although there were 2 beds in the room. Hands down the worst part was sharing a bathroom with the room next door… so potentially 4 people could share the same bathroom. And let’s be honest- things are just messy after you have a baby. Also, expect to have your baby spend the night in the room with you because there isn’t a nursery.

    Also, they don’t have you fill out social security paperwork stuff before you leave the hospital. You have to go to the Birth Registration office on the 1st floor to set up an appointment to do passport/birth certificate/social security card there. I would recommend setting up an appointment before you leave the hospital as it takes 6-8 weeks to get a birth certificate & passport.

    • I had my second at Lester in June 2011- it was a VBAC. I would definitely say this birth was much, much better than the civilian hospital birth I had with my first (in Albuquerque, NM).
      I had a very long labor- about 27 hours, about 6 hours of that was pushing. The nurses were *very* supportive. After about 12 hours on pitiful, they did say it was in my best interest (in their opinion) to get an Epi. I think they were right, and I’m glad I did bc the labor continues for such a long time after it was administered, other points-
      -the dr who caught mr baby? Never met her, and she was awesome. I retained part of my placenta and, while it hurt, she helped me post birth to make sure I was all..cleaned out
      – I labored thru several shift changes- everybody saw my junk-about 20 corpsmen. Oh well.
      – post partum is hard, period. I was lucky to only have to share a bathroom tho.
      – I wish i could have sent lo to the nursery, but they don’t have one. I was just a dishrag and needed sleep after being up laboring forever.
      -they go overboard on the heel pricks/jaundice. But lo did have it and I honk they were trying to b “safe no sorry.” His foot looked horrible tho, and he cried his butt off every time.

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