Should You Bring The Kitchen Sink?

CONTRIBUTED BY LAN

If you live here on Okinawa, you’re bound to see a few expanded bellies that are probably not from good eats.  Call it living the island life, post-deployment marital activities, or just ol’ wanting to expand the happy family, there always seems to be an abundant number of expecting moms here on Okinawa. ( I was actually one of them not too long ago.)  So we have a few questions from soon-to-be moms.  Let’s lend them a helping hand!

First, Jennifer had one good question:

“I was wondering if you had any information on midwives on the island or alternative to giving birth at Lester, or know anyone I can contact who might. I am expecting my first child in November.
Thanks in advance.  Okinawa Hai has been such a help for planning before we arrived on the island to exploring it now. And almost everyone I talk to has heard of the website. Keep it up.”

A very good question to be answered, for sure.  But a very good one that will help not only Jennifer but others in her situation.  Now just a few more really good ones from Stephanie:

“My husband and I, (he is now stationed at Luke AFB) recently found out that we will be going to Kadena in August. Of course, this news came very soon after we found out that we are expecting a child Nov. 22nd 🙂 Then we were told that there is no concurrent travel because of limited temporary housing.”

“Well, I’m kind of freaking out. I will be quickly approaching my third trimester when my husband is off to Japan. I am worried that I will not be able to join him for quite a while because I will not be allowed to fly during my third trimester. Any advice? Has anyone else experienced this?”

“I have one more concern. It is very important to me to have my baby ‘room in’ with me after he or she is born. I know that state side it is the norm in hospitals to keep the baby with the mother and not whisk them away to a nursery.  Is this an option at military hospitals? If not, does anyone know how I can safely make this happen? Thank you so much!”

NOTE: We have closed the comments on this post as of October 3, 2011.  We have two other posts on the subject (first 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!

49 COMMENTS

  1. I know this is late, but just in case someone else is wondering about whether or not Japanese airlines will allow you to fly – I recently arrived on island flying via Continental and then ANA. I was 34 weeks and 5 days along when I flew. I carried a letter from my previous OB stating that I was in good health and there should be no issues, but no one ever asked to se it.

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  3. Flying @ 31 weeks had nothing to do with my son’s premature birth. It unfortunately would have happened at that time if I stayed in Okinawa. :/

  4. We had our first son here in Lester, 2010 and overall I had a good experience. Our doctors were really nice, that was something i really hoped for. At one point i had three doctors in the room to help me deliver!
    Yes the PP rooms can be gloomy and are surely small. However I have heard the new hospital has a great L and D facility.
    My son was in nicu for a couple of days too. And he was in good hands. The docs and nurses there are really helpful.

  5. Amber-My husband is a DOD Civilian as well. Some things I can help you with, some I cannot. As far as being allowed by the Japanese airlines to fly over, I do not know. I did see that someone posted earlier that they will not let you fly past 32 weeks, but someone else said she flew later and no one asked her how far along she was. Someone also said that she flew home at 31 weeks then went into unexpected labor at 32 weeks. She didn’t say it, but could that flight have caused early delivery?? If I were you, I would look up the U.S. phone numbers for JAL and ANA (Japanese airlines), call them and start asking questions. You could also post the question on Okinawa Yard Sales and see what responses you get. Definitely know that what happened for someone else, might not be the case for you though. Anyway, about medical care for you over here. Within a day or two of our arrival here, we went to the hospital to “make records” and we were asked who we would like to use for our PCM. We chose the Kinser Medical Clinic for ourselves and Lester Pediatrics for our children and we have been very pleased with our choices. We have been able to get appointments very quickly at Kinser and within a week or so at Lester. We do not pay anything at the actual appointment. Several weeks after the visit, we get a statement saying what the charges were for the visit and that our insurance has been billed. Several weeks after that we will get a statement that tells us what we owe. Our bills have been very low in cost. We have used Okinawa Adventist in Naha as well and we were VERY pleased with the care received there. They do have an OB department, but I am not sure of the wait time for an appointment. They do take BC/BS insurance, but on a pay up-front basis and you file the paperwork to be reimbursed. Just to give you an idea of their fabulous prices (I love Japanese healthcare!) my husband had a LENGTHY visit with a doctor, had an x-ray taken, received physical therapy and medicine ALL IN A 2 1/2 HOUR TIME SPAN and we paid 16,000 Yen which at today’s Yen rate is about 200 Dollars! I kept my receipt, filled out a claim form that I printed from the BC/BS website, mailed it and received a check for 200 dollars from BC/BS. I thought it was great that all of those things were done for my husband the same day and for such a great price. I hope that I have been some help to you and I am sorry that I could not answer all of your questions. If you have any other questions regarding housing for DOD civilians, schools, etc. please let me know.

  6. Hi everyone, I have a couple of questions…. First off my husband is a DOD civilian employee and we will be moving from Hawaii to Okinawa in the middle of March. I will be 34 weeks pregnant and have been given the okay from my OBGYN to fly at that point. Will the Japanese airlines let me fly as well?

    I am also starting to get worried as I am not sure how the military system works and what the process is to make an appointment. Is it possible to make an appointment before we get there so I can be seen asap.

    I also would like to know if I can be seen off base and if it will be covered as my husband is DOD civilian.

    Any information would be much appreciated.

    Thanks!

    Amber

  7. Ditto. I PCS’d here last year 6 months pregnant on the Patriot Express with no problems. No extra vaccinations are required for Okinawa, I was willing to do the encephalitis (still am!) but every doc has said there is no need. Even if you develop a complication, once your medical screening is signed-off it’s pretty much up to you if you decide to have them reevaluate you or not (as I know from my son’s experience).

  8. While not being able to PCS to Oki while pregnant is indeed a rumor-it is possible that if your “regular” vaccinations were not up to date, you may not be allowed to come until they are updated-and you cannot receive some vaccinations (like MMR) while pregnant.

    My suggestion is to review your medical history and make sure everything is up to date-current vaccinations, current dental exam-and then continue trying.

    I do believe that some people are told that the JEV (Japanese encephalitis)vaccine is required, but as far as I know, it’s completely optional.

  9. For Nicole- That is a rumor. We did not need vaccines when we pcs’d to Okinawa. Being pregnant can affect your ability to pcs for some reasons (problems with pregnancy, etc). However, I know quite a few women who pcs’d to overseas bases while in all stages of pregnancy. In fact, I did it during my first trimester of pregnancy and it was a non-issue.

  10. Nicole, my first thought is that doesn’t make sense either. I PCSd to Oki at 6 months pregnant. I know they won’t let you fly after 36 weeks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t move pregnant. What vaccines are you talking about? We didn’t have any unusual vaccines for moving to Oki.

  11. Hopefully someone can clear this rumor up for me. My husband and I want to start trying for baby number two and would have been trying but stop since getting the news of pscing to Kadena Feb 2011. We were told I wouldn’t be able to go until the baby was born. One the reason we heard was because of the vaccines I would need I cant recieve when pregnant. It just doesnt seem to add up, but we don’t want to take the risk and be slit up. Has anyone PSCed oversea while pregnant before? Is this rumor true?

  12. I was also wondering about the 3d and 4d ultrasounds. The place out gate one said i have to be 28-32 weeks to get one done. I am currently 14 weeks and my husband is deploying in 2 weeks. i want to know the gender before he leaves if possible. Does anyone know of other places off base that do the 3d other than right out gate 1?

  13. I was able to fly internationally at 31 weeks back to the States. I was never questioned by any person regarding how far along I was in my pregnancy. Obviously if you are considering traveling, check with your physician and then the airline, but I had no problems flying. The worst part was handling my luggage (I was traveling alone).

    I was high risk and received several ultrasounds (12, 14, 19, 22 wks) with the maternal-fetal specialist, Dr. Tipton. She was fantastic. I saw her every 5-6 weeks and a regular OB in between visits with her. Like anywhere there are different physicians with different bedside manners and dispositions, but every staff member I met in OB was professional. I ended up delivering @ 32 weeks quite unexpectedly and my doctors back in the States were quite impressed with the care I received at Lester.

  14. I am due with my 3rd daughter and due in Feb. I really am interested in a home birth cause with both girls i was induced and stuck in a bed the whole time and with the last one I was hospitalized for 2 weeks after cause my epidural caused me to leak spinal fluid causing extreme pain. So I would like this one to be all natural and me just letting my body do what it is supposed to do on its own. Does anyone have any info and does any know if tricare will cover it? Please email me [email protected]

  15. Natalia- I know it has been about a month since your post, but if you haven’t found the answer already, you will be able to determine the gender of your baby by a standard ultrasound after 18 weeks gestation. This ultrasound is a standard part of your routine prenatal care.

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  17. Hi, I’m expecting my 2nd child and i was wondering if anyone knows were i can do a ultrasound to know the gender of my baby, i went to the one thats near gate 1 but they only do the 3d or 4d and at 28 weeks and i really want to know sooner. thanks.

  18. I gave birth to my daughter last September at Lester Naval Hospital. My experience wasn’t the greatest, but I can’t really compare seeing as she’s my first born. I know for certain that pregnant woman are NOT allowed to fly internationally during their 3rd trimester. My husband and I got into it a few times while I was pregnant and in my irrational state of mind, I seriously considered flying home to have the baby. Lester wasn’t terrible, just the doctor’s on call seemed a little incompetent. Pissed me off left and right, advised me incorrectly (I later found out that some of the things they did without my consent they were not allowed to do without written consent from the mother to be and in my incoherent drugged state, I was not in any shape to give consent which they didn’t even ask for. They just did it. By the time I found this out, it was too late to file a complaint.) The doctor that actually delivered my daughter was incredible. The first few doctors on call while I was in the hospital waiting for labor to progress were complete idiots. But overall, I’d say I would be fine doing it again.

  19. Does anyone know where to get just a regular ultrasound off base, or if the 3d place will do just a regular ultrasound. I need to find out the gender sooner than Lester has an appt. My friend is planning the baby shower and I am supposed to go to the states! Help!

  20. traveling in the third trimester is ok, HOWEVER JAPANESE AIRLINES WILL NOT ALLOW U ON THE PLANE PAST 32 WEEKS.

    int he states as long as u have medical consent and they know no one is going to be delivering a baby thousands of feet in the air they dont care if u fly.. but the japanese airlines dont feel the same way. its a liability thing i suppose.

  21. Meredith #2(lol),
    Thanks so much for your words of encouragement. I guess I will prepare myself for whenever I do end up taking that class. I’ve been doing research already even though I’m not yet pregnant. I really hope it works out. Did you have to push them to do the VBAC since they were so against it? Ultimately will they do what you want to do or will their medical opinion rule in the end? Just curious. Thanks again for sharing your success. It gives me hope. 🙂

  22. Jessica-
    I had a successful vbac at lester last September and LOVED it! I would highly recommend it to those who have had a previous c-section (transverse). I attended the vbac class and was horrified. I thought it was going to be a class to discuss ways to encourage patience to achieve a vbac, but it was literally a class to get the hospital medical release signed. The doctor stated she did not recommend vbacs and would not support them. She was definitely NOT the doctor who should have been delivering the class!
    Do your own research. For every individual who tells you it’s risky, go back to the documented evidence online and comfort your fears. There is so much research documenting how unneccessary a 2nd c-section is. Good luck.

  23. is there a phone number for the 4D place outside gate 1 or do you just show up? and how far along are you supposed to be before you get a 4D?

  24. Right now at Lester there are 12 providers — 3 midwives and 9 OBs (I assume — there are 9 docs on OB call at least). However, there is a HUGE changeover happening at the first of July — PCSing docs in and out… midwives staying the same for now.

  25. Does anyone know who the obgyns are on okinawa ? I’m not sure where we will be living or where we will be seen? I’m pretty much oblivious! Thx ahead of time!!!

  26. Joelle,
    Thanks so much for your information. I will definitely look into that VBAC class whenever we do conceive again. I’ll also be sure to talk to the doctor. I guess if it comes down to another c-section that’s what I’ll have to go with. I’m still hoping for a VBAC but the important thing is for me and the baby to be healthy. Also, it’s good to hear that the actual L&D rooms were remodeled. Do you know if there’s any plans to have the post-partum rooms remodeled?

  27. Jessica, it would not be a definite C-section. In fact there is a VBAC class offered to give you more information on a regular basis. However, a girlfriend of mine (who has had 1 successful VBAC) went to the class and felt the info was good, but that the Dr was not really encouraging it. In my opinion, it’s so important for you to be as informed as you can be for yourself rather than relying on anyone else. That way when you talk to the docs, you can advocate for yourself.

    And just so you know, they’ve redone the labor/delivery areas — new triage rooms, a nice huge shower for laboring in, etc… It’s still an old hospital and the post-partum rooms are still shared rooms (except for C-section recovery who have their own rooms generally) — but it’s not all doom and gloom, imo!

  28. Hi Ladies. I’m so glad to have come across this information. My husband and I were looking to start trying for #2 here soon and we were concerned with delivery here at Lester. We had an awesome birth with our son back in the states and Lester seems so gloomy and having to share rooms and all will be different for us. I have previously had a c-section with my son but it was because he was positioned wrong and I couldn’t quite get him out. I would like to try for a VBAC though. Do you happen to know if the doctors out here encourage those or will it be a definite c-section again? Just curious. Thanks so much.

  29. Does anyone know what the hours are for the 4d ultrasound place? Are they open on weekends??? Thanks so much!!!

  30. Thank you ladies for all the info! I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to have the care I need. I talked to my ob dr here in GA and he said that if I try for a vbac I have a 50/50 chance of being ok so I have decided to have a planned c-section grant-it I have a little over 7 mths to go but I am glad I have this info now!

  31. My best friend is high risk and they are planning a c-section for her. She was worried about having a baby here but her doctor in the States told her this is one of the best places for her to have a baby. I personally didn’t have a c-section but did have a great experience nonetheless. LCmdr Scott, Dr Aarfaa and Dr Tramont were all wonderful with this painfully ignorant first-timer!

  32. Yes! I didnt have to have a c-section but a lady in my lamaze class had a planned one because her baby was breeched. Just a note… i ran a fever during my delivery so my son had to be taken to the NICU and they were awesome. It was so hard to have him taken from me but they were very personal with me and gave him awesome care! The only thing I have negative to say is when you go to post partum the rooms are very very small and I only had 1 nurse there that I liked. Other than that I was impressed with l & d!

  33. So ladies I have a question. My husband and I are headed to camp foster on oki and we are expecting baby number 2 unfortunately with our first who is only a yr old we had a c section and I am thinking I am going to need another one with this one. Does the military facilities there do c-sections?

  34. Heidi- I gave birth in September and got my son’s passport and birth certificate within 10 days. What did take a bit of time was the actual appointment with the birth registration office. You normally can’t get an appt any earlier than 1 month after you give birth, but once you complete everything at your appt it moves quickly. Oh, I chose to pay for the passport. I had a friend who waited nearly 4 months to receive the no-fee passport. $85 to have it in 10 days is a good deal to me. (yes, they said it would take 6-8 weeks, but I got it that fast!!)

  35. Joelle, are you still around?

    What information can you share about a homebirth on Okinawa? I’m interested in this.

  36. my husband and i are wanting to plan a baby for next year, and we want to travel soon after to go home and visit family. I heard that the paperwork takes awhile and i was wondering if anyone knows how long it takes after having a baby here.

  37. JenniferV…Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve been on. The 4D Ultrasound place is just out side of Kadena gate 1. Comming out the gate make a left onto 58, then turn right at the first light, go to the first street and make another right, you’ll see the mother/baby sign on an alley turn right and it’s on the corner.

  38. Wow, this website is amazing! Thank you all so much for your input on my questions. I haven’t been able to get a lot of straight answers here at Luke. So, I am extremely happy to get some feedback. My husband and I are actually in the process now of appealing the “no concurrent travel” stuff. So much paper work, and so many meetings with various people! We have to do all of this(medical clearance and such) before we can even send the request for approval to Kadena. No one has been able to give us any indication if all of this will amount to anything, and the only family at Luke I know of in a similar situation, was denied concurrent travel. Great to hear I can fly further into my third trimester, though. This is my first baby and these are my very first military experiences, so thanks again!

  39. What do you want to know about giving birth anywhere other than Lester? I did months of research in my quest to have a non-hospital birth here. Most of the information is on this site– Adventist in Naha is an option and I had a homebirth. I can help with specific questions if I know the answer.

  40. I’d totally suggest you both read through all the info on the post called “Been Pregnant or Given Birth on Okinawa” that can be found under the tab TO LIVE on the left sidebar. There is lots of good info about Lester and other options there from many lovely birthing ladies here on Oki!

    Just one comment about the “whoever is on call thing” — I don’t know how it works, but I know that sometimes the midwives take on what is called “personal patients.” In that situation, they asked to be called when you come in to deliver — even if they are not on call. I was lucky like this — maybe it doesn’t happen much, but it does happen. Course I think my midwife was the best ever, and now she’s PCS’d — boohoo! 🙂

    And I had 2 people in my room at Lester — but only 2 people for the one bathroom as well.

  41. Kristin, Where is the place to get the 3D US done? I heard it was out gate 1 ?

    Stephanie, I agree that is bull about the “no concurrent travel”. I would ask you husband to check and see if they will make an exception. It is worth a try.

    I had 1 baby in a civilian hospital and 2 babies in MTF’s.To be honest I found no differeice between the two. Other than the “delivering with who ever is on call thing”, that didn’t bother me tho. All 3 times I got to room in with my baby, in fact they incourage it! As for having a baby here in Okinawa I will be able to comment on that in Oct. when #4 get’s here! by the way does any one know when they will be done with the new L&D? Oh I hope it will be before Oct!

  42. I do not know the answer to the questions about concurrent travel.

    But, I can tell you that you can travel by plane (without an accompanying OB) well into the third trimester, until about 34-35 weeks (it depends on the airline’s policy). My husband was in Iraq until I was 37 weeks, so I went back to the US for a 3-month visit and then at 34.5 weeks flew back to Oki to greet my husband and have the baby with him present. My first child was born at 41 wks (this was my second), and I had no complications, so just in case the airline asked questions I had my OB write a note saying that I was OK to fly internationally. I won’t tell you that it was comfortable, but I used maternity support hose for safety, drank a lot of water, did calf exercises every half hour and walked every hour in the plane — it wasn’t that bad. I did experience swelling that, frankly, didn’t go away until the baby was born! (It was summertime on Oki and it’s so hot here that pregnant ladies tend to swell anyways.)

    Also, if there are no medical issues, your baby will room-in with you at Lester, so that should be no problem for you! They are renovating the L&D deck right now and it should be done this fall — lucky you! It was safe and functional before, but icky, to be honest. I bet now it will be much nicer.

  43. Hi Stephanie–

    My husband got here at the end of January and I got here at the end of March. We were the on the very first cusp of the “no concurrent travel”. Basically, as soon as my husband found housing, the military authorized my travel. It took my husband about 3 weeks to find a house, because having a HOUSE and not an apartment off-base was really important to us, and I was willing to wait stateside as long as it took so we wouldn’t have to “settle” for the first place the agency showed us.

    He had to have a lease and be moved in (as in, furniture shipments here and unpacked) before they would authorize my travel, so that took another 3 weeks since our household goods shipment was not here yet. As soon as that was all done and updated, I was issued tickets that would have me in Okinawa within the next 10 days.

    I didn’t mean for this to get so long, but basically, the quicker your husband gets housing, either on or off base, the quicker you can come over.

  44. I just had baby #3 in Dec at Lester. So I can give a little insight on the workings of the ob/gyn labor/delivery… Most of the obs at Lester are actually midwives. I saw one my entire pregnancy. However who delivers you is another story. As most of us know with military facilities you will get who ever is on call the day of your delivery. As far as off base options I don’t really know.
    Once you deliver you will be moved to the other side of the hospital to post pardum. The baby will stay in the room with you unless of course there are issues that need to be taken care of in the NICU. The nurses will come in and take baby to have blood sugar, temp, ect done and then bring him/her back to you. If you have a boy and plan on on circumcision you need to know that the baby has to be 24 hours old and that they only do it in the mornings. So you may plan on staying an extra day. Also there are 2 people to a room and 4 people to a bathroom.
    I have seen a few dulas advertise on Japan update also if you’re intrested in that. Oh and just a little extra…4D ultrasounds can be done off base for 5000 yen! Hopefully that will help atleast a little.

  45. Dang, I agree with Mishka! That’s utter BS.

    And though I can’t answer the other questions because I haven’t had a baby here, I can tell you that it IS allowed for you to fly during the 3rd trimester, they say that for your own comfort. I certainly would say you don’t want to take a 12 1/2 hour flight in the last month of pregnancy, but if you can do it with him or soon after he goes, that would probably be ok if you were feeling up to it.

    Also, I’m pretty sure they let you have the baby in your room with you at Lester Hospital….right?

    Good luck, ladies – and congratulations!

  46. I don’t have answers to these questions but I just want to say that I find it shameful that Kadena is telling people that due to limited TLF facilities (because of renovation), concurrent travel is not authorized when 1) there is plenty of space off base for people to stay in TLA for a few weeks and 2) there is tons of housing on Kadena, and they usually offer something within the first week someone is here. Not that I would want to live on base, but the options are there and I think splitting up a family for this reason is ridiculous….IMHO.

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