Well it’s been a while but I am finally ready to report on my pre-conception health check experience. This is how I went about it:
First I went through some of the many books on pregnancy I have been dipping into (I’m planning to write a post about information sources soon where I’ll provide more information on these) and made a list of all the things I thought I needed to be tested for. Then I looked online, in dictionaries, and in the Japanese pregnancy magazine I bought to see if I could find the appropriate Japanese terms for all of the items I had listed.
The best Japanese source I found was the magazine, even though it didn’t have anything about pre-conception health exams! What it did have was a list of the tests to have done after you find out you are pregnant. I found most of the terms I needed in their list.
From what I’ve seen a lot of English books do this too, but if you are having a planned pregnancy it makes a lot more sense to me to have these tests done in advance. After all, if you only get tested for immunity to rubella after you are pregnant there is nothing that you can do if it turns out you are not immune, except hope that you don’t catch german measles during your pregnancy. I realise that the chances of catching german measles are low, but the possible ramifications for your baby if you do are terrifying. So, being the cautious person I am, I made up a list much like the one below and made an appointment with my gynaecologist.
STD tests クラミジア検査等
Pap smear 子宮ガン検診
Blood test 血圧測定
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) antibodies サイトメガロウイルス抗体検査
Toxoplasmosis titer トキソプラズマ抗体検査
Hepatitis A,B, & C型肝炎検査
If I didn’t already know my blood type I would also have added the following two items:
Blood type 血液型
Rh factor Rh因子
When I confronted the doctor with this list she was somewhat taken aback and I could tell she thought that I was being overly cautious. But once she had established that I was not going to say, “Oh alright then, let’s not bother!” she pulled up something called a ブライダルチェック (Bridal Check) and added a few of things off my list. This is when I got the rather shocking reminder that my national health insurance doesn’t apply to pregnancy-related doctor visits: my tests were going to cost somewhere in the vicinity of 30,000 yen! I decided to spread the tests over two visits to make it a bit less painful and the doctor agreed. We decided that I would have the internal examination that day and come back when those results were ready for blood tests.
The internal examination included a pap smear test and an internal ultrasound and she also took a sample to test for any bacteria. She was able to tell me immediately that the ultrasound had not picked up anything problematic but I had to wait until the next visit for results on the pap smear and the test for bacteria.
A week or two later I went back and was informed that everything was fine and had blood taken to test for everything else on my list. When I got the results of the blood tests a couple of weeks later I was once again informed that everything was fine, except… I wasn’t immune to mumps! She asked me what I would like to do and I said that I would like to be vaccinated. She made it clear that she thought that it was a bit over-the-top and explained that I would have to wait 4 weeks before trying to conceive. When I still said I would like to have the vaccination she went along with it though.
The next time I spoke to my sister I told her what had happened and as soon as I said that I had had the vaccination she said, “Oh, so now you have to wait 3 months before you start trying!”
3 months? But my doctor said 4 weeks!
After doing some research it seems that common wisdom in Australia is that you should wait 3 months but in the U.S. and Japan people are instructed to wait 4 weeks. I still haven’t been able to find out why there is this difference but for my own piece of mind I am going to wait 3 months, just in case.