There are a lot of different products for pregnant women but finding what’s out there and whether it suits your needs can be difficult, especially when you’re nauseated and tired from all the work you’re doing growing a tiny human.
This is why I thought it would be helpful to share with all of you some of my favorite products for mothers-to-be that I encountered during my pregnancy in Japan, as well as ones that I didn’t need. Please keep in mind that this list is subjective and the things that I liked may not work for you and the same goes for products I’ve disliked. If you’re interested in any of these products, click on the name or the image to find out more.
Products I Loved
I’m fairly certain I’ve spent quite a bit on caffeine-free (ノンカフェイン) tea from Lupicia, a specialty tea store that can be found throughout Japan. I love coffee and green tea so there was a hole left in my heart from the lackluster non-caffeine teas I bought from supermarkets when I was pregnant.
During the New Year’s sales last year, I decided to buy a lucky box (福袋) of Lupicia non-caffeine tea. It was about half the normal price and the teas inside were absolutely amazing, enough that I continued to buy several packs at full price for the rest of my pregnancy. It absolutely worth the cost and I’m still drinking some of those teas now (my favorite is a green rooibos with mango and citrus called Jardin Sauvage. I think Baby A liked it too because she would kick up a storm whenever I drank it).
My husband recommended that I buy this after looking at its stellar reviews online. I didn’t really have any high expectations but after seven months of using it on my belly every day up until I gave birth, I had hardly any stretch marks on my stomach, and now (7 months postpartum) I have very few, which can only be seen if you really look closely (I didn’t even notice until I carefully checked just now to confirm). However, the presence/absence of stretch marks can’t be pinned to a cream alone as there are other factors, such as genetics and pregnancy body size/shape that may influence whether someone gets stretch marks. So outside of the possibility of it reducing or preventing stretch marks, I liked that this cream was light and yet moisturizing and also didn’t cause me any irritation as I have eczema.
Folic acid (葉酸 or ようさん) is a vitamin that is recommended for pregnant women to help prevent birth defects. I tried a few brands of folic acid supplements in Japan but my favorite was a chewable tablet called BeanStalkmom because of its refreshing lemon flavor and the ease of taking it (no water necessary). Although I liked the taste, though, it’s perhaps not something those with severe morning sickness should take as it is strong. You can read more about other folic acid supplements in Japan, as well as my experience with BeanStalkmom, here.
A maternity body pillow (抱き枕 or だきまくら) was great to have during my pregnancy. At first I got this to nudge me to sleep on my left side, as this was something my doctor recommended in order to improve blood circulation and reduce the chance of stillbirth. Soon it became something I just could not do without because I would feel so uncomfortable and unsupported otherwise.
I have a queen-size bed so I got a C-shaped maternity pillow by Meiz (pictured and linked above) but if you don’t have very much room in your bed, you may want to consider buying something smaller. サンデシカ is a maternity body pillow that received second place in a 2020 ranking of maternity products by たまひよ, a brand that publishes information online, in books, and in magazines for pregnant women and parents. This pillow can be used in different ways, such as a nursing pillow or a pillow to support the baby when they’re learning to sit, so it’s definitely something I would be interested in getting if I were to have another baby.
5. Shower Chair
This isn’t a product specific for pregnancy but I felt it was worth mentioning. You may already have this as shower/bath chairs are very common in Japan but if you don’t, it might be worth it to invest in one because not only is standing in a shower exhausting when you’re more advanced in your pregnancy, it can also be dangerous as you might slip or become dizzy. I found it much easier to relax and enjoy my shower while sitting down and I could also shave my legs (which became increasingly more challenging the bigger my belly got)!
Seven months postpartum, I still use the shower chair when I clean my daughter. A midwife recommended that I try to take showers with her, so when she was about two months old and outgrew her baby bath, I began doing just that. Basically I sit on the shower chair and clean the baby on my lap. She gets very excited when she hears the shower running and loves touching the streaming water. Before we enter the shower I make sure to put this babycare mat from IKEA right outside the door and lay a towel on it so the baby has a place to stay briefly while I quickly dry myself.
If you’re interested in getting a shower chair, I highly recommend not buying it online. Instead, go to different stores and try out some chairs to see what feels the most comfortable. I got mine, pictured and linked above, from Nitori. I’m quite short at 152 cm but I found the tallest one (40 cm) worked the best for me.
Morning sickness comes and goes throughout pregnancy (as I learned, it’s not just the first trimester), and if you have to commute, it’s not easy being able to get off the train or get out of the car if you feel sick. This is why I found these disposable and portable sick bags to be very helpful. It fit easily into my bag and didn’t leave a mess.
Maybe in winter this may not be necessary but these were super comfortable for me to wear in the spring, summer, and even fall. Bras became quite uncomfortable for me as my pregnancy progressed. Extenders that I could hook onto my bra, like these ones, helped but I found the cups built into the Muji bra tops heavenly and something I could lounge around in all day. It also made breastfeeding very easy once the baby came.
Boshi techo cases (母子手帳ケース) are great to have not only as a place to keep your Mother and Child Handbook but also for your hospital/clinic cards, ultrasounds, receipts, pens, etc. It becomes especially helpful after the baby is born as you can use it for your baby’s cards (health insurance card, clinic card, my number card, bank card), their inkan, as well as other important items. There’s so many cute and stylish kinds out there that it can be hard to choose! Some stores that sell popular boshi techo cases include gelato pique and Afternoon Tea but you can also pick up Disney ones or other kinds from any baby store like Akachan Honpo (赤ちゃん本舗), Babies R Us, or Nishi Matsuya (西松屋).
One of the hardest things about pregnancy for me was having to go without alcohol. I’m not a hard drinker but I like to have a glass of wine or two in the evening to relax. A majority of alcohol-free drinks are not that great (alcohol-free red wine was probably one of the worst things I ever tried) but this sparkling wine was excellent. It’s another non-Japanese product but if you’re a fan of Japanese alcohol, you may like alcohol-free umeshu, which can be found at any grocery store or on Amazon.
When you’re pregnant, it’s especially important to try not to get sick, which is why this hand sanitizer was great to have, especially when commuting. You can hang it on your bag for easy access and unlike other things I’ve hung on my bag, it has never fallen off. This gel also doesn’t irritate my skin like some other hand sanitizers do.
Products I Didn’t Love
I’m glad I got these for free because they taste awful and almost rancid. I got my husband to try some and the look on his face reassured me that I was not crazy. Do not recommend.
I received one of these as a gift for Inu no Hi (Day of the Dog) and had I not, I never would have tried it and would not have missed out. As the name suggests, it’s supposed to help support the belly as it grows and keep it warm but for me, it just felt uncomfortable, not to mention showed through whatever I wore. For some women it may be helpful but I can count on one hand the amount of times I used mine.
If you’re interested in seeing whether a pregnancy support belt will work for you, stores like Akachan Honpo and Babies R Us have ones on display that you can try on.
I hope reading about my experience with pregnancy products in Japan has been helpful for you. Is there any pregnancy product that you liked and wasn’t mentioned above? If so, please let me know in the comments and as always, I hope you have a healthy and happy pregnancy.