Letters From Japan: “Is There Anything At Japanese Drugstores That Can Help Me Conceive?”
Ask Hilary: Questions From Readers Answered
Savvy Tokyo's resident "Love in Japan" columnist, Hilary Keyes, answers anonymous questions from readers on everything from dating in Japan to women’s health issues. Got a question you’d like to ask Hilary? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org with a subject "Ask Hilary."
Trying To Conceive
Hi Hilary. I’m in my early thirties, married to a Japanese man, and we are trying to have a baby. I have two hormone conditions which make it difficult to conceive. I’ve been to the doctor, but I was wondering if there was anything at the drugstores in Japan that could help me. Do you have any recommendations? – Waiting For Those 2 Lines
A lot of news reports focus on the scores of younger people shunning marriage and the demographic time bomb that Japan’s low fertility rate is causing. However, there is also an incredibly personal side to the situation. There are a lot of young married couples that can’t conceive — whether by working themselves to exhaustion, poor nutrition, health issues that their lifestyles have worsened, or out of no explicable reason, really.
You mention that you’ve already seen a doctor. Did you see an infertility specialist? I strongly recommend making an appointment for you and your husband with an infertility specialist. After talking with my own OB/GYN, I was shocked to learn that infertility rates for Japanese men (based on age) stand at about 40 percent for men in their late twenties to thirties, (based on clinical studies in Japan and overall rates reported by major fertility/urological centers across Japan). So even with your own medical issues, your husband may also be suffering from infertility issues that are compounding the problem.
If you have a standard OB/GYN now, they may be able to give you a referral to a clinic that will be best suited to your medical needs. If you don’t already have a regular OB/GYN, then you should consider booking an appointment with a specialist as soon as possible.
The Sanno Hospital Reproduction Center in Akasaka comes highly recommended. They’re well versed in dealing with male and female infertility issues and I’ve heard nothing but good things from friends that have gone there for help.
Two other strongly recommended clinics are Natural ART Clinic Nihombashi and the Oak Clinic Group which has an office in Ginza and in the Kansai region. Natural ART Clinic Nihombashi does have some English service, but most of their services are only available in Japanese. Oak Clinic Group, on the other hand, offers extensive services and support in Japanese, English, and Chinese, and, according to one couple I know, offers the most in-depth consultations that they have found in Japan.
As for over-the-counter medications and supplements, generally speaking, since you mentioned having hormonal conditions, you’ll probably need to make lifestyle changes in order to improve your fertility. Eating a more balanced diet, getting the right amount of exercise and sleep, and trying to reduce stress, are all part of keeping your hormones in line and preparing your body for pregnancy. I don’t know if you are working full time or not, but you may find it necessary to reduce your working hours in order to help your body adjust to the necessary hormone changes. You might feel perfectly healthy at the moment, but even the smallest blip in your hormone levels could be affecting your fertility negatively.
In terms of supplements, there are several options that have come onto the Japanese market in recent years. Elevit by Bayer is a prenatal support supplement that is said to help with nutrient deficiencies that Japanese women are prone to. If you have switched to a more Japanese-style diet, you may have ended up with these deficiencies yourself. This medication is also available overseas and has information pages in English.
Makana, Minorie and Hagukumi Yosan are three other similar supplements that can only be purchased online that claim to offer the full nutrient support that infertile, prenatal, and antenatal women need — although these products only have information pages in Japanese.
For products available in stores, the most popular supplement by far is Dear-Natura’s prenatal/mom-to-be supplements by Asashi, which works similarly to the above special order supplements and can be found at almost any pharmacy, or even at Don Quijote. While none of these supplements are known to have any serious side effects because you have medical conditions you should really talk to your doctor first before taking any of them — just to be safe.
I can’t speak to the efficacy of these drugs, but your doctor or pharmacist might be able to give you the right advice you’re looking for. I hope it works out for you!