If you become pregnant in Japan, there is a key chain that I recommend you to wear in public. It is called the “Maternity Mark”. I will introduce you to the maternity mark, and give reasons why you should wear it in public.
What is a Maternity Mark?
“Maternity Mark” （マタニティーマーク）is a key chain distributed by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan. It is given to pregnant women so that they can put it on their bags or belongings so that people can tell the woman is pregnant even at an early stage. It is used to promote safety and care for pregnant women.
Where can I get the Maternity Mark?
The Maternity Mark can be obtained at several different places, but two is most definite. The first place is the local government office, like the ward office. When you first go there to get your Boshi-techo （母子手帳、mother-child handbook) , the staff will also give you the Mark. The second major place you can get the Maternity Mark is at any major station in Japan (Note: You may need to show your Boshi-techo at the station to prove you are pregnant, so the local government office is the best choice).
You can also get them by buying magazines for pregnant woman or at prenatal classes.
When should I get the Maternity Mark?
Anyone who is pregnant can get the mark. However, I recommend you to get it right after you know you are pregnant, because this is the period when people cannot tell you are pregnant. So the best time is when you get your Boshi-techo at the local government office.
When I got pregnant with my first daughter, I first got the mark from the ward office. Then, I also got one later at the prenatal class. I got a new Mark at the ward office when I had my second daughter.
How should I use the Maternity Mark?
I used it by putting it outside my bag so people can see it. Some women feel more comfortable hiding it. Also, some public places have posters or stickers with words on the Maternity Mark, saying “Please kindly share you seat” or “Please support non-smoking” (as in the pictures above).
Why should I wear the Maternity Mark?
The most important reason why you should wear the Maternity Mark during your first trimester of pregnancy is that people can tell you are pregnant during an emergency. For example, if you get in an accident, the people around you can call the ambulance and tell the staff that you are pregnant. This will make it quicker for the staff to arrange for a hospital, and help the rescue staff aid you properly. If you faint in public, people can call for the ambulance right away instead of just assisting you to lay down and rest, which could be dangerous for the baby.
Another upside of wearing the Maternity Mark is that people around you will notice you and try to be nice, like giving up a seat for you in a crowded train.
Does every pregnant woman wear the Maternity Mark?
No, not every pregnant woman wears the mark. Unfortunately, some moms hesitate to show the public that she is pregnant, because of disturbing stories about crazy people attacking women thinking they are “showing off” their happiness. Although these type of stories are well-known on the internet, I personally have never met anyone who was attacked or had a negative experiment because of the mark, and do not know how true those stories are. I, myself always wore the mark when I went outside during the early pregnancy period. It made me feel safe that if something happens to me, the people around me will able to help me and the baby.