Wakayama: Ambulances display sticker to help pregnant women feel more at ease

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Dr. Haruhito Hirano, right, holds a maternity mark in front of an ambulance used to transport pregnant and postpartum women in Arida, Wakayama Prefecture.

ARIDA, Wakayama — Special ambulances used to transport pregnant and postpartum women have been operating in Arida, Wakayama Prefecture, since July. The city fire department has three ambulances, all of which are still used during general emergencies, but if a call is received to transport a pregnant woman, a maternity mark is affixed to the body of the ambulance.

Many pregnant women in Japan feel it is inappropriate to call emergency services, even when they are about to give birth. The maternity mark is intended to help expectant mothers feel more at ease.

The special ambulances are operated by Haruhito Hirano, 49, the only full-time obstetrician and gynecologist at the Arida municipal hospital. He appealed to the Arida city government to start using such an ambulance because he has seen unborn babies die due to delayed treatment or deliveries at home.

These tragedies are often the result of pregnant women being hesitant to call for an ambulance, he said.

Since its introduction in July, the maternity rescue vehicle has been dispatched three times as of the end of September.

“This is a good system for everyone in the city,” said an official with the fire department.