Iwate Prefecture is the latest region to receive a designated maternity taxi service, in a trend that’s becoming increasingly popular around Japan.

For the past six years or so, pregnant women in Tokyo have been able to pre-register for special maternity services with some of the city’s most popular taxi companies. The services help transport expectant mothers to medical appointments before giving birth and also puts these women at the top of the waiting list for urgent situations when they go into labour.

Tokyo’s leading taxi company, Nihon Kotsu Co., began their maternity service in 2012, using midwives to educate drivers about deliveries and how to look after pregnant women on the way to hospital. The service proved to be so popular that more than 20,000 new registrations were received in the year after it was introduced, and now other taxi providers are also catering to expectant mothers.

▼ Today, many women pre-register for the “Maternity My Taxi” service provided by Tokyo’s respected KM Taxi company.

Now pregnant women in Morioka City, the capital of Iwate Prefecture in Japan’s northern Tohoku region, will also be able to enjoy some peace of mind with the new “Sankyu” maternity service being provided by local taxi company Furusato Kotsu. While “sankyu” sounds similar to “thank you”, it also combines the Japanese words for childbirth (san) and help, or save (kyu), which, according to the company, expresses their desire to help pregnant women in Iwate during this important time of their lives.

Sankyu taxis were introduced in December, and 60 people have already applied to use the service, which supports women by taking them to pre-natal doctor appointments as well as to their pre-registered hospital during labour at any time of the day or night. Like the taxi drivers offering the service in Tokyo, the maternity taxi drivers with Furusato Kotsu have also been given instructions by midwives to enable them to look after expectant mothers during their trip to hospital, and all cars carry towels and waterproof sheets in case a woman’s waters break while on board.

As well as providing peace of mind for pregnant women, the maternity taxi concept also helps to free up ambulance services for urgent medical emergencies, which helps to increase the efficiency of emergency vehicles in Japan. Given the immense popularity of the service, and the support it’s received from hospitals and emergency staff, it looks like it won’t be long before maternity taxis start appearing in even more prefectures around the country.

Source: Morioka Keizai Shimbun
Featured image: Pakutaso