Once a pregnancy has stabilized, around the fifth month, it is customary for pregnant mothers to visit a Shinto shrine on the Day of the Dog and pray for safety during childbirth. The Day of the Dog (in the Chinese Zodiac) is selected because the dog symbolizes the birth of many children and safe delivery. It is also customary for pregnant women to begin wearing a maternity band at this time. Expecting mothers bring their maternity bands on their shrine visit, thank the Kami-sama for blessing them with child, and pray for the baby’s healthy growth.
It is said that the history of the maternity band dates back to the time of the Kojiki, or Record of Ancient Matters, which was transcribed in 712 CE. The maternity band, called Iwata-obi, is considered to be a wish for protection against disaster and/or impurity. The maternity band not only protects the mother’s body from the cold and from the impact but has also been recognized by medical science as a way to secure the safe positioning of the baby in utero, as well as a way to prevent the formation of stretch marks.