The health ministry on Friday issued the nation’s first guidelines on “confidential births,” requiring that hospitals keep records on women giving birth anonymously and that they set out the steps they will take if a child requests their mother’s identity years later.

The guidelines, intended for hospitals and municipal governments, were compiled after Jikei Hospital in the city of Kumamoto — the nation’s only hospital that runs a “baby hatch” for newborns set for adoption — started accepting women who wish to give birth anonymously. The hospital assisted with the nation’s first such birth in December last year, and four more women have had their baby delivered at the hospital in this manner to date.

Jikei introduced the system in 2019 for women with unintended pregnancies and difficulty raising their children due to various life situations, such as poverty and pregnancy through rape. Women can give birth at the hospital after revealing their identity only to the hospital’s counselor and can leave without the baby.