You’re pregnant – congratulations! You’ve picked a fine, family-friendly city to have your baby in! Not only are Sweden’s maternity AND paternity benefits so generous, but there are also so many activities on, both within and without the English-speaking community.
The first point of call to make when you discover that you are pregnant is to find your nearest antenatal clinic; you can do this through Sweden’s Health guide: Vårdguiden, most antenatal clinics have midwives who speak fluent English. This will also tell you what to expect in terms of number of visits, scans and other ways you will be seen to in Stockholm; if it differs from your home country greatly, do rest assured that Stockholm is a wonderful place to give birth in, but also don’t be afraid to push for things (no pun intended) that you want with your midwife and doctor. There is a swedish doula network, with doulas fluent in English, and if the baby isn’t your first then it is possible to give birth at home (though not that common) It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the list of emergency clinics and what numbers to call in an emergency; hopefully you will never need them. Whilst at the hospital, ensure you get all the documentation you need to register your baby’s birth with your embassy.
For the health conscious mum or mum-to-be there are a lot of options in Stockholm for both ante- and post-natal exercise. However, if you are new to Sweden and/or not confident in your Swedish yet, it can be intimidating to take a class in Swedish. Luckily there are places that do classes in English. One such is Pilates by Janessa, offering gentle, safe and effective strengthening of your muscular support system – helpful in preparation for labour, and in core muscle recovery after the birth of your baby. To inquire about joining a pre- or postnatal Pilates class (or to train privately), email Janessa here
If you DO feel confident in your Swedish (or just going with the flow!), there are many options from ante-natal dance courses (dans för gravida) and aqua-fit, to courses run at your local gym. There may even be a post-natal belly dance class, where you can take your baby along with you, Mum-and-baby Yoga or if you really feel ready for some drill sergeant action – there are mamma boot-camps to get you back into shape post partum.
It’s smart to look at money and what having a baby will mean in that respect; little ones are adorable, heart-warming… and EXPENSIVE. So it’s good to know what you will likely get as parental benefit in money terms. However much you get will depend on circumstances, but regardless you will also get a fixed amount of barnbidrag, or child benefit, which will supplement your income. When you start looking at things to spend that money on, you may find it’s better value to buy things online from Europe for your new arrival; if you’d rather buy local, consider Stockholms 2nd hand markets for bargains or numerous facebook groups.
Meeting Mums-to-be in Stockholm
It’s relatively easy to get in touch with other mums-to-be; if your Swedish is good enough (or you’d like it to be), ask your midwife for a profylaxkurs, where you will be introduced to how the system works. Additionally, for first time mothers midwives often offer a 20 week group where you meet other local mothers due around the same time. There are English options available too; ask your midwife what she recommends. You can also do some less formal networking amongst the expat groups, including joining the on-line resource Mums in Sweden. It would also be a great idea to join a meet-up to find other expat mums and dads to be; this will also set you up in good stead for when you start maternity leave in earnest and are looking for playdates and fikas. It’s a great way to scout out baby-friendly cafés in your area too.
Since most parents will be off work for at least a year, Stockholm is riddled with places that you can take your little bundle to. Your health visitor may set up a parent group (föräldragrupp) if you’re a first time parent, otherwise a good place to start is your nearest öppna förskolan, or playgroup, where you can find a clean, safe place of entertainment for you and your baby. Another great place to go to, particularly when your baby is a little older are the lekland, indoor play centres, which are usually free for adults and under 1s. There are a number of activities you can do with your baby and for your baby, such as baby massage, baby sign and understanding good eating habits.
Parental leave here is generous, but it does end and most parents will have to manage the transition from being at home to going back to work. Swedish children tend to go to preschool between the ages of 1 and 2 and it’s worth remembering that you can apply to some from the moment your child is born; consider this since queues can be extremely long. Have a look at the Swedish School system in general to help you make decisions.You may decide that you want your child to go to an international preschool; perhaps even one that feeds into an International School or you may prefer a local one; it’s important that you find the right preschool that works for your family.
If you are religious and looking to arrange a dop, Christening, or other ceremony, it may be worth looking for some English Speaking churches, synagogues, temples, mosques or other places of worship to arrange your personal naming service and introduce the latest little Stockholmer to the community.
Once again, congratulations! You’ve picked a wonderful place to start, or add to, your family.
Article: Gemma Helen Safikhani Kashkooli
Featured Image: Leo Grubler/Flickr