29 Feb 2024
Parenting +46: Pregnancy and parenthood in Sweden
Essentials Health Pregnancy & Baby

Parenting +46: Pregnancy and parenthood in Sweden

Preggers in Stockholm or bringing your bump to the city? Congratulations! YLC’s Alexandra D’Urso on the advantages of becoming a parent in Sweden.

pregnant-love-heart

Let’s say you’re thinking about parenthood. Maybe you are unexpectedly expecting, or you’ve wanted to be pregnant for months or years and you finally are. Congrats! Whether you’re a first-time parent or this is not your first pregnancy, you’re perhaps among the luckiest parents in the world. Why? Just for the simple reason that you may be having your child in Sweden and raising it here.

Before explaining this lofty statement any further, I should preface this piece by saying that I’ve never given birth to or raised a child in a country other than Sweden, so my basis for judgment is of course very subjective. However, being of reproductive age and having hung out with an international crowd even back in my country of origin, I know quite a few people who have recently had children or are currently raising some. Like me, some have moved out of the US to yet another country. Having parenthood in common, conversations with friends and acquaintances living in other places often naturally turn to shared issues or concerns like child care, prenatal care/labor/delivery, ongoing health care for families, etc., and how it is to be a parent in different places.

Once you see the plus sign on that pee stick, no matter where you become a parent, you’ll continue to see symbols; most often, you’ll be faced with a lot of question marks. Why? Mainly because every pregnancy, every labor, and every child are totally unique, and the unpredictability of these forces us to sit back and just go with the flow sometimes.

Keeping an open mind, which you’ve likely had to do quite a bit during your time living abroad, is a good strategy for the road ahead.

Qualifying statements out of the way, let’s get to the details! Why do I think that parents in Sweden are among the luckiest in the world? To begin with, pregnant women, assuming they have a residency permit, receive free prenatal care. Free? Yes, as in you don’t have to pay for your visits. (Of course, the next time you find yourself grumbling about the 25% MOMS or taxes on your salary, just remember that that hard-earned cash is about to come back to you in a very major way in the form of tax-subsidized health care and child care.) While each county is responsible for the health care of its residents, you will come across some trends no matter where you live in Sweden:

 

Midwife-managed care

In Sweden, unless you have some kind of complication during your pregnancy, the only time you’ll meet with a doctor is when you’re giving birth—and then, only if you need anesthesia or have complications. For some people, it might sound terrifying to never meet with a doctor, especially if in your home country it is doctors who provide prenatal care. Midwife-managed care has a few benefits: one is that pregnant women are not treated like sick people, and another is that not having doctors provide prenatal care saves the public health care system a lot of money.

 

Minimalist prenatal care

When you first meet with your midwife, you may be surprised at how few visits and tests you may have ahead of you compared with what you’ve heard or experienced in other countries. If you come from a country that does more tests than are really necessary, like the US, then the prospect of few visits and one (!) ultrasound might seem scary. Rest assured: they’re really on to something here. Sweden has one of the world’s lowest infant and maternal mortality rates, and if any out-of-the-ordinary circumstances arise, you will be promptly referred for further follow up. You will have some blood tests to make sure that your iron levels are OK, for example, but unless you request it, you won’t have any unneeded exams. Yes, that means no unnecessary lie-backs with your legs in the air like a turkey on Thanksgiving and your feet in stirrups while….yeah, you get it.

 

Encouraged parental bonding and breastfeeding

After the hard work of laboring is done, you’ll be transferred to the BB ward for recovery. If this is your first labor, you’ll likely stay in the hospital longer than you would for subsequent labors, assuming these have no complications. Something that I thought was absolutely lovely was that my partner was encouraged to sleep overnight with me and our son in the hospital during the days that I remained there for follow-up. This allowed my husband to take a more active and supportive role as I recovered, which I greatly appreciated. Unless they have some kind of serious complications, newborns remain in their mothers’ rooms and are not whisked away to a nursery out of sight. This allows for more time to get the hang of breastfeeding, if you decide to do it. If you have any questions, there are midwives available to help at all hours of the day.

 

Generous parental leave

Once you and the bebis head home, get in touch with Försäkringskassan to get your parental leave allowance going. (In some cases, you can activate your parental leave shortly before giving birth.)

Note: if you’ve never registered with Försäkringskassan before, do it as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. (Even if you’re reading this and are neither pregnant nor registered, do it!).

Registering with Försäkringskassan isn’t one of those obvious things that foreigners learn about when they move to Sweden, like getting a personnummer or registering with Migrationsverket. Getting into the Försäkringskassan system is important if you plan to take paid parental leave, if you need to stay home sick from work and want to get paid sick leave, if you need to care for a sick child and take time off from work, etc. In Sweden, fathers are also allowed parental leave, as are the parents in same-sex couples. If you are part of a couple, each parent has three months of parental leave set aside. Because Sweden is so progressive, there is both great peer pressure for and desire by men to actually take parental leave.

 

Barnbidrag

Simply for having a child, the Swedish state pays you. I’m not kidding. Every month, Försäkringskassan deposits SEK 1050 into our bank account. Families with more than one child receive more. Barnbidrag is quite old, dating to the first half of the 20th century, as a way of providing economic assistance to families. It doesn’t matter what your income is: every child receives a barnbidrag.

 

A guaranteed spot in heavily subsidized child care

At age one, children in Sweden are eligible for child care. In fact, the kommun in which you live is required by law to provide, within a four-month window of your request, a spot for your child in a förskola within a reasonable distance from your home. You are not guaranteed a spot in your first choice of preschool, but you are guaranteed a spot. That fact alone—and that child care is subsidized to the point where parents in other countries don’t believe me when I tell them how inexpensive it is (the maximum amount for your first child is less than SEK 1500 per month)—is simply awesome. As parents in Sweden, rare is the occasion when a parent cannot afford to pay for child care and has to choose between working and paying for child care.

This is merely a short list of all of the reasons why it’s great to give birth and raise children in Sweden: there are several others like free health care for kids, free university… well, free thanks to you and all of the other residents of Sweden who participate in the system by paying various taxes.

Feel free to discuss other advantages of parenting in Sweden in the comments section!

 

Alexandra D’Urso

Boston-area native Alexandra moved to Sweden in 2009 and gave up cod for smoked salmon and Sam Adams for wine in plastic bottles with screw caps. When not bragging about the awesome aspects of Swedish life to people back home, she spends time writing and laughing loud enough to disturb innocent bystanders.

Follow Alex and Your Living City on Twitter!

3 Comments

  • Nino 11 Sep 2013

    I just love it.And I love Alex’s courage (and her family too) to overcome many difficulties.

  • Rachael 11 Sep 2013

    I love this article – it is SO nice to read something positive about Sweden in the expat groups for once…

  • Sandy 11 Sep 2013

    I agree, Rachel. There’s so much negative information out there written by expats about Swedes and the Swedish system. Having said that, I’m pregnant at the moment with my first and I do wish I could have more check ups…

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