Giving birth in Sweden Posted by on Jan 7, 2010 in Swedish Language

Proud pappa and sonYou can tell a lot about the culture of a people by examining the activities and customs around the big moments in life – the funerals, weddings and births. (födslar)

One step above examining, is actually experiencing….and I got the opportunity three days ago to experience the birth of my second child in Sweden. Herman Alexander. He’s a beautiful boy and a rock star. (rockstjärna)

If I was to have another child, I would choose Sweden over any other country…which, according to my wife, won’t matter, because we won’t be having another one. She keeps repeating over and over again “this is the last one, this is the last one!”

Giving birth in Sweden versus the United States

I could write a thesis about the differences between giving birth in Sweden compared to the US (that’s where I come from so it’s the only informed comparison I can make), but I’ll lay out a few of the key points here: (some of you may never need this, or are too young to care, so sorry if this bores you)

In Sweden, midwifes (barnmorskor) manage the entire pre, during and post birth process. Unless there are complications, the only time you see a doctor is after the birth to check the eyes, ears, heart and other important things.

The entire process around birth is managed with as little intervention (ingrepp) as possible. And it works, as Sweden is the safest place in the world to give birth, according to a recent report by Save the Children.  Sweden also tops the list as the best place in the world to be a mother and a child. The United States ranked 27th.

The C-section rate is lower in Sweden (around 17%) than in most other western industrialized countries. With 31.1%, the United States has the second highest rate among these countries.

Like I said, I could go on and on, but I think you see where I’m getting here.

Obviously I think giving birth in Sweden is a positive experience…and despite the ongoing pain, my wife agrees.

Does anyone have an experience they can share or any opinions on what I’ve written. I’m sure some of you strongly disagree and I welcome a lively debate. This tends to be a contentious issue. (fråga)

And before I pull my deeply jealous daughter off of my newborn son’s skull, I must relate one more important detail. In Sweden, birth is free (gratis).


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  1. jennie:

    Congratulations Gabriel! All my best wishes to the whole family and lycka till!

  2. Letícia:

    Congratulations on your new baby!

    Here in Brazil people can have their babies for free in public hospitals, where natural childbirths are more common, but in private hospitals the rates are unbelievable. So much that c-sections are considered the new “normal”. Everytime that a woman says she wants to have her baby through natural childbirth, someone will go “are you mad?”. So if one wants to go through the natural process, they have to find a doctor that supports that desire. That’s sad.

  3. Rhonda:

    So happy to hear of your new baby, congrats. to you and your family, Questions: what do you mean when birth is free (gratis). Does that mean that the Swedish government pays for you medical expenses to have the baby?

  4. gabriel:

    @Rhonda…Thank you for your nice words. Yes, no money is exchanged at all, the Swedish government covers all expenses. Birth is completely covered under Swedish healthcare.

    @Leticia…I have heard that Brazil has one of the highest C-section rates in the world. I think Italy is the highest among western industrialized nations. Actually, if you can believe this, my wife gave birth completely naturally, without painkillers:-)

  5. Tom:

    Congrats Gabriel!

    Thanks for the post, I also think that Sweden would be a great place to bring up a child. At what age to Swedish kids typically start school?

    So although my Swedish gf is moving to England soon I would like to move to Sweden later on, and you never know…!

    I had also heard that in Sweden the maternity and paternity work leave is longer than most Westen countries, is that true?

  6. gabriel:

    Thanks Tom.

    Kids typically start school at the age of 7 in Sweden. Maternity and paternity leave is amazing in Sweden. For my first child my wife took a year and I took 5 months. The government pays 80% of your salary up to a certain limit…which I think is around 42,000 kronor per month. If you make more than that per month, you’ll won’t get any extra. However many companies pay an extra 10% based on your salary. I feel guilty when I talk to my siblings in the states who have small children….there’s no comparison.

    What’s the situation in England?

  7. Ed Gawlinski:


    I enjoy the emails you send about Sweden. I am putting a little bit of effort to teach myself Swedish and this resource is a useful addition to that effort. I live in Connecticut and had been, for twenty years, the director and accomaniest for an annual Saint Lucia Festival, that was sonsored by a local chapter of Vasa . The performers (aged 4 through 18) would sing about twenty songs in Swedish and perform several Scandinavian folk dances. One of the families involved came from Sweden and the parents told me that the accent I the kids acquired in the songs I taught them was pretty close (I was very pleased with that). Our performance was at a Lutheran Church that was established by Swedish immigrants during the late 19th century. I had been told by an organ builder visiting from Sweden that the style of this church was typical to the style of churches built in Sweden during that period of time.

    Anyway I no longer am able to run this annual performance and nobody was interested in taking over from me so unfortunately this is no longer being done. I do want to pass on my wife’s and my ethnic heritage to my grand children. I currently have two, Natalie (age 2 1/2) and Samuel (age 4 months). I’ve already given them several children’s books in Swedish (my wife’s ethinc background), German (the other part of my wife’s ethinc background) and Polish (my ethinc background). We had an exchange student, Renate, from Switzerland stay with us for a year when Erica (our oldest daughter) was one year old. Renate has a five year old daughter and Sent Natalie a Swiss dress for Christmas. (These are sold in the tourist cities of Switzerland). I had been president of the local AFS (club that arranges for exchange students for several years after we hosted Renate. Janiche was an exchange student from Norway. She brought with her a Norwegian folk costume and participated in our Saint Lucia festival. She taught several songs in Norwegian and a folk dance. We included these in our show ever year since then. In the spring Norwegian folk costumes for young children are sold and we will be sending Janiche some money to buy one for Natalie and one for Sam.

    After this rather verbose introduction I shall come to my point. Do you know a source where I could purchase a Swedish ethnic outfit for a three or four year old girl?


    Ed G

  8. Kenia:

    GRATTIS Gabriel!!! You and you wife must be SO happy with such a lovely family! =)

    Now, I just have to ask, ’cause I’m kind of stunned after reading your post, do pregnant women in Sweden give birth AT HOME?? don’t they go to a hospital then?
    What about the complications that there might be during the process? how can a midwife manage to solve them?
    I’m sorry for all the questions, I know it’s a lot at once, but i never expected to hear that nowadays “midwife” was a still a job! =)

  9. Carla:

    Lycka till!

    Births are covered here in Canada too, but we don’t have the very, very generous maternity and paternity leave you have in Sweden.

    One of the first things I really noticed the first time I went to Sweden was the high ratio of men pushing baby strollers. A lovely sight to behold!

  10. Ed Gawlinski:

    In the United States there is in increase in the number of non-hospital births
    It is also becoming more typical for ObGyn practices to include nurse-midwives on their staffs ….

  11. gabriel:

    Hi Kenia,

    No, most women in Sweden give birth in hospitals or in birthing clinics in hospitals. In Sweden, midwives work in hospitals and birthing clinics. They receive a high degree of training and education and they are the main responsible people for delivering babies. But since you mentioned it, I must say that I’ve read a lot about this subject and know some people who have had homebirths and they loved it. And studies say it’s just as safe for mother and baby as long as there are no pre-existing problems.

  12. Lola:


  13. Ann:

    Sorry, my experience was poor, but then it was my first birth and I was relatively alone (except for a very first time daddy, my husband) in a country where I didn’t speak the language (since corrected).

    But the bad experience started with the required enema (no longer required, I understand) and the cold shower, which pretty much set back my contractions so that we had to wait and wait. My sister in the states was encouraged to walk and walk and walk up and down the stairs and her birth went fine, whereas in my hospital (in Malmö) I just lay there and did nothing and nothing happened.

    It was really stressful, not good for labor of course, and then the complications — the midwives (who changed with shifts, unlike my sister’s nurse in attendance, who didn’t leave until the job was done) often contradicting each other about the course of action necessary.

    Finally they did the last resort, called in a doctor, who immediately intervened. Baby was actually in danger when she was removed by suction. They placed her on my stomach and my first words to her were, “My poor baby” until she was whisked away for revival and I was whisked away for surgical repair.

    Then afterward, the required stay at the hospital was murder, as they expected me to care for my baby while I was suffering from very painful stitching up of the damage below (the surgeons, by the way, were wonderful). I begged to be allowed to go home early so at least my husband could help!

    I mean, just try to get the nurses out of the coffee lounge — I actually fainted in the shower after pulling on the emergency cord over and over again waiting for someone to come. And then they dumped my child back in my arms because they said, “your baby won’t be calm for me”. So, can’t say much for their training.

    Plus, sleeping in a room with 3 other mothers and their babies — and participating in their visits — was for the birds. All in all a very traumatic experience that came back to hit me again when I was lucky enough to deliver a second child — attended a class for mothers whose first births had been traumatic, which helped.

    This second birth was in Finland . . . on the Aland Islands, a Swedish-speaking territory of Finland. Of course, first births can be very hard, I was older than the average mother, and I was new in a new country — so all this factors into my bad experience. But I recommend checking out Mariehamns sjukhus in Åland if you have the option.

  14. Kenia:

    @Gabriel, thanks for your explanation. It was an interesting article,i was not aware of that. But I still don’t see the point, mostly when you’d have to run to a hospital in case of complications. So, i think i stick to hospitals =)

  15. Linda W:

    Hi Gabe, First of all..CONGRATS TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY !!!! I live in the United States and gave birth in the mid 70’s to my first two children and in 1980 to the final child. My last child was delivered in a birthing room in the hospital. My doctor usually had the Mom walk back to their hospital room from the birthing room. There are many birth stories out there…some good some bad. I had three natural births with my husband in attendance for support both physically and mentally. My experiences were good. I used doctors for the process but they did not interfere with my personal plans for the birth of my children. They respected my wants and desires and were supportive. In my opinion many of the ‘bad’ experiences that happen could have been prevented by the woman having an in depth knowledge before the birthing takes place. Yes, there can be pushy doctors but you pick up on that early in the pregnancy by discussing your desires and expectations with them. If you are not happy with the feedback that you get from the doctor then you can move onto someone who respects what you want for you and your baby. Also it is good to have something in place to help keep you under control during the labor process. I chose Lamaze for my three births and I was successful at handling the discomfort and keeping control of the situation both drug and intervention free. It can be a scary and harrowing experience for a woman if she is not prepared….there in lies a good percentage of the negative outcomes. Birthing is a personal experience and should be done according to one’s personal desires. Heck, I even saw women bonding with dolphins during their pregnancy then giving birth in a water tank protected from the dolphins by a thick piece of glass. Now that is not my cup of tea but it is their prerogative to do so if that is what floats their boat. Each birth should be unique unto the mother and child no matter what constitutes ‘their kind of birth’. It should not have to be defended nor attacked, just enjoyed. Referring to the ‘cost’ factor…you got me there Gabe !!
    Linda W.

  16. eduardo:

    Hi Gabriel, congratulations for your baby. I have the oportunity of studying in Sweden this year 2010, and my wife and I are trying to have a baby these months.
    I am worried about bringing my wife to sweden. What can you suggest, would it be easy since I would be studying a master in Stockholm?. I’d like my wife give birth in Sweden.
    Thank You

  17. Christine:

    Congratulation Gabriel,

    I’ve just found that I am pregnant this morning, but I am coming with my husband to Stockholm for a master in this late August. Actually I planned to have baby three years later. I am still struggling whether I should keep this baby or not. I really worry that it would be very expensive for me to have a baby in Stockholm.

    Please kindly give me some advices, thank you very much! Tackar!

  18. Gabriel:

    Hi Christine,
    I can’t make that major choice for you, but I’ve never heard any stories of someone having a baby in Sweden and it costing too much money. I suggest your husband talk to his Master’s program leader and get in contact with Swedish authorities to determine how it works when giving birth in Sweden if you are just moving there.

    I don’t think it should be any problem at all.

    Good luck with whatever choice you make!


  19. Anna:

    What is free? Can you tell how much do you pay in taxes in Sweden?

  20. RASHA:

    hej! im jordanien and im gonning to give birth in sweden, my baby is due on first baby was born in jordan & it was a good really scared about having my second baby here in sweden but after reading your article im alittle bit relifed thxx!!

  21. Christina:

    A friend of mine is pregnant and lives in Stockholm. She’s having difficulty communicating with the doctors, midwives, etc since she doesn’t speak Swedish. Do you know of any medical professionals who speak very good English? Many thanks for your help!

  22. Nappy Cakes:

    Wasn’t it Alec Bourne who stated the line – It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated.

  23. Yayas:

    I’ve birthing experiences so far in 2 regions/countries:

    – In Belgium, midwives exist, but patients can freely choose their treatment routes (straight to OBGY specialists, etc..). Delivery choices are also down to choice, though the norm is hospital Dr births. Midwives assist births. However, some mothers opt for home deliveries with midwives. Up to 85% of all medical care is covered by common healthcare insurance, and this includes access to doctors, all tests, support, etc. Delivery rooms are 2 people sharing. This is standard. If you have complementary private insurance, then it will cover the remaining 15% plus pay for your specific private Dr to birth your baby, private room with rooming possibility for your partner, etc..

    – In the middle east, very American system, so, it’s straight to the hospital and your specialist Drs, provided you have good insurance. Very, very expensive.

    – I’m thinking of Sweden for my next baby. I’m not at that stage yet, but I would not want to be screaming and gasping during delivery for many hours only for a Dr to be needed at the end. I will definitely request a Dr. I would investigate how private insurance can help. If not, I will go have my baby in Belgium.

    Is healthcare really free to all in Sweden? Definitely NOT! It’s a contributions system – meaning you need to put in a minimum amount 1st annually before you can reap the benefits of “free” care. It’s an annual process and unused credits from prior year cannot be carried over. Is it free for all? Definitely NOT! First you must have a reason for being in the country in other to benefit of any of the services (same is true for the rest of the EU). Can one benefit of such types of care when one comes temporarily to study in Sweden? It is not guaranteed and one must check this with the school before one departs/arrives.

    Some parts of the healthcare system, I like some others I don’t. The main difference I’ve found is that Sweden prefers the natural route first before any kind of assisted intervention. So, when you go into surgery, you’re wide awake, you walk in by yourself unassisted, climb onto the surgical bed, see them instal everything (needles etc,), all the team introduce themselves to you, including the surgeons, they make you comfortable, then send you off to sleep. I liked that experience.

  24. Tali:

    We currently have 2 girls and pregnant with the third. one born in the US and one born in Israel. While I agree that Sweden is obviously the best place to have an institutionalized birth, the benefits of the US and Israel is that it is perfectly legal and fairly easy to have a home birth. We had both of our girls at home and it was amazing and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We are looking into having our third baby in Sweden but as I am researching, it looks like home birth in Sweden is nearly impossible. Until home birth becomes more available in Sweden, I would have to chose these other countries first.

  25. kmk:

    It is important to point out that Sweden has one of the highest effective tax rates in the world, so the healthcare is definitely not “free”. Additionally, in the United States, patients have the freedom to choose whether they want to have home birth, midwives, doctors, etc. In Sweden, the only option is to use a midwife, many of whom are not trained to use ultrasounds, nor do they offer basic tests such as the gestational diabetes screen. Finally, those patients that do not pay into the Swedish socialized medical care system (such as visitors, diplomats, students, etc.) must pay upwards of 1700 kroner (approximately 300 USD) for a standard office visit.

  26. Olga:

    Hiii! I am pregnant woman in Sweden! New here!

    In UK we used to get baby book to track progress/ information!
    Do we get anything like that in sweden? Please let me know! Thanks!

  27. Anna:

    Hi, I know this is an old feed, or old blog post but we are planning to start our family soon and I was wondering how it works with the citizenship? My husband is American, I’m Swedish and we’re gonna have to decide if we wanna give birth in Sweden or in US. Was it easier for the first child to get an American citizenship or for the second child to get a Swedish one? Any help would be appreciated! 🙂