18 December, 2016

Giving birth in Sweden: an introduction to newbie moms

Giving birth

As my child’s birth inched closer, a friend encouraged me to attend an English language introduction at Östra Sjukhuset.  Having learned that birthing location would not be decided until labor begins, I readily agreed.  The regimented way in which some aspects of Swedish society run intimidates me.  Arming myself with knowledge before this foray into foreign territory makes complete sense.  

Remember the first time you went into a Swedish doctor’s office and didn’t know to pull a number for the queue?  It’s like that only magnified by 100 because you know that when the time comes the pain will make logical thought semi-impossible. My schedule did not allow a meeting for three months.  At the last minute (2 days prior), my husband realized he would be out of town. Intimidating much?

Prior to the meeting, I undertook an early afternoon location reconnaissance.  My first attempt to find the correct location failed miserably.  Note to self, apparently building 15 is not the building nearest the tram. The correct building is further along the path and to the right.  I am now a pro who can even navigate successfully in the pitch dark.  Swedish evenings are DARK in November

After arriving at building 15 for the actual meeting, I searched for the designated waiting area near the cafe. Pregnant women and partners were scattered throughout the floor.  One seating area seemed welcoming, so I made myself comfortable and settled in to wait.  At 5 pm promptly, a flood of people appeared.  The presenting midwife came and escorted us into a large conference room easily able to hold over 100 people. Key takeaway — where you sit does not matter.

Initially, Linda,our presenting midwife,  apologized for the fact that we would not have a ward tour.  The recent popularity of these talks means fewer feet on the ground tours and larger conference rooms.  After all, who wants a giant group of strangers witnessing their birthing process in all it’s sweaty, grunt filled glory.

The wealth of information Linda provides makes up for the lack of tour.  Her discussion evolved from what to pack in our hospital bags to when to final check out procedures.  She covered pain relief methods, hospital visitors, c-section rates, and more.  The audience dictated most of the presentation.

Linda began the discussion and we the audience filled it out.  My only criticism is that often times audience members do not realize people are genuinely interested in the same information.  Consequently, questions were often inaudible to others.  That said, if people asked Linda to repeat the question or answer, she promptly did. Rephrasing the questions prior to her response ensured accuracy.  I appreciate that type of attention to detail in a health care provider.

Linda’s talk eases into the big scary details with smaller concerns such as the content of our hospital bags. Surprisingly, snacks for both partners and laboring mothers are encouraged!

A mom snack prohibition exists in many US hospitals. My first birth in the US did not allow for snacking after arrival at the hospital (in case of emergency c-section).  The Göteborg mindset is completely different. Rather than worry about the possibility of emergency surgery, they want energetic, well fed women to help ensure a successful delivery.

Slide on slippers also make the list.  As an aside, I recommend cheap slippers.  My nurse friend leaves hospital shoes outside to prevent bringing hospital germs home.  Carseats, are available for rent at the coffee shop, so worry not.   Breast pump rental is also available (though not at the coffee shop).

A key point for all to know is that upon arrival at the hospital, the best entry point is through the Förlossning (child birth) emergency entrance. Hospital staff lock all doors from 7pm onward. Personnel monitor the emergency entrance buzz in all arrivals who hit the call button.  Don’t forget to hit the button!  Or you may give birth in the entry way…

Privacy concerns are paramount for many women during labor. Thankfully, all labor rooms are private and only a small number of recovery rooms hold two moms at a time.  This is where calling the labor coordinator is key. She ensures that you deliver at a hospital with sufficient beds available (either Mölndal or Östra Sjukhuset).

Births decrease in winter, so room sharing is unlikely for winter moms.  Personnel in the delivery room is also a concern for many women.  No one wants half a dozen medical students peering at their private bits… In general there is one midwife and one assistant each shift who will be stopping by. All of the midwives and assistants are female.  There may also be one or two trainee midwives on shift, also female. Male and female doctors are on call if complications arise, assignment is based on availability.  

Regarding pain relief methods, most midwives hold acupuncture certification.  They also do subcutaneous fluid injections, encourage the use of TENS Units, have pilates balls, laughing gas, and something called a walking epidural all available depending on your preference and needs.

Recovery time in the hospital varies greatly depending upon the woman and the birth.  First time mothers usually stay 48 hours to help them adjust to breastfeeding and make sure they are fully ready to go home. Experienced mothers may leave the hospital as soon as 6 hours after birth or stay for the full 48 hours. These times extend dependent upon the needs of the baby and mother. During that time, no more than 3 people (mother and labor partner included) are allowed in the room. If additional visitors arrive, they come up individually to keep the room count to 3 or visit downstairs in the lobby near the coffee shop.

The monthly c-section rate at this hospital blows my mind, in a good way.  14% is considered a high month at Östra Sjukhuset.  I find this number to be quite low, but Linda considers it quite high. While preparing this blog, I double checked c-section rates in the US here and discovered the yearly c-section rate in the US is 32.2%.  

Washington State, where I gave birth to my son provides a listing of c-section rates and a they are primarily well over 14%.  Average odds of a safe delivery without surgery look good in Sweden.

Following our information session, Linda took us to the emergency room door to show everyone the proper location for arrival and even took a few lucky procrastinators, (myself included)a short tour of the very quiet and peaceful maternity ward.

  1. I’m thankful to the friend who encouraged me to attend hospital discussion and happy I attended. I wholeheartedly recommend attendance for any mothers to be in Göteborg. Information on availability can be found here.  Please keep in mind this information is for Östra Sjukhuset.  All listed tours at Mölndal are in Svenska.

Happy birthing!

Written by Jessica Arifianto

Hej! I’m Jessi, a newbie to Sweden and a blogger over at When Quirky Met Nerdy. Nearly three years ago I left the United States with my husband and young son to begin this crazy awesome journey, from Seattle to Surrey, to Sweden. Göteborg became our home during the height of the snowstorm this past January and it’s been an adventure every day since. I hope you enjoy my newbie stories–thanks for reading!

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