Mother and baby

A guide to pregnancy and giving birth in Sweden

PUBLISHED: 6 July 2021 | LAST UPDATED: 10 August 2021

In this guide we take a look at pregnancy care and giving birth in Sweden through their private and public health systems, as well as some of the local traditions and beliefs when it comes to pregnancy. We also give you a summary of what you can expect to pay if you don’t have health insurance. 

Before we dive in, here are some helpful translations for you to add to your pregnancy knowledge bank:

  • Midwife - Barnmorskors 
  • Midwife clinic - Mödravårdscentralen (MVC) 
  • Prenatal birthing class – Profylaxkurs 
  • Parental leave - Föräldraledighet 
  • Support group – Samtalsgrupp 
  • Child benefit – Barnbidrag 

Private vs public 

What are the pros and cons, and what can you expect from both?

You’ll have a choice between giving birth in a public or private hospital – although this may depend on which area you live in.

But, what’s the difference between them? Really, it comes down to your budget and the level of personal care and luxury comfort that you’re after. You should be in good hands whichever you choose. 

If you’re likely to be in Sweden when your baby arrives, a night’s stay in a public Swedish hospital can cost around SEK1001. Bills can easily pile up but are reduced if you’re a taxpayer using state services, so be sure you get a residency permit. If you don’t have a health insurance plan and opt to use a public or private hospital, or if your home country doesn’t have an agreement with Sweden, you can anticipate total expenses in the region of SEK65,000-100,0001. It takes approximately four weeks for a Swedish residence permit to be completed so don’t leave it until the last minute - plan ahead and pay less.

Sweden seems to be all heart when it comes to having a baby. Their parental leave policy is very generous, allowing women 420 days of leave per child2, with 390 of these days paid at a rate of 80% of your salary up to SEK1,0063 a day. You can enjoy some time to bond with your baby, assured that these days are taken care – one less thing to worry about.

This leave can be taken all at once straight after baby arrives. If you prefer, it could also be shared between parents or banked to use periodically up until the child turns eight. 

Prenatal care 

How many scans or appointments can you expect, and what do they include?

State pre-natal care is free in Sweden if you’re covered by social insurance or if you’re registered in the Swedish population register - another reason to make sure you apply for a Swedish residence permit.

Pre-natal care is not available through the public health system in Sweden4, but you have the option of paying for private individual classes or a package which can cost around SEK4,0004. These classes will give you breathing exercises to help during birth and equip you with breastfeeding knowledge for after the baby is born. 

Your first scan usually happens at 18-20 weeks – and it’s then that you’ll be able to hear and see the heartbeat. If baby is healthy and there are no complications, this might be the only scan you have until they arrive. You’ll be able to request additional scans if you’re concerned about something.

Providing everything is going smoothly, you can expect to see your midwife between 6 and 10 times during your pregnancy. This is roughly one visit per month, as long as there are no complications. 

English is widely spoken in Sweden, and the hospital you choose should be able to provide you with a translator if you need one. You should also be able to find a midwife who speaks your language.

If you’d like a homebirth delivery, it’s good to speak to your midwife about this option as early on as possible. Depending on which county you’re giving birth in you might need to pay a fee for this, though some mothers are covered if they meet certain criteria. (Such as living a specific distance from the nearest hospital and having undergone a medical check-up shortly beforehand).

Giving birth in Sweden: Your delivery 

How long can you expect to be in hospital and what will your stay be like?

Going into labour is different for everyone – it’s exciting but can be stressful. That said, about 100,000 babies are born in Sweden5 each year – so you’re in experienced hands. 

Once you go into labour, you won’t immediately go to the hospital. You’ll call a labour coordinator who’ll arrange everything for you and ensure you arrive at a hospital that has a bed available. However, if you have a more complicated pregnancy there will be fixed plans in place, so everyone involved – especially you – knows what to expect.

The majority of families do get to have their baby at the hospital they choose. But even if you don’t, the labour coordinator will have shared your birthing plan with the hospital you do go to ahead of time. While you might not have the security of knowing where you’ll give birth ahead of time, when the time comes everything will be in place no matter where you go. 

When it comes to managing pain during the birthing process, there are a number of options available. Epidurals are less common compared to the UK and USA. In Sweden, mothers are offered what’s called a “walking epidural” or “combined spinal epidural” which allows you to still use your legs and walk around.

Other non-medical pain relief options include heat, massage, and sterile water injections6, among others. You can ask your labour coordinator what the hospital offers when you find out where you’re going. 

You’ll be looked after throughout the whole process. Once the baby arrives, some private hospitals have a hotel attached where you can stay to recover and bond with your new bundle of joy. The hospital will then issue your birth certificate for you to register the birth with the Swedish Tax Agency.

Lastly, sometime between eight and 16 weeks after giving birth, you’ll be invited to an aftercare visit. Here they will carry out checks on blood pressure, weight, and do a few blood tests. If you’d like an earlier appointment, get in touch with your midwife or the hospital. 

Pregnancy and parenthood – cultural quirks in Sweden 

As a new mum in a new country, what are the cultural quirks that might be helpful to know about?

It’s easy to assume that your baby will immediately be a Swedish citizen because they’re born in Sweden, but that isn’t always the case. Your child will only take on Swedish nationality if both parents are Swedish nationals.

Not to worry though, there are some things that apply to everyone – no matter their nationality. If you’re a mother using a pram, you get to ride the buses for free. This includes both mothers and children. And who doesn’t like free things?

When it comes to lifestyle changes, alcohol is not seen as acceptable to drink when you’re expecting in Sweden. But if you’re a coffee-lover you won’t be judged for sipping a latte while you’re pregnant. 

Sweden is incredibly connected with around one in four children in Sweden with family roots in another country.7

Finding the support you need 

If you’re new to parenting and to the neighbourhood, it can be overwhelming if you don’t have your support network around you. There are a number of mums’ groups that you can join where you’ll be able to connect with other new parents – as both locals and expats. You’ll be able to find out more about these groups and how to join them by asking your doctor or midwife, and by doing some online research. 

What support can you expect with your health plan? 

Our World of Wellbeing hub contains lots of useful tips and information about being a parent abroad. Whether you’re about to have your first baby, or you’re moving your whole family to a new country, there’s plenty of advice about how to help things go smoothly. 

And if you’re ever unsure of anything, no matter where you are, we’ll always do our best to put you at ease. There’s a team of midwives on hand through our health information helpline who’ll be able to answer any questions you might have about your pregnancy if you’re covered with us. You’ll just need to call +44 (0)1892 556 753 between 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, until 4pm on Saturday and until 12pm on Sunday (UK time).

If you have any questions about making a claim with us or what your policy covers, you can call us anytime, day or night on +44 (0)1892 503 856. 

Sources 
1. https://www.expatfinder.com/sweden/expat-guides/article/having-a-baby-in-sweden/1243 

2. https://www.thelocal.se/20160923/ten-reasons-why-its-awesome-being-knocked-up-in-sweden/ 
3. https://uk.practicallaw.thomsonreuters.com 
4. https://www.expatfocus.com/sweden/health/  
5. https://www.thelocal.se/20180125/im-pregnant-now-what-the-locals-guide-to-giving-birth-in-sweden/ 
6. https://evidencebasedbirth.com/sterile-water-injections-for-pain-relief-during-labor/ 
7. https://sweden.se/society/children-and-young-people-in-sweden/