Posted by: Sarah | September 8, 2011

Pregnancy In Norway: What To Expect When Expecting


When we moved to Norway a couple of years ago and started this blog we never quite realised that one day we would literally create a “New Life In Norway”.  Eliot and I are expecting our first ‘baby viking’ on the 2nd December!  We’re getting more excited by the day but the journey so far hasn’t been quite what was expected so I’m writing this post to help all mums-to-be who aren’t native Norwegian.

Norway is known for its super health system but I have to say that I’ve been pretty surprised just how ‘hands-off’ the maternity process is here.   I get the impression that Norwegians just get on with it…no fuss…it’s natural.

Norwegians are certainly more into natural ways of dealing with birth and pregnancy – less of the drugs and more of the yoga.  Possibly the biggest faux pas that I’ve already made is thinking that a “morkake” or “mothers cake” is a lovely celebration cake you get from Baker Hansen after you given birth courtesy of the government in return for all those high taxes you pay throughout the year.  It’s not.  It’s the placenta.

Hopefully the tips I’ve learned so far will help!

First Appointment:  First thing to do is to make an appointment with the Doctor.  He/She will help you fill out a Pregnancy Card (Helsekort for Gravide).   You’re supposed to carry this with you at all times and take it to all future appointments because this is where they’ll record your blood pressure, weight, the baby’s heartbeat, urine, bump measurement and ultrasound details.

Doctor or Midwife:  Every month it’s necessary to get a check up.   For the first couple of months I went to my doctor (Lege) and spent max 10 minutes going through the checks.  It all felt a bit clinical and quick.  A friend told me to contact the local health station (Helsestasjon) and talk to a midwife (Jordmor) instead.  I’m so glad I did.   She gave me lots of reading, recommended courses (that I have to pay for) and gave me many tips on nutrition and exercise.  Now I see her every month instead of the Doctor.

Ultrasound Scans: In Norway you only get one scan at 18 weeks.  In the UK I believe the health service provides several scans starting at Week 12.  If you want a Week 12 scan you have to pay for it and go to a private clinic such as Volvat – it costs approx 1200NOK

Don’t Expect Antenatal Classes: In the UK it’s very common that you and your partner attend classes in the weeks running up to the birth.  This is not the case in Norway – they don’t have such a structured program before the birth.  I asked pretty much every health professional I came across and most looked at me like I had just landed out of space…until I met a midwife who had worked in Sweden and Denmark and she knew exactly what I was talking about.  Then she told me that the Norwegian system doesn’t support them.

Pregnancy Yoga:  Given the lack of antenatal classes in Norway it’s important to take other exercise.  The midwife strongly recommended I take part in Pregnancy Yoga (Gravide Yoga) to learn the art of breathing and relaxing.   I’ve been twice so far and it has been excellent.  I don’t understand everything but the teacher has been very helpful in translating terms.

Freebies:  Make sure you don’t miss out on all of the giveaways that are on offer.  If you’re not Norwegian they’re pretty hard to find so here is one that I know of http://mammanett.no/baby/gratis

Birth Location: You can select which hospital you want to have your baby in but you don’t always get your first choice.  If you live in Oslo you can choose either Rikshospitalet (where the Royal Family give birth), Ulleval University Hospital or Bærum Hospital.  Bærum is where I’m giving birth because it’s closer to home but it is a little older…I couldn’t even find their website!

Maternity Benefits: I haven’t really looked too much into this – when I do I’ll write a blog post!

Literature:  My midwife gave me some fantastic books and leaflets to read – I’ve found them online.

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Responses

  1. If I understood what I found correctly, this is the link you’re looking for http://www.vestreviken.no/Sider/side.aspx after Bærum sykehus became a part of Vestre Viken HF in 2009. I tried to find a sub-page for that particular hospital but couldn’t find one, I can’t say I’m too impressed with their online presence.

    • Thank you Moridin! I do hope the hospital facilities are more up to date than their online presence :-) I must admit the hospital did look a little old when I was last there but I’m assured that because they only process 2000 births a year (rather than 7000 births like some other Oslo hospitals) I should be in good hands. Here’s hoping!

  2. Don’t know if you have, but it’s a really good trick to get all the NAV forms ready and approved in time for your maternity leave, and your husbands paternity leave. All information available in English at http://WWW.NAV.no but they are not very userfriendly in terms of filling out correctly.

    • Thank you Karia – that’s a great help. I’ve booked in to sit with HR in a couple of weeks so hopefully she can help me. I will download them and take a look in advance. Great help!

  3. Great article and it is quite an experience giving birth here. Good and Bad! I think you are lucky to live in such a big city too. I have given birth here twice …once c section and once natural no drugs. Both I had to end up at a hospital 2 and half hours a way during summer vacation when it is all summer docs and nurses. I too, was surprised with no parental course. That is good some of your reading is in english ….I struggled with all norsk pamplets. =)

    • Thanks for your message! So good to hear that I’m not alone being surprised about the parental course. The gravide yoga seems to be going well though so at least that’s something! Sarah

  4. Loved your ‘morkaka’ joke! Wishing you all the best for the impending birth (which might or might not be today!) I gave birth at Riks in August of this year(I’m Irish living her 10 years, still can’t get my head around some Norwegian things!) and it was a really fantastic place to give birth – the most wonderful midwives!

    Best of luck, and enjoy the experience!

    • Hi Annmarie – thanks for your comment. Well, I did end up giving birth on the day you wrote your comment! Our little girl was born a week ago today and I agree the midwives were just amazing. Had a very good experience. Glad its over though and pleased to be back home :-)

      • Well done and congratulations!! – hope all is going well and enjoy your first Christmas as a family :-)

  5. Thanks for the information! I am due in July (after having moved to Norway in September). It’s good to get confirmation that the way I am experiencing things is how it is done all over Norway and that I am not missing out on things! Certainly different from the way things are done in the UK but then Norwegians are a lot less fuss and much more practical with everything!

    • Hi Fiona – congratulations on your pregnancy! Have you found a gravide yoga course yet? Not sure where you are based but i’m now expecting baby #2 and will be starting a gravide yoga course in sandvika shortly! Sarah

  6. Hallo Sarah! It was wonderful to discover your blog. I just found out yesterday that I am pregnant & feel completely overwhelmed. We are originally from South Africa, but now live in Lommedalen in the Baerum district. We travel allot for my husband’s work, which means that I have not been in Norway much to figure out how things work or to make new friends. Could you please help me with one or two things? ? I would like to know where the Helsestasjon is in Baerum, and if you know of any groups for mommies-to-be in the area? Unfortunately I don’t speak Norwegian. Well, it would be lovely to meet you some time, and I am sure there will be another question or two along the line. Hope you don’t mind. Thanks again, Lizelle

    • Hi Lizelle – thanks for your comment and huge congratulations on your news!!! I know Lommendalen – we looked at a house there once. The helsestasjon is in Sanvdika (Rådmann Halmrasts vei 2, 1337 Sandvika, Norway) and I had such a wonderful midwife there called Anne Julie. Try to get her if possible. She really helped me a lot given it was my first baby and I didn’t understand the system here. Awesome lady. Another tip for you is the Høvik Toddlers and Mum Group (http://icon-oslo.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/ITG_Poster.313155943.jpg) they are a super bunch of international Mums who all speak English. They all have toddlers/babies but will welcome you in as a Mum-to-be for sure! By the way, I’m thinking of going to a Gravide Yoga course in Sandvika starting in February – let me know if you want to join and I can email you the details.

      • Hallo Sarah! Thank you very much for the information about the midwife center & moms and toddler group. I am definitely going to try both. We are still in Stockholm, but will be back in Oslo more permanently in April. I would also love to then join you for some yoga if you are still attending?
        Currently I am flying to Oslo for my doctor’s appointments, but have found a wonderful doctor in Lommedalen that is very helpful with my questions regarding pregnancy. Hope you are doing very well & also so excited about spring that is around the corner :).

  7. Hi Sara!
    I´m living in Norway since September, and i´m working as a dancer and dance teacher till June. After that i´m going to be unemployed. This is a big worry for me. I´m pregnant and i´m going to have my baby in September, but from June i don´t have any job. Do you know if i have any help from the government? Or where should i go to get more informations? Thank you. Maria.

    • Hi Maria – I’m so sorry for the delay. I suggest you contact NAV directly and discuss your options since they’re the organisation that sorts out maternity benefits etc. I have found that actually going into the NAV office is the best option because it’s easier to communicate to with them but get there early – the NAV offices get busy!

  8. Hallo Sarah. Hope you are well & enjoying the sunshine. We are back in Oslo at last. Could you please forward me the details of the Gravide Yoga in Sandvika? Think I need to join as soon as possible :). Thank you very much, Lizelle

    • Hi Lizelle – sent you an email but for the benefit of others this is the gravide yoga I would recommend – http://yogabiopati.com/

  9. Hi there,

    I am a student midwife at university of Surrey in the UK, and will be starting my 3rd year in September, part of 3rd year we have an option to an elective placement abroad or elsewhere to enhance our training. I currently have family in Norway that suggested to come to Norway, so I am currently in the process of organizing my placement but don’t know where to start. Is somebody able to provide me with names and contact details of hospitals n independent midwives in Oslo for me start the ball rolling in this process ??
    I will be very much grateful for any information that u can provide.

    Many thanks

  10. Dear sarah, congratulations for the birth of our baby and thanks a lot for sharing informations and your experience. I’ve been living in Oslo with my husband since 1,5years both working as engineers. I got pregnant in August (yay)..now I’m in my 10th week. It’s our first child, my husband and I are 25years old. but I’m so confused about the system and mechanism here. I really kindly ask you for your help, dear Sarah. I went to the fastlege asking for an appointment with the gyneco. Then I got a ultrasound in my 8th week and they detected the heartbeat and have to go back for my 18th week ultrasound. Now I’m confused whom I should ask for an appointment just for regular check during the pregnancy. My questions are:
    1) what is the frequency seeing the doctor (gyneco and fastlege; times per month)?
    2) how did you ask for this gravid control kort?
    3) are they preparations done with the gyneco prior to the birth? I mean to locate the position or to decide for a normal birth or not?

    Thanks a lot in advance, sarah. I really hope you could help me. I’m feeling a bit scared, since it’s all so new and I tend to be so paranoid and over-careful he2 ^^
    best wishes for your baby ^^

    Ratna

    • opps typo mistake “congratulations for the birth of your baby”, sorry ^^

      • Thanks Ratna

    • Hi Ratna – I’m so sorry for the delay in replying. I hope I can help you with your questions. I’ve been through this twice in Norway now so becoming somewhat of an expert :-) So here’s the thing. In Norway they only do one scan and that’s at 18 weeks. If you want one earlier (in the UK it’s normal to have one at 12 weeks) then you have to pay to have it done privately. I went to a place called Volvat just near Frogner Park for both of my children. This is where they look at the neck to detect if there are any problems. You will then get a monthly appointment with the doctor to check your iron, blood pressure etc. You can choose to go and see a midwife for every other visit if you wish to. I did this because they spend much more time with you and talk everything through. I can’t recommend it enough. You need to find which is your local helsestasjon (health station) and just ring them and ask if you can meet with a midwife. They’ll make you and appointment – the first normally takes 45 minutes and they talk through EVERYTHING. I remember with my first…I met the midwife and just cried and told how scared I was. First child in a foreign country – I have no idea what is going on. She was BRILLIANT and explained the process, the Norwegian system etc. I really recommend you do this. For some reason you still have to see the Doctor so midwife for one month and then next month you go to the Doctor. When you get to 36 weeks they will probably give you an appointment every two weeks to keep a check on you. When you go to the doctor for the first time they should give you the gravid kort – it’s apiece of paper. They record your whole pregnancy on there e.g. bump dimensions, weight, blood pressure. You should get one when you see your doctor at 10 weeks. This is when you decide what kind of birth you want – water, home etc. When you have this meeting with the doctor be sure to request your hospital ASAP. If you don’t book your hospital place early you may get bumped to another hospital out of Oslo. Get this done pretty quickly. Note that if you want an alternative birth (water birth) then you need to go to Ulleval. Riks hospital is pretty difficult to get into and doesn’t have a hotel so your husband couldn’t stay with you. Ulleval does have this. I had both children at Bærum but that’s a bit of a drive for you. To be honest you really don’t get an awful lot of support in Norway. It shocked me that they just leave you to it and the first time is so scary. I really suggest you get to meet a midwife at your health station – I did this with both of my pregnancy and it was brilliant. Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions. Sarah

      • Hi Sarah

        I have just found your blog and have found it so helpful. Thank you! I know it’s been a while since you have posted so I hope you see this.

        My husband is norwegian and I’m Australian. We will be relocating to Oslo next week. I just found out that I am pregnant and I am so nervous and scared after everything I’ve been reading ;-) we have a 3 year old son who I delivered via elective csection. I believe that Norway is very pro natural so I was wondering if they would push me to have natural birth even though I’ve had a previous c-section. Do you think if I objected to having a VBAC I would be met with much resistance? And if you know anyone who has had a c-section -how their aftercare was.

        Also I also saw that a first scan is only at 18weeks….so there is no dating scan? Or would the same apply that I would need to go private for that? Do they do the glucose tolerance test at 28 weeks? I met with my OB today (where we are living now) and she gave me a list of what I’d need done during the pregnancy. She said another scan at 32 weeks (I think this is the growth scan and to check placenta etc). Is the only scan at 18 weeks?

        Also that 18-20 week scan (anomoly scan) is it done in 4d and at a fetal medicine clinic or are the hospitals/clinics equipped to carry this out or do you have to pay extra/go private for this?

        I apologise for all the questions and I thank you in advance. :-)

        Kelly

      • Hi Kelly
        I hope you’re well and I guess you have already arrived in Norway? Or at least on the plane? Congrats on the move. You are very lucky and I wish you all the best of luck. Huge congratulations on the pregnancy. How exciting. You’re right. Norway is pro-natural and you may find the pregnancy care a little ‘hands off’ with the doctor. My advice…find a midwife at your local helsestasjion as soon as possible. They are fantastic and will help you with local info. I have been told that if you push hard enough and explain that perhaps your first birth was not great that you REALLY want a C Section…they will listen to you. I haven’t tried this but I know folks who have. I think the after care is pretty good. You stay in hospital for 3 days after ANY birth (natural or not) and they take good care before letting you home. You’re right – the first official scan is 18 weeks and that’s your last. Get yourself a private scan at 12 weeks. We used a place called Volvat http://www.volvat.no/. Costs about 120 GBP (if I remember) but well worth it – look for the term “ultralyd” – that means ultrasound. If there are any queries they refer you straight to hospital and they take care of you after that. You can also go back there at 32 weeks. They’re like a private surgery. Great service. With regards the 3D scans you have to have these done privately and I believe you have to be at least 27 weeks pregnant. Is that what you mean? We did this for baby #2 and used a facility in Lysaker http://www.ultralydklinikken.no/ – again, it’s private and a little costly but worth doing. I really recommend finding yourself a midwife. She will help guide you through the journey. Fantastic help to me both times!


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