Pregnancy Around The World

Pregnant women across the world are offered more postpartum care than American women.
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6 American Pregnancy "Rules" That Aren’t Exactly A Thing Around The World

Did you know Finland has amazing postpartum care?

by Cat Bowen
Originally Published: 

Pregnancy is filled with rules. You can’t eat this, you can’t drink that, you can’t take this medicine for a headache that makes you cry. Most of it makes sense, but when it comes to certain rules, it’s clear that around the world, things are a little different for pregnant women. I mean, please find one pregnant woman who hasn’t heard a joke about all of the pregnant people in France drinking plenty of wine while they’re incubating their baby. (But also, don’t drink plenty of wine? And maybe talk to your doctor?)

While there is indeed much to laugh at when it comes to the way we do things over here, it's worth noting that people who aren't from the United States do have their fair share of misconceptions regarding our pregnancy and childbirth customs and regulations. The way my friends from other parts of the world tell it, Americans are all living ascetic lifestyles that somehow also manage to make us gain tons of weight, and we're conditioned to be terrified of everything. To be honest, this isn't far from the truth in my own experience. We do have myriad forces pressuring us to eat this, not that, do this, not that, and avoid everything but your vitamins. It's pretty daunting. (And so are those vitamins. Have you seen the size of those prenatals?)

What people don't know is the true story of having a baby in America is that we all give birth on the backs of bald eagles, our children are given cowboy boots to wear out of the maternity ward, and that our babies are born with 75 grand in student debt. This is America. And these are the pregnancy “rules” our OB-GYNs have for us that those in other countries don’t necessarily have.


Bills, Bills, Bills

People in other countries cannot believe that we have to pay for everything. In pretty much every other developed country on this planet, there’s mandated paid leave for maternity care, noted NPR. Business Insider reported that the average cost of maternity care is almost $11,000.

It's only been since the Affordable Care Act was enacted that maternity care was even required to be covered by insurance. However, high deductible plans mean that countless women each year will be forced to go into debt to have a child, reported The Atlantic. An average delivery, with insurance, runs American parents about $4,500. (And that’s average. That doesn’t include high-risk issues, NICU stays, etc.) For comparison, deliveries in Finland cost a little less than $60.


No Sushi

I missed sushi the most when I was pregnant. It's one of my all-time favorite foods. Apparently, while many countries advise caution toward consuming raw fish, in Japan it's just a part of the diet, and many pregnant people continue to eat it. The trick is eating quality fish that’s been served properly and kept at the correct temperature, which isn’t always the case in many Americanized sushi restaurants. But a 2015 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that there was no risk to a child’s development from a mother indulging in 12 fish-based meals a week, which goes far beyond the recommended allotment of mercury consumption for pregnant people.

Certain doctors now might be more open to pregnant patients enjoying quality raw fish, but America is still playing catch-up to the rest of the world.


Going Out Right After Birth


Most of us are told by our doctors to go for walks outside, get fresh air, re-enter the world after giving birth. In China? That's not the case. According to this NPR article (and my Husband's Chinese family), you should spend the month after you give birth in bed. The idea is to give your body a chance to fully recover. Typically, your mother or MIL would bring your food to you, and help you care for your baby.

Full disclosure, when I had my oldest, my husband's grandmother lived with us. She brought me broth in bed about one million times per day, and bathed my son with the same hand-sewn cloth she used on my husband. Let me tell you: This is the way to go if you can swing it. There was so much love in the way she cared for us, and it was beautiful.


No Alcohol

Here in the United States, we are really strict about not having any alcohol during pregnancy, but this is not universal. In a European study of 7,905 women, 15.8% reported alcohol consumption during pregnancy. The countries that represented the most women were the UK with 28.5%, Russia with 26.5%, and Switzerland with 20.9%. Considering these numbers, a movement has started in Europe to provide more information to pregnant people about the effects of alcohol on a fetus and pregnancy.


One Postpartum Appointment

Look, America is a country full of people telling each other to just “pull yourself up by the bootstraps already” and postpartum care is no different. Generally, after you’re released from the hospital, your doctor asks to see you again in four to six weeks. That check-up usually includes an exam, some questions about how everything’s going, and then a checklist to respond to that tests you for postpartum depression. And... then that’s it! You’re sent on your merry way.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has suggested that postpartum care should be ongoing and not a one-and-done appointment, but it’s going to take some time to change postpartum care to reflect other countries. In Finland, new parents are given a “baby box” full of essentials they’ll need for their baby, as well as turning the box into a safe bed for baby. They are assigned the same nurse for all of their prenatal appointments (which last 90 minutes to give them time for questions) and that nurse then does a home visit 3 to 4 days after being sent home from the hospital to check on mom and baby’s health. There is a follow-up appointment at six weeks, and then the child remains in the care of this same clinic until they are 7 years old, fostering a relationship and trust between mom and the healthcare providers. (And if you have another baby, they try to give you the same nurse again.)


No Maternity Leave

On top of everything else, mothers and fathers are forced to return to work weeks before they might be physically or mentally ready to do so (thanks to our lack of paid maternity and paternity leave). When we do go back to work, the majority of us do not qualify for any subsidized child care, so we work longer hours to pay more for child care without any meaningful assistance, according to The Washington Post. Out of 41 countries, only the United States lacks a maternity leave plan.

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