Personal Experiences: Having a Baby In Denmark Vs. The United States

 

Personal Experiences: Having a Baby In Denmark Vs. The United States

Earlier this month I spent three weeks in Copenhagen where I worked, rodea bike through the beautiful canal-lined streets, drinking all kinds of great wine at the citys zillions of outdoor cafes, and making new friends. One is Erica, an American marketing manager and mom of two school-aged kids, who like mine are aged 5 and 7. Erica (who asked her last name not be used) and her husband have lived in Denmarks capitol for nine years, and I was eager to know what her experience was like having and raising kids when compared with my own.

PRENATAL CARE

Ericain CPH: When she learned she was pregnant, Ericacalled her doctor, and made her first appointment. Since she has a yellow card equivalent to our Social Security card, she was already plugged into the national health care system, which is paid for with her tax money, and costs her nothing out of pocket. There was no paperwork, she says. I just swiped my yellow card and everything was taken care of.

At her first visit, Ericawas assigned a midwife, and was given an schedule of appointments, all of which were with themidwife to which she was assigned, except for one with an OBGYN. Midwives and doctors did not wear clinician garb, but rather street clothes. The doctor was wearing shorts and hiking boots. It made me feel like there was less of a barrier between us, and that this was just a normal part of life not a seriousmedical event .

The single OBGYN appointment involved getting naked, laying on the table and getting examined. No drape involved. Ericaattendedfree-of-charge birthing classes.

This system was not of her choosing simply the standard order of care for a pregnancy. I was just plugged into the system. Itrusted that the level of care was high, and I trusted the situation.

Ericaranked her top three hospital choices, and while she and her husband did not get their No. 1 pick the facility closest to their home I was more than happy with where we were assigned, she says.

Emma in NYC:Duringopen enrollment the year before we conceived, my then-husband and I waded through the details of the various health insurance options offered by his employer. Calculations included cost of premiums, co-pays and deductibles related to prenatal care and delivery, and whetherour hospital and doctor of choice were in-network. At the end of the day, we guestimated the best option, and signed up.

I alsospent weeks asking friends for recommendations for OBGYNs and researching hospitals. Unsure of the route for me, I researched midwives and natural births, the pros and cons of epidurals and episiotomies, doulas and birthing centers. I wasoverwhelmed. My husband and I attended a two-day birthing class at a private center for $500, which insurance did not reimburse.

I was happy with my doctors for both my deliveries, though it was standard American care white coats (though one a beautiful woman a few years younger than me sometimes attended my checkups wearing exquisite designer suits in Easter egg colors and significant fine jewelry, which both impressed and intimidated me). Full lower-body draping for exams, and mounds and mounds of paperwork at every turn. The doctors gave me the impression of beingcompetent and skilled, which comforted me, but I cant say I loved any of them. Visits were short and all-business.

DELIVERY AND POST-BIRTH

Ericain CPHWhen her water brokeduring her first pregnancy, Ericameasured her contractions until it was time to deliver, thenarrived at the hospital to be attended to by the midwife on call. Throughout the labor she spent time in a shower and warm bath both standard features in the state-run birthing facility. As Ericawas promised, her wishes for a natural birth were honored. Midway through labor the midwifes shift ended and her replacement arrived. The second was even better than the first, she said. During the delivery, the room was darkened, and candles lit. After, the midwife shone a flashlight on the placenta for Ericaand her husband to admire. It was so cool, at the time it seemed like the most amazing thing, Ericasays.

Her newborn son was immediately placed on his mother goop and all and the new parents were left with their son for a couple of hours, during which a tray of tiny cookies, juice and toast and jam were brought, adorned with a tiny Danish flag.

Since she was having trouble nursing, the midwife immediately checked both parents for five days into the hospital where they were attended to by nurses who helped with nursing, along with medical-grade breast pumps. They were just there to answer questions and give you comfort, Erica says. During their stay, the couple shared a king-sized bed and were fed three meals a day. It was delicious, Ericasays.

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