Late last week the hejsonderborg family grew by one: a baby boy called Benjamin. When we found out that I was pregnant in May last year as is to be expected, I had a lot of questions about what parenthood would bring. But on top of that I also had a lot of questions about how the system works in Denmark. This is my experience of being pregnant in the Sonderborg area.
What to do first?
You have just found out that you are pregnant. Congratulations and do take some time to enjoy the news. But what next? Well, first off is an appointment at your own personal doctor. It would be useful if both you and your partner go to the doctor together, as the doctor will ask you about your medical history as well as family medical history, which you might not know so well. As with all other appointments from now on, you are also asked to give a urine sample.
One of the questions I was asked included whether I wanted an interpreter. I noted down that I speak English, but as far as I could see no special accommodations were made for this. This could be as with the people involved speaking English, and Michael translating for any missing words, there was no particular need for this.
During this first meeting you will also be given your ‘vandrejournal’, which is an envelope with papers that you need to take to every single pregnancy-related appointment from now on. Following from there you will then receive letters (normally in your e-boks) for your first scan and meeting your midwife. You also need to remember to schedule appointments with your doctor at around weeks 25 and 32.
How was the care?
Pregnancy in Denmark is a shared responsibility between your own doctor and the midwives. This means that you don’t have just one person looking after, but there are appointments with the 2 depending on what week you are in. This plan is outlined in a booklet you are given during the first meeting.
The first few weeks and months of your pregnancy are a bit lacking in appointments, especially if, like me, the first midwife appointment didn’t happen until midway through the second trimester, and before that the only appointments I had were one with my own doctor and the 12-week scan. For a first time mother this can feel very long with no guidance! It didn’t help that in my case both the person I see at my GP and my midwife changed. This meant that for a long time I never saw the same person twice.
Nevertheless, once the appointments settled into a routine I was very happy with the care I received. The people I met came across as helpful, competent and interested. I never felt rushed at an appointment and was always asked if I had any questions. If you need help outside of your appointments there is also an open consultation with midwives 3 days a week which is just drop in.
Birth and Parenthood Preparation Course
The midwife centre in Sonderborg offers a birth and parenthood preparation course. The course consists of 4-5 sessions on different themes covering topics including breastfeeding, pain relief, and taking care of the child. The course can be offered either as stand-alone sessions or in a ‘group’, where you take all sessions with the same people. We opted for the group sessions.
The sessions were overall very much in a ‘midwife speaks and we listen’ format, though we could (and did!) interrupt and ask questions at any point. As is to be expected, I found some sessions more informative than others e.g. I have not been around a lot of babies, so it was good to hear about how to take care of the child once home. I did often feel, however, that the end of the sessions was rushed as there was so much to say so e.g. I would have liked to have heard more about pain relief during birth over and above the 10 minutes we had. The last sessions of the group courses is a free session to ask questions.
You might be wondering about the language however! Unfortunately, the courses in Sonderborg are all in Danish. I did manage to follow what was being said with a combination of how much I understand, google translate on my phone and some translations from Michael. I did often ask questions in English however, and this did not seem to cause any problems (with the answer being in Danish).
The Danish system offers you 2 standard scans during your pregnancy unless there are complications: a 12-week scan to check how things are going, and a 20-week anomaly scan. Depending on where you come from this might sound very little e.g. in Malta people typically have a scan a month. If you are interested in more scans, however, there are a number of private places where you can get these done.
I did not get another scan done so there is no specific place I can recommend. However, most of the other people I spoke to mentioned a centre in Kolding, or going across the border to Flensburg. (UPDATE 2019): And we got an email from a new clinic that opened up a a ferry-ride away in Svendborg.
Is there any other Support?
As is to be expected, pregnancy brings with it other needs than other times of your life. In particular, pregnancy can take a toll on your body. If this is the case, do speak to your midwife and/or GP. Most midwives in the area seem to be able to offer you an acupuncture service for certain problems. I did not, however, make use of this.
What I did need, however, was a physiotherapist, due to problems with my hips/pelvic region rearing their head. Based on my experience I would recommend Alice Heilesen (though I didn’t try anyone else). I was very happy with the treatment I received and, best of all, she has a pregnancy table that allows you to lie on your stomach. Bliss, after not being able to do so for most of my pregnancy!
One of the other things to keep in mind is ‘babypakke’. These are free packages you can sign up to collect from a variety of baby shops and supermarkets. If you google ‘gratis babypakke’ you should find a number of them. I have found ones from BabySam, Rema 1000, Coop, Lidl and Matas. They normally contain things like nappies, cloths, a baby gro, shampoo, a small toy and similar.
What if I go Over my Due Date?
I hadn’t really thought about this, but, of course, I had to learn as I was overdue. First up you will be asked to call for an appointment at hospital at 41+0. At this appointment your blood pressure is checked and you are asked to give a urine sample. Then you will get a scan to check that everything is OK, and a CTG scan where they monitor the baby’s heartbeat and your contractions for 20 minutes. After this you will be offered a vaginal examination to check how dilated you are and a membrane sweep. The same will then be reoffered at 41+3.
If after all of this you still do not go into labour spontaneously you will then be offered an induction at around 41+5, where you are asked to be at hospital at 7:30 am. Do be aware that if the ward is very busy or someone calls in sick you will be the most likely to be bumped off and asked to come at a later day/time as happened to me. Luckily they called before I went to hospital so I just stayed home.
Since October 2014 people from the Sonderborg area give birth in the hospital in Aabenraa. You should make use of the free tours of the maternity ward at some point during your pregnancy (currently on Tuesdays at 19:00 and Saturdays at 11:00) so that you know where to go and what to expect when the time arrives.
If you are giving birth spontaneously you need to call the hospital before your leave home. They will then decide if you should go in or stay home a bit longer (depending on how far you are). I did not get to experience this as I was induced.
For the induction I was asked to be at the hospital at a specific time. When I arrived I was checked similar to the previous hospital visits. When all was found to be OK I was given an enema (which I wasn’t expecting!) and then my waters were broken. After half an hour of waters breaking, when nothing significant had happened I was put on a syntocinon drip. From here things progressed (or didn’t progress!) till I ended up with a C-section.
Overall I was very happy with the midwives and doctors I had attending me during the birth. Everyone spoke English to some extent or another (mostly very well) and this made me feel safe. What was being done was also explained to me before it was done, which was very reassuring to me. Also, when I was in the ward seemed empty (I was the only person at some points) which meant that I felt that I got all the attention I needed. Not sure if this would have been the case if the place was much busier.
One thing to keep in mind is however the issue of pain relief. There really doesn’t seem to be much between paracetamol and spinal/epidural, especially if, like me, you are on constant monitoring. I found that sometimes I had to ask for specific things myself rather than them being offered overtly. Nevertheless, I felt that the midwives were very knowledgeable and completely open to bringing other midwives and doctors in for a second opinion and/or a discussion about how to proceed.
Following the Birth
If everything goes well with the birth the plan is that you go home within 24 hour from the birth. Due to my C-section I stayed in hospital for a bit longer. During this time Michael and I had our own room with a cot for the baby. The nurses here, again, were very friendly and knowledgeable. It was great being in a place where there are people to ask questions of and to help you out. I am not happy for the C-section but am really glad I got the extra time in hospital.
We left the hospital 3 days after the birth when everything was confirmed to be OK. I believe we could have stayed there a bit longer but we were ready to get home and get on with the rest of our lives.
Is there any information I missed out on, that would be useful for you? If so, leave a comment and I will try and cover it.