According to New York Daily News on Monday, midwives oversee nearly all pregnancies in Sweden, with minimal testing and just one ultrasound during a woman's entire pregnancy. Sweden was recently rated the second-best country in the world to become a mother.
According to the organization Save the Children, Sweden is the second-best country in the world to become a mother, behind Finland.
Neonatal mortality is low, at 1.5 deaths per 1,000 — the second lowest in Europe behind Iceland — as is maternal death in childbirth, at 3.1 per 100,000 births, according to the European Perinatal Health Report from 2010.
The United States spends $98 billion annually on hospitalization for pregnancy and childbirth, but the US maternal mortality rate has doubled in the past 25 years. The U.S. ranks 50th in the world for maternal mortality, meaning 49 countries were better at keeping new mothers alive.
In Sweden, midwives are entrusted with caring for the health of the expectant mother and the fetus. It is the only pregnancy care available to women, and is free for the patient, falling under state health care benefits.
During the nine months of pregnancy, an expectant mother will see a doctor just once, for an ultrasound. Further appointments will be made only if there are complications. This will surprise women used to continuous medical check-ups. Midwives, who have sole responsible for the well being of mothers-to-be, carry out all tests and visits.
Sweden’s policy is based on the belief that pregnancy is a normal stage of life and women don’t need to be ‘medicalized’ needlessly. It’s a formula that seems to work. Furthermore, it has proved safe for health and more efficient for hospital budgets. Sweden has the second-lowest infant and maternal mortality rate in Europe, second only to Finland, while the health service can cut waste and reallocate spending.
While the rise of the modern medical profession meant midwives in much of Europe were forced to yield at least part of their responsibilities to doctors, Sweden's midwives held onto their traditional role thanks to doctors' consent and, in recent times, a strong union.
The system has never been called into question, owing primarily to its strong track record.
The number of cesarean sections is relatively low in Sweden, at around 17 percent of births in 2011, and only 10 percent of women undergo episiotomy, an incision to widen the opening for delivery, an almost routine procedure during birth with an obstetrician in the US.
The United States' cesarean rate is over 30 percent, double the World Health Organization for justified cesareans, and in some parts of the country and in some hospitals, cesarean rates are 50 to 89 percent.
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Emily Sutherlin is also the Pregnancy Examiner.
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