I Am A Mom, Pregnancy And Birth

My Favorite Birth Practices from Around the World

Birth, pregnancy and postpartum practices around the world

There is a lot of pressure for births to be a great experience, which can cause many women to feel inadequate. Cord Mama even speaks of the Dangerous Myth of an Ideal Birth:

just like none of our bodies can live up to that elusive standard of the “ideal woman,” none of our birth stories will ever be perfect.”

 And I agree with her wholeheartedly- I felt very ashamed for not giving birth without help the first time around. But it was not my fault- she was positioned the wrong way and had to turn, which meant that it was hard for me to give birth to her.

It doesn’t however discourage me from visualizing how a perfect birth would really look like. For me, it would be an artificial womb, in a nice birth clinic. Mom and dad can come and visit their baby without mom having to carry said baby for nine months. Meaning no birth at all.

It’s with huge envy that I look up to the platypus, a wonder of evolution that lays eggs AND nurses its young. It’s a brilliant strategy and I think that humans should adopt it.

These ideals are of course impossible. But when I look at other countries, I see many instances of great birth practices that we could adopt everywhere. I admit these are mine personal preferences, but please share yours!

Rückbildungsgymnastik like in Germany

German women have the choice between midwives and doctors, and both are paid by insurance. After birth, a midwife comes to your house to check on you and baby and give advice. But the best thing about Germany is the Rückbildungsgymnastik course (pelvic floor gymnastic): special exercises for your pelvic floor to prevent incontinence. And they’re covered by insurance.

Kraamzorg like in the Netherlands

The kraamzorg is an amazing idea. A specially trained nurse comes over to your house and checks on you and baby. But she also cleans the bathrooms, does the laundry, prepares light meals. I call them angels in disguise. I guess they must take off their wings when they come to your house because they may get in the way.

Special, delicious foods like in Turkey or Panama

In the Netherlands, new moms are given beschuit met muisjes (rusk with butter and anise sprinkles) as anise helps the uterus contract better. However, it has nothing against lohusa serbeti, a drink made with sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Looks delish! In some countries, there are special foods prepared for the new mom. I’m not sure whether organ meat (like it’s prepared in China) would be such a good idea for me but I love the idea of having special food for that time. The same is done in India and Panama.

Following food cravings like in Mexico

Apparently the Mexican belief is that, if a woman doesn’t eat the food she’s craving, the baby will have a birthmark in the shape of that food. Logically, it doesn’t make sense but  we all remember how hard it is to not give away to your cravings. Don’t overdo it but if eggs with chocolate is all you crave, eat that.

Access to epidurals, like in France

I didn’t know what a blessing pain relief was until I had it during my son’s birth. In the Netherlands, I had to be very vocal about my desire to not feel any pain during birth. I had no time for an epidural (and I wasn’t sure I wanted one anyway), but now I am very in favour of anything that helps women feel less pain. And in France, around 90% of women have an epidural. In fact, as Pamela Druckerman notices, a natural births is called: “birth without an epidural”. And it’s true: in France, epidurals are extremely common- in fact, most French women do get this sort of pain relief.

A luxurious meal at the hospital like in Geneva, Switzerland

This must be one of my favorites:  a stay in a luxurious birth clinic in Switzerland where you get delicious food (Olga of Milk, Crafts and Honesty was served duck with saffron potatoes during her stay), but some hospitals offer champagne at a dinner date organizes especially for the parents. That sounds mind-blowing!

Doulas and baby showers like in the US

I had a doula for my third birth and it was amazing how much of a difference it made. She helped me get pain relief, advocated for me when I was too shy to speak up and took wonderful pictures of the birth. And where did I found out about doulas? American birth forums and blog posts. I also had a baby shower when I was pregnant with my son. I came with nothing, just me and my huge belly and left with bags of gifts, and cake. Since this was our third child, I didn’t get a stroller or a baby bed but it’s an amazing way to help moms-to-be and shower them with gifts.

Confinement period, like in China

OK I am not sure whether I’d be able to stay at home for 40 days, especially without washing or eating whatever I want. But the idea that new moms need rest while someone else takes care of the house (and can they please also take the baby while they’re at it? New moms need sleep above everything else) and cooks wonderful food (do you sense a theme here?) sounds wonderful to me.

Parental leave like in Sweden

Sweden is offering 16 months of parental leave that can be taken by either mothers or fathers. Two months are set aside for fathers. And Sweden is already planning to add a third month for fathers. Parents receive 80% of their salary while they are on parental leave and it’s a “use it or lose it” it approach meaning that mothers can’t take the months reserved for fathers or the other way round. Also, check out this: “Birth is considered by Swedes to be an intensely fulfilling personal experience, and even though almost all Swedish births occur in hospitals, those institutions tend to be homey and comfortable. There are labor lounges where women can snack, chat, read or watch TV as labor progresses.” Sounds amazing.

Baby box like in Finland

Every new mom in Finland is given a cardboard box filled with baby stuff- some bodies and rompers, sleeping bags for winter and summer, and more baby-related stuff. And then the cardboard box can be used as a baby bed, which is a very safe option and also the parents don’t have to spend money on buying a baby bed that their child will grow out in no time whatsoever. Apparently they’re not introducing these boxes in Canada and parts of the US, which I think is awesome.

As you see, my main wishes for women giving birth is support, access to pain relief, rest and good food. What about you?

I also wanted to use this as an opportunity to tell you about a new book I’m in, called “Knocked Up Abroad”. You can buy it on Amazon! It discusses the joys and challenges  of being pregnant and having a baby abroad from all over the world. My story is about my experiences of giving birth in Germany and the Netherlands- hope you’ll enjoy it!


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  • Reply Trilingual Mama (Maria) February 12, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    My mother’s version of the Mexican cultural belief, is that the mother would give birth to a child whose mouth was always open as if yearning to eat the foods the pregnant mother craved but didn’t eat. My mom is from Mexicali, Baja California, which might explain the variation. ? Great post!
    Trilingual Mama (Maria) recently posted…Why we stick to OPOLMy Profile

  • Reply Baby Basics in Holland 103 - Postpartum period in The Netherlands - MamaSu February 15, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    […] wish there were Kraamzorg nurses in every country and I am not alone in my wish as you can read on The European Mama… In the Netherlands home birth is such a big topic and extended hospital stays after birth […]

  • Reply Callie February 20, 2016 at 4:45 am

    Love this, and I really need to read Knocked Up Abroad. I love learning about births in other countries. I was a labour and delivery nurse back in the States, and I work postnatal in New Zealand. I also delivered one there and will be having my third in NZ! 🙂
    Callie recently posted…Bungy Jumping in New ZealandMy Profile

    • Reply Olga Mecking February 27, 2016 at 11:30 am

      Hi Callie, thanks for stopping by! Please read Knocked Up Abroad, it’s great!

  • Reply Silvana February 24, 2016 at 12:22 am

    Following food cravings stating that otherwise the baby will have birthmarks is a belief (of course not true and nowadays used more as a funny excuse to eat whatever you want) also shared by Argentine society and as far as I know also very popular in most Latin American countries.

    Regarding the epidural, its usage has become so extended in Argentina, that your explicit saying against it would be required in order not to get it. Women started complaining about not being asked about their desire regarding the epidural and other pregnancy-related procedures, and now there’s a law which gives women the authority to decide on certain aspects of pregnancy and the process of giving birth. You can even sue if your will is not respected.

    • Reply Olga Mecking February 27, 2016 at 11:29 am

      Hi Silvana, I have heard about the birthmark thing a lot. Interesting fact about the epidural. I know that in Brazil, the c section rate is very high.

  • Reply Rites, Rituals and How We Live Around the World April 7, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    […] My favorite birth practices from around the world by European Mama […]

  • Reply Raising Perfect Children, Global Style - The European Mama November 16, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    […] while back, I wrote about my favorite birth practices from all over the world, and I think you greatly enjoyed it (even if your ideas about a good birth is may have differed […]

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