Ambiguous prenatal care in the E.U.

  • 2014-04-03
  • By Ilze Powell

Berlin - Somewhere in my twenties, while flipping through a fashion magazine, I saw a tall, thin and very radiant model holding a newborn baby. Her eyes were filled with tears of joy; her skin simply glowing with pride. It was an article about how to deal with pregnancy. I must admit that the photos were so overpoweringly expressive, I felt it was unnecessary to indulge in the written nuances. Up to this day, I am not sure if that was a mistake or the wisest reaction any woman could have had.

I must admit that collecting information for this article has proven to be one of the most challenging tasks I have undertaken during my days of journalism. Every opinion and experience I heard seemed to contradict the previous one; everywhere I looked for a story, women opened up new directions for thoughts.
So, as a fairly liberal thinker, I approached mothers with questions about their prenatal care and childbirth processes in various European countries and was more than amazed by what I found..

First, some of the most highly-paid doctors seem to bother the least with the process of bringing a new life into this world. Sweden, for example, is strongly embracing a policy one could call, “you may”: every expecting mom has the right to choose when and who she would like to see, the midwife serving as a useful adviser and coordinator of most things.
Assuming there are no complications, curiosities, or complaints, she might live through her nine months without as much as seeing a doctor. Even during the very last stages of pregnancy and after delivery, the mother has the right to check out of the hospital whenever she wishes.
Germany seems to live by “the strongest one survives” motto. Here, a pregnancy is played out like a don’t-ask-don’t-tell game.

A regular prenatal visit in Berlin might end with a simple conversation about morning sickness and a printed scan of the fetus, leaving out any patient history, gynaecological check-ups or even blood testing. In theory, one could be on death row and the doctor “wouldn’t detect” anything unless the patient has clearly stated her concerns.
Switzerland is another country that uses its ways to avoid a potential mess. Their drugs are well developed and tested so that no woman has to struggle with nausea.

And the Caesarean section surgeries are so skilfully performed that they are now compared to a simple and un-troublesome labour. In fact, most doctors would gladly recommend this as a choice of childbirth to save the time, pain and possible complications. Who knows, maybe a quality Caesarean is beginning to be something of a must-have for a modern woman.

I mean with all the added procedures (that often involve cuts), tools and drugs that the process of the old fashion natural birth is equipped with, it’s almost a miracle we’re still calling it “natural.”
UK and Italy’s approaches are more standardised. As the state medical care covers prenatal appointments and childbirth, a woman simply chooses her midwife, her doctor and her hospital, which, most of the time, is enough to receive a chain of quality information, and be in charge of even small details.

Latvia, being a small nation and in desperate need of future generations, is definitely the place to be if you’re a mom on a pregnancy high. It might be because it’s so small and full of doctors that any woman in any condition at any time of the day can receive the medical attention she wants (doesn’t always mean she actually needs it).
So, for those soon-to-be moms who tend to worry about hormones, symptoms, body changes etc. and need a medical assistant for guidance, Latvia provides adequate prenatal care.

After all the data and opinions gathered, it’s hard not to feel dizzy and slightly nauseous just thinking about this period in a woman’s life. It is still very difficult for me to conclude whether the quality of a pregnancy would differ depending on the country a pregnant woman lives in. The happy will always praise the ease of their experience, while the troubled will have survived a painful time that might have scarred them for life.

In the end, while one side stays against ruining a natural and blissful experience with too much doctorial fuss, the other hopes for advancing discoveries in medicine that would forever remove the troublesome edge attached to creation of human life.

Ilze Powell is a Latvian English teacher, former aspiring actress, and avid lover of beauty, currently living in Berlin. After years of writing short stories and plays, her first novel The Big Set was published this year. Ilze writes comic memories from the places she’s lived. Read more at