The midwife at 300

I went to see my midwife for the first time since my bump became a bundle of joy. Over the course of nine months my barnmorska watched me blossom and bloom, or rather puff up and swell. And I got used to the way she quashed my fears and concerns in a caring but surprisingly carefree fashion. This was my final appointment post-birth – a chance to cuddle the fruits of her labour, and mine.

Midwifery of yesteryear. Photo: Svenska Barnmorskaförbundet

Midwives in Sweden are revered. Trained nurses with an additional 18-month education, they are often your prime and only point of medical contact before, during and after birth. If your pregnancy comes without complication it’s unlikely you will even see a doctor, which leaves many mums-to-be fretting at first before accepting to go with the flow. The laid-back approach begins with the first phone call to the health centre. It goes something like this…

Mum to be: Hello, I’ve just done a pregnancy test and it’s positive.

Midwife: Ok, we’ll make an appointment to see you when you’re around 11 weeks.

Mum to be: But I’m pregnant. Can’t you fit me tomorrow?

Midwife: No. We’ll book you in for a time six weeks from now.

Mum to be: (Baffled). But. Didn’t. You. Hear. Me. I’m. PREGNANT.

Midwife: (Already hung up).

During my labour a doctor poked her head around the door, which seemed more of a fleeting formality. It was much to the annoyance of my delivery midwife who, with her 38 years of experience, was keen to get on with the job in hand – single-handedly.

The responsible role of the midwife in Sweden has been three centuries in the making. It was in 1711 that the profession first came to the fore with specialist education and 2011 also marks the 125th anniversary of the Swedish Association of Midwives (Svenska Barnmorskaförbundet). The joint occasion has been celebrated with an exhibition hosted at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute.