What It’s Like to Give Birth in 3 Different Countries

Giving birth is often one of the most exciting yet nerve-wracking moments in a woman’s life. Though all women who have given birth are bonded by this shared experience, their stories vary greatly. No two births are exactly the same, and even among women from developed nations with similar cultures, childbirth policies and health care procedures can be very different.

I thought it’d be interesting to compare and contrast what it’s like to give birth in three different (yet not-so-different) countries: Finland, the United Kingdom and the United States.


Scandinavian countries are often hailed for their family-friendly policies, and childbirth is no different. For most Finnish women, birth takes place in a hospital with an accompanying midwife—home births are currently discouraged by the government. If a woman’s pregnancy is complicated for any reason, she’ll be seen by a doctor rather than a midwife.

Birth by Cesarean section is only encouraged in the event of a complication, such as breech positioning or stalled labor. According to the medical publication STAT, about 16 percent of births are performed via C-section in Finland, which is nearly on par with the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 10-15 percent.

After the birth is when things really get interesting. Every new mother receives a government-gifted maternity box shortly after the birth of her baby. Finland’s maternity boxes are known the world over, and are great for mothers and babies. A tradition since the 1930s, they include diapers, clothes, a mattress, toys, outdoor gear and little hats for baby, and bra pads, breastfeeding guides and condoms for mom.

What about maternity leave? Finland has new moms covered. New moms are allowed to begin their leave up to 50 days before their delivery, and they can take leave for up to four months post-birth. Kela, Finland’s social security equivalent, will pay them a percentage of their taxable income for the entirety of their leave.

All of these policies seem to generate great results. Finland’s maternal mortality rate is quite low, with just 5 deaths occurring per 100,000 births. The infant mortality rate is even lower, at 2 out of 100,000. Most women in Finland start their families in their late 20s, with the average age of first-time moms hovering around age 28 according to the CIA.

United Kingdom

The childbirth process in the UK is decidedly midwife-driven, and the country is much more friendly toward home birth than other nations. Most births take place at public NHS hospitals, though women may opt to give birth at home or in private clinics.

C-section rates in the UK are slightly higher than recommended, at 24 percent of all births.

After delivery, mothers and babies stay in the hospital for anywhere from six hours to two days. After they’ve returned home, a midwife comes to check up on them every day for the first 10 days after the birth. This is to provide breastfeeding support, answer questions and make sure mom and baby are in great shape.

As for maternity leave, parents in the UK have pretty good benefits. New moms can take leave for up to 39 weeks. For the first six weeks, they’ll receive 90 percent of their normal earnings, and after that, they’ll get a smaller amount based on their income.

Across the pond, women also start their families around age 28. They have a slightly higher maternal mortality rate, with about 12 deaths per 100,000 live births, as well as a higher infant mortality rate, with 4 out of 100,000.

United States

The US has a vastly different system of paying for birth than the countries mentioned above. Finland and the United Kingdom both have social health care programs, which means that as long as you’re a resident of those countries, your birth costs will be paid for by the government through taxes. Here in the US, we still have a private insurance-based system, so many of the costs of childbirth fall on parents (depending on what insurance they have).

According to InterNations, a non-complicated hospital birth costs somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000. Many insurance plans cover some of that, but few cover the entire cost. The majority of births take place in hospitals, though separate birth centers and home births are an option in many states.

The US has the highest C-section rate of the countries listed here at about 33 percent, more than double the WHO’s recommendations.

Unfortunately, the United States is the only industrialized nation that does not mandate paid maternity leave. However, mothers who are employed full-time may receive maternity payments from their employers—if they’re lucky. Though US women aren’t guaranteed paid leave, they can choose to take 12 weeks off (without pay) after the birth of their child under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Women in the US have their first child earlier, with a median first-birth age of about 25. The US’s maternal mortality rate recently increased to 17 deaths per 100,000 births—a large increase from 1987’s statistic of 7.2. The US also has a slightly higher infant mortality rate than the other countries mentioned, at 5.87 per 1,000.


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Past Member 3 months ago

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Carol S.
Carol S2 years ago


Manuela C.
Manuela C2 years ago

"the United States is the only industrialized nation that does not mandate paid maternity leave" - this is very shameful.

Bill Arthur
Bill Arthur2 years ago

Canada has health care that covers hospital costs as well as all the doctors visits and tests both before and after the birth. Employed parents can take 12 months maternity leave and receive payments under the employment insurance which would net them somewhere around 80% of their pay. This 12 months can be taken by mother or father or as is often the case split between the 2 parents to use up the 12 months. Would have to look up info on child mortality etc but think it runs near England's, No baby boxes but it has been proposed from tie to time

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

sandy Gardner
sandy Gardner2 years ago


Alexander Hay-Whitton

Make me a target and throw abuse at me, but at present begetting kids is an expensive and selfish hobby that threatens everyone and everything we have. I'd ban maternity leave, and heavily tax anyone with more than one child.

Ashley F.
Past Member 2 years ago

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