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Born in Denmark I: Pregnancy

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You might be reading this because you are planning to have one or more children in Denmark and want to know what to expect during your pregnancy, birth, and the first year of your baby’s life. Or maybe you’re already pregnant and want a step-by-step overview of what to expect in the coming months and what your rights are. Either way, this article is for you. You will learn about what the Danish healthcare system has to offer, what’s “included in the package,” and what paid services can be found privately. 

My name is Andreea. I’m 27, originally from Romania, and I live in a small town in Northern Jutland with my family. I gave birth to my son, Kaj, at Viborg Hospital in June 2022, and I will share my experience from infertility to pregnancy to raising my baby in Denmark. Along with all the practical goodies.

I hope you’ll find this article useful and that you’ll feel empowered to make the right choices for yourself.

Pre-pregnancy

You decided you wanted to have a baby. YAY! 

Unfortunately, it’s not always as simple as the decision may have been. I know it hasn’t been simple for me. 

Story time

The year was 2018, and I was diagnosed with PCOS. If you haven’t heard of PCOS before, don’t worry; I hadn’t either before I got the diagnosis. If you have been diagnosed too, know that you’re not alone. AT ALL. In fact, approximately 1 in 7 Danish women are diagnosed with PCOS. 

Between university, student jobs, an internship, and Danish language school, having a baby was not anywhere on my mind, so I wasn’t really prioritizing my diagnosis. Fast forward to early 2020, and my husband and I were ready. My body wasn’t, though. I knew that there’s a “rule of thumb” that you can go to the doctor once you’ve unsuccessfully tried for a year, so we did. 

Practical goodies

Fertility treatment is offered for free to “involuntarily childless couples,” meaning couples who don’t have any children. 

Who can get a referral to a public fertility clinic?

  • Couples (without any biological or adoptive children) who have unsuccessfully tried to conceive for over 1 year, where the woman is under 35 years old
  • Couples (without any biological or adoptive children) who have unsuccessfully tried to conceive for over 6 months, where the woman is over 35 years old

How can you get a referral?

The first step is to make an appointment with your GP, who will then assess whether you meet the requirements to get a referral. 

What happens after you get a referral?

  • Gynecologic assessment 
  • Blood tests
  • Seed sample examination for heterosexual couples

Other information

  • As a woman, you will only receive fertility treatment if your BMI is under 30 (in some cases, 35). You may still make it to the fertility clinic, and they may help you out with medicine or other offers, but you will not get actual fertility treatment (IUI, IVF or similar) if your BMI is higher
  • You must be referred before 40 years old, and fertility treatment must be started before 41 years old in the public sector. You can, however, receive fertility treatment in private hospitals or fertility clinics (paid service) in Denmark up to the age of 45.
  • As a woman, if you are a smoker, you will be offered free help to quit smoking, as you may otherwise be refused fertility treatment.
  • The fertility treatment is only free for your first child. If you have a baby after getting fertility treatment, you will not be treated again for free if you want more children.
  • The fertility clinic will do everything in their power to help you get pregnant, and in the unfortunate case of miscarriage, they will help you get pregnant again for free.

NB! Single women and same-sex couples are also offered free fertility treatment, but the rules for getting a referral may be different. Consult your GP for up-to-date, accurate information. 

Source

Story time

After consulting our GP, we quickly received a referral. After having all the examinations done, we unfortunately learned that I could not be treated due to my BMI. Instead, I received medication that should help with my PCOS and free weight loss counseling at the hospital (which in my case was monthly meetings with a clinical dietitian).

Pregnancy

However you got here, you made it! Congratulations! Now what? What should you expect during your pregnancy? What does Denmark have to offer? 

The first thing you have to do is make an appointment with your GP to talk about the pregnancy. Usually you will let them know over the phone that you are pregnant, so they will have all the questions and forms prepared for when you meet them. 

Story time

After several more months, we did it! A bit unexpectedly almost – we’ve wanted this for so long it was hard to believe it finally happened. Fun fact: My husband is a very cautious person who will not exactly jump up and down at the sound of good news. Not before he’s fairly certain of the news. So while I was already changing my status in Flo (app) from “trying to conceive” to “pregnant” and looking at baby development, he was more in the “let’s wait another week, take 1 (or 3) more tests to make sure it’s positive. You know, so we’re not disappointed if it’s not.”.

The “basic package”

Every pregnant woman in Denmark will get a “basic package”, no matter where in the country you are – as long as you’re a legal resident here. This “package” includes:

  • 2 ultrasound scans
  • Blood tests
  • Several appointments with your midwife
  • GP consultations 
  • “Glukosebelastningstest” (OGTT)

It is important to know that everything in Denmark is an offer. You have the right to accept or deny it – including the scans, for example. They are, however, recommended by healthcare professionals.

Your first GP appointment

You called your GP, and now it’s time to meet them. What’s going to happen?

During this meeting, your GP will ask you several questions to determine your approximate due date and your choice of hospital. They may also offer you a pregnancy test (especially if you are unsure yourself), and most importantly, they will start your “vandrejournal” or pregnancy journal. This is a physical paper you will receive before you leave your GP’s office, which you will then have to take with you to every midwife appointment, test, and scan. 

Your GP will also walk you through the pregnancy (what appointments to expect), and you can ask any questions you might have.

NB! As mentioned before, contacting your GP should be fairly early in the process – dare I even say as soon as you find out yourself. That’s because some GPs have a lot of work and are booked well in advance, so it may take 1-2 weeks or more before they can actually see you. In some cases, you might be lucky, of course, and get an appointment with a couple days’ notice. 

Story time

Gabriela from Bulgaria, Herlev hospital
Gabriela’s first pregnancy was a happy yet unplanned event. As she had not been expecting to get pregnant, she didn’t completely trust the positive pregnancy test and made an appointment with her GP without telling them that the reason for the consultation was confirmation of pregnancy. The GP ended up rescheduling the appointment three times for various reasons, so Gabriela decided to make a trip back to Bulgaria, where she got a pregnancy confirmation. 

Except for this bumpy start with the GP, Gabriela is very happy with what the health-care system offered her during both her first and second pregnancies. 

Your choice of hospital

You have the right to choose which hospital you want to give birth in. Your GP might recommend choosing the closest hospital though (it might not be optimal to live in Aalborg and choose Aarhus for when you’ll have to sit in the car for over one hour while having contractions).

You can visit each hospital’s website to learn more about their approach, values, what facilities they have and even if they won any awards.

NB! If you choose a hospital other than your closest hospital, they have the right to refuse you if they don’t have the capacity. You will always be accepted at your closest hospital though. 

These are some of the largest cities’ hospitals:

Aalborg hospital – virtual tour of the maternity ward (in english) and practical information (in Danish)

Aarhus hospital – practical information (in Danish)

Odense and Svendborg hospitals – virtual tour (in Danish) and practical information (in Danish)

Rigshospitalet (Copenhagen) – practical information (in English) 

If you are connected to another hospital try googling “City name” + sygehus + fødegang/ fødeafsnit/ fødsel. You will probably find similar information.

Story time

I live at an equal distance between Aalborg and Viborg, so I had the option to choose either, even though Aalborg is in Region Nordjylland and Viborg is in Midtjylland. I didn’t expect my GP to ask me which hospital I wanted; I didn’t even know that was an option, so I chose Aalborg at first. 

We talked to some friends who gave birth at Aalborg, and while it’s a great hospital, we learned that the partner is not guaranteed to stay with the mom and the baby outside of visiting hours. This was a HUGE priority for us – that my husband could stay with us the 2 days we were in the hospital. We quickly realized that Aalborg was not the right choice for us, so we switched to Viborg, which luckily received us. Personally, I have no regrets about Viborg; we had the most amazing experience with the sweetest staff. 

Fun fact: Viborg’s birth department received several awards for being the best birth department in this size of hospital in Denmark. 

Blood tests

Doubletest/ tripletest

This will be the first blood test you will be invited to, and it will usually happen at your GP. Together with your first scan, this test will give you a risk assessment for chromosome anomalies.

“Doubletest” is taken between weeks 8-13 of pregnancy, and “tripletest” is taken between weeks 14-20, if you haven’t taken a “doubletest”.

Glukosebelastningstest

Also known as the oral glucose tolerance test, this test will determine whether you have developed gestational diabetes. For this test, you will have to drink water mixed with glucose, wait for approximately 2 hours, and then have blood tests made. 

This test will be taken between weeks 10-20 if you are in a high risk group*, or weeks 24-28 if you are in a low risk group. Read more about the risk groups here (in Danish).

*Risk groups will include one or more of the following:

  • You previously had gestational diabetes
  • You previously had a baby born at a weight of over 4500g 
  • You have diabetes in the family 
  • You had a BMI of over 27 before the pregnancy 
  • You have been diagnosed with PCOS
  • You expect twins or multiples
  • You have sugar in urine (urine test)

NB! Based on your situation, you may be offered additional tests; what I describe in this article is what every pregnant person in Denmark will be offered.

Story time

Gabriela from Bulgaria, Herlev hospital

During her second pregnancy, Gabriela was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. She describes her experience as a very positive one, as she has gotten a lot of support and extra tests to make sure the baby is developing as expected. For a long period of time, Gabriela had to monitor her blood sugar at home six times a day, before and after each meal. Luckily, she was able to manage her gestational diabetes without medication, only through diet. 

Shruti from India, Hvidovre hospital

Shruti is currently pregnant with her first baby. After being diagnosed with Hashimotos thyroidis, Shruti was offered extra blood tests to make sure the baby was well. She describes her experience as a positive one; she is happy with the number of scans and appointments she was offered, and she mentioned being happy that the doctors can figure things out with fewer appointments. 
Moreover, Shruti has been dealing with anxiety. She mentioned this in a questionnaire she got from the hospital, and that resulted in her being assigned a midwife who has experience with anxiety and depression. 

Ultrasound scans

In Denmark, you are offered two ultrasound scans during your pregnancy:

  • “Nakkefoldscanning” (Nuchal fold scan): this is the first ultrasound scan you are offered, and it will take place between weeks 11 and 13 of pregnancy. Together with the previous blood tests, this scan will help indicate whether the child may have Down syndrome or other chromosome anomalies (if the “odds” are high, you will be offered further examination, which you have the right to accept or decline)
  • “Misdannelsesscanning”: The second (and last) ultrasound scan, taking place between weeks 18-20. During this scan, they will be looking not only at the baby’s organs but also at its development, and (if you choose to) gender. 

You may be offered more scans if the doctors find it necessary.

Do you think two scans are not enough?

You always have the option to pay for more private scans. Private clinics can be found in all the bigger cities in Denmark, and they can cost anything between 400 and 2000 dkk, depending on the type of scan and clinic. 

Here are some common extra scans that you can find in most clinics:

  • Early pregnancy confirmation (available at 5-6 weeks of pregnancy)
  • Gender reveal scan (available from 14 weeks of pregnancy)
  • 3D/4D scan (available throughout the pregnancy, but often done after 25 weeks of pregnancy)

Story time 

I have tons of extra scans, both private and at the hospital. I got all the above mentioned private extra scans (I even had the gender reveal scan twice because my baby wasn’t sitting in an optimal position the first time) – not because I don’t think 2 scans are enough, but I had a lot of anxiety and excitement during my pregnancy, so I had a hard time waiting so long for the next scan 🙂 

At the end of my first trimester, we unfortunately had a fire in our house while I was home, so I was immediately offered an emergency scan at the hospital to make sure I didn’t breathe in too much smoke (this actually happened at Aalborg hospital, because we live in Northern Jutland – but due to the high level of digitalization in Denmark, Viborg knew right away what was happening). 

After my “misdannelsesscanning” I was also offered an additional scan because they couldn’t see the heart properly in the first scan and had to make sure there were no defects. 

More stories

Shruti from India, Hvidovre hospital

While happy with the number of scans and appointments offered by the public health-care system, Shruti also decided to take an extra private scan around 32 weeks of pregnancy, as she wanted to make sure that the baby is doing well and is positioned well. 

Nataly from Russia, Hvidovre hospital

Nataly had her first two babies in Russia and her third baby eight years ago in Denmark. Nataly talks positively about her pregnancy in Denmark, but she wishes she had been offered more scans. While she had been offered an extra scan by the hospital at 38 weeks of pregnancy, she also wanted an early scan to confirm the pregnancy, which she decided to have at a private clinic as her GP refused to offer an extra scan before the 12-week scan. Nataly experienced a miscarriage before this pregnancy, so it was very important for her to make sure early on that the baby was well. She also chose an extra gender-reveal scan at 16 weeks of pregnancy, but she mentioned that back then, even private clinics were more cautious when confirming gender before 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

Moreover, Nataly talks about her 20-week scan at the hospital as a rather negative experience. The scan was done by a student who did not say a word during the scan, which made Nataly feel like there may be something wrong with the baby. However, an experienced doctor came in afterwards and did the scan from the beginning, assuring Nataly that everything was alright. 

NB! You may often be scanned or have midwife appointments with students (often studying in their last year). Often, they will be supervised by an experienced nurse or midwife. You have the right to say that you prefer not to have a student in the room.

Emily from the UK, Hvidovre hospital

Emily had her first baby in the UK and her second baby in Denmark. She talks positively about her experience, and she is happy with the “light approach” to scans and appointments. She chose not to have any extra private scans, as she is happy with the number of scans offered. She was, however, offered some extra tests during her pregnancy due to being over the age of 40. 

In addition to that, Emily also mentioned that she works in a corporate environment in a senior management position leading a global team, and her pregnancy has been very positively welcomed both by colleagues and by management and HR.

Alina from Romania, Rigshospitalet

Alina had her first baby in Romania, and she moved to Denmark when she was 20 weeks pregnant with her second baby. She mentions that the doctors and midwives were very attentive to all the documents she brought from Romania about the pregnancy so far, but coming from Romania, she felt like there were not enough scans, tests, and appointments. In her previous experience in Romania, she was offered monthly scans as well as blood tests each trimester, so coming to Denmark, it was quite shocking for her to hear that you only get two scans during a normal, uncomplicated pregnancy.

Alexandra from Iceland, Hvidovre hospital

This is Alexandra’s first pregnancy, and she talks about her experience as a very positive one. She feels supported through her pregnancy, and she mentioned that the fact that she and her partner do not speak Danish has never been a problem so far. Being the first in her group of friends to have a baby, Alexandra joined the Facebook group “New Mom Tribe in Copenhagen,” where she created a group of moms whose due dates are close to hers.

Alexandra wishes she had been offered more scans, so she decided to take additional private scans, as she finds the waiting time between scans to be stressful. She really likes that the test results are available after 2-3 hours, though, and that she can always check her health journal to follow along with what the doctors, nurses, and midwives write.

Leann from USA, Herlev hospital

Leann writes, “I really love the midwife model of care that is the standard here. Throughout my pregnancy, I only saw my own GP and a midwife. I was not treated as if I were sick, and I didn’t feel as poked and prodded as I would have if I’d had to be seen by an OBGYN like in the US. Blood tests, examinations, and other tests were only carried out when actually necessary. I liked the hands-off, relaxed approach because it helped me to feel more relaxed throughout my pregnancy, knowing that I and my baby were healthy and the midwife had no concerns. 

Both through pregnancy and when I was at the hospital to give birth, I really appreciated the bedside manner of the midwives. As long as there was no complication, most decisions were left to my discretion, they just gave me the information I needed. I was treated as a whole person, competent to make good decisions for myself and my baby. They always asked before touching me in any way or doing any procedure, and they told me exactly what they were doing. Having my bodily autonomy like that helped me feel so much more comfortable, since I have always been nervous in medical settings.”

Midwife

In Denmark, you give birth with a midwife or a team of midwives (when you have an uncomplicated pregnancy or birth). This means that you will also have several meetings with a midwife during your pregnancy. You will usually have 4-6 meetings, depending on your pregnancy and whether this will be your first child.

During these meetings, you can ask any questions (about birth, pregnancy, family, caring for a baby, or anything else that’s relevant). You will also have your blood pressure measured, your baby’s heartbeat checked, and you will take a urine test to see your sugar levels. 

There used to be a rule in Denmark that you would give birth with the midwife that you’d been connected with during your pregnancy, but due to a lack of staff, this could no longer be implemented when I gave birth (2022). Talk to your midwife if this is important to you to see what options you have.

NB! There are also private midwives who offer extra consultations and courses, kind of like the private scanning clinics. I have not personally used any, but I do know it is an option. 

Courses

Depending on your municipality and hospital of choice, you will have the possibility to take different courses about pregnancy, birth, taking care of a newborn, and more. 

Story time

Viborg offered “fødselsforbederelse” – a course with a midwife where we learned about the different stages of birth and how the partner could help during birth. I can only recommend this 🙂 

However, living in a different municipality than Viborg, I also had access to my municipality’s offers. Unfortunately, I found out too late, but there was actually an offer to meet with a group of other expecting first-time parents 4-6 times before giving birth and a couple of times after. 

Shruti from India, Hvidovre hospital

Shruti was also offered a free birthing course, but she decided to choose a private (paid) course, as the public one was a 2-hour session, and the private course she chose offered 6 sessions. She is very happy with her choice, as both she and her partner attended the course and met other expecting couples. She even created a moms group with the other expecting moms from the birthing course.

You got this!

I hope this guide gave you a good overview of what to expect from the Danish healthcare system and what your rights are. In the next guide, Born in Denmark II: Birth, I will talk about what to expect when you give birth and share my experience. 

Bonus tip: Many stores offer free “babypakke” – a package of some essentials for newborn babies, completely for free. This is a great way to try different products to see what you like best. Lidl and Rema1000, for example, offer diapers, shampoos, wet wipes, a toy and more. Here’s a website that updates which stores offer “babypakke” at the moment.

Andreea Bianca Pascalau Buza
Andreea Bianca Pascalau Buza
Andreea comes from Romania and has lived in Denmark since 2015. Educated as a Digital concept developer and working as a freelance digital marketer, Andreea lives in Northern Jutland together with her husband and son. With a strong passion for personal finance and lots of hours spent learning about investments, savings, real estate and everything in between, Andreea decided to share the knowledge she acquired in the past few years with other internationals in Denmark through her Instagram account and blog @moneylikealocal.dk - information that is otherwise not always easily accessible for non-Danish speakers.

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