Most people associate being “knocked up” as a negative term, but I easily came up with ten reasons why it's quite amazing being pregnant in Sweden.
1. 420 days of paid parental leave
Not only are women entitled to 420 days of paid parental leave (it can be split as you like with your partner, but remember to save them at least three months), but they are also eligible for benefits 60 days before the estimated delivery. It seriously doesn't get any better than this.
2. You can eat sushi
Pregnant American women everywhere grieve the loss of eating sushi for nine months but in Sweden, pregnant women can eat all of the sushi they crave. EU law requires freezing all raw fish at -20C for more than a day to kill any parasites lurking in your maki roll. Break out those chopsticks!
3. Nobody thinks you're crazy for drinking coffee
When I asked if I could still drink coffee every day, my midwife nearly spat hers out across the desk and looked at me like I was insane. Limiting caffeine consumption is a major recommendation for American women to prevent early miscarriage, but no Swedish midwife would advise you to cut back on your fika breaks.
Fika, Sweden-style. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT
4. It's the perfect opportunity for a unique baby name
The Swedish pronunciation of 'j' as a 'ya' sound is the secret ingredient to jazzing up a traditional English name like James or Joanna. If you go full Swedish and name your baby a traditional Swedish name, everyone back 'home' will love your unique Magnus or Astrid.
5. Prenatal care is free
All pregnant mothers receive free prenatal care before their baby is born. Free or subsidized classes are available to help parents prepare for delivery and women receive dietary advice, coaching sessions and group support.
6. Non-first-time mothers get to recover after birth in a hotel
Like a chain hotel but with a nurse down the hallway, many Swedish hospitals have patient hotels where mothers and their partners can spend a few days recovering and bonding with their baby after birth. Nurses are available to provide additional care or breastfeeding advice if necessary.
7. Free bus rides
Prams and their drivers get free bus rides in many towns across Sweden. You don't have to leave your baby to swipe your card in the front. Just hang out and enjoy the free ride.
A woman getting on the bus in Stockholm. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT
8. You don't have to pay for your child's allowance
A monthly child allowance (barnbidrag) appears in your account for each child you have until they reach the age of 16. Thank you, taxes! Parents often use these funds to offset the already tax-subsidized preschool (förskola) fees, buy clothing or food for their children. Other parents place the funds into savings for their children to use at a later date. Either way, it's money back into your pocket.
9. Sweden rewards you for having a large family
Okay, so barnbidrag is pretty awesome, but did you know that your family qualifies for an additional family supplement if you have two to six children? Get the most our of your tax money and enjoy your large family with a nice cup of guilt-free coffee.
10. Baby-friendly everything everywhere
Cafés, restaurants, museums and shopping centres all have baby chairs or small play areas to entertain your little ones while you relax for a minute. Open preschools are available throughout the country to provide much-needed adult interatction as well as the cheapest coffee and fika pastries you'll ever find in Sweden.
Bonus reason: Nobody will call the cops on you for leaving your baby asleep in the pram outside of a café.
Being knocked up abroad is admittedly challenging. Mothers must navigate a foreign medical system in a foreign language and learn new cultural customs and parental norms. It is not easy going through the biggest moment of your life so far away from family. Fortunately, Sweden's family friendliness makes it a bit easier for expat parents.
If you want to read more about how 26 mothers living in 25 different countries experience pregnancy, birth, and parenting, click here. Lisa Ferland is a U.S. citizen who moved to Sweden in 2012 with her husband. Together, they are raising a Lego lover and a Pippi Longstocking fanatic. Read more about her series of anthologies at knockedupabroad.eu where mothers around the world have found a home to discuss both the happy and challenging moments of being knocked up abroad.