The closure of the maternity ward in Sollefteå, northern Sweden, at the end of January means that expectant mothers in the area will soon have to travel to Örnsköldsvik or Sundsvall, both of which are around a hundred kilometres away.
In order to try and help pregnant women feel more secure, two midwives at the ward which is closing have launched a course on what to do if the process of childbirth begins during a long car journey.
“If you think that it will be something between 120 and 200 kilometres to the nearest maternity ward, and it's winter, it's dark, there's a bad mobile signal, anything can happen on the way. Car accidents, the car could break down, you maybe drive off the road. You have to be ready, and the worst could happen even if it is very, very uncommon,” course leader and midwife Stina Näslund told The Local.
The course will cover the practicalities of making a long journey with someone who is close to giving birth, and even what to do if labour begins.
“Keep in mind that a quick delivery may be needed for a first time mother. That's a challenge. Our municipality is huge,” Näslund explained.
The midwife said that the reaction has been surprisingly large since the course was announced on Friday afternoon, with people contacting via e-mail and telephone, and both domestic and international media asking about it.
“We have always had a maternity ward in Sollefteå, so this it will be new for the area when the ward closes in two weeks. It's an economic question: they think they will save millions of kronor by closing the ward. For me, personally, it feels like they are cutting the lifeblood of a society,” Näslund noted.
Sweden's stretched natal care has been a high-profile subject in recent years following stories related to the scarcity of beds at hospitals and women being turned away due to a lack of space.
In December, a pregnant woman died in the emergency room of a hospital after spending the night there because there were no free beds in the neurology ward.
And in July, a baby died after a clinic in southern Sweden sent a heavily pregnant woman home despite showing signs of pre-eclampsia, due to a lack of space.