Norway is probably the best country in the world to have a baby. Healthcare is excellent, childcare is provided from infancy, and parents are entitled to salaried maternity/paternity leave for 47 – 57 weeks (plus whatever vacation you have during that time).
However, as newcomers to Norway and not knowing many Norwegians, working out how the system works can be a little intimidating. I had many stressful times trying to get the right help and support. So, here’s my guide so far:
Step 1) Make a baby
Generally, in order to be entitled to maternity/paternity payments you must be working in Norway at least 10 months, prior to having the baby.
According to various books and guidelines getting pregnant is complicated business, and you should be taking prenatal vitamins (folate) at least three months prior, have a thorough health check-up, and a very regimented samleie schedule.
Since our baby was rather efficiently planned, we kind of skipped those steps.
Step 2) Visit your local doctor (5+ weeks)
As a resident/citizen of Norway (or anyone with a fødselsnummer), you are allocated a fastlege. The fastlege (GP) is determined based on where you live. If you have not been allocated a fastlege, would like to change fastlege or need more information on how to find them, visit the helfo site.
As soon as you know you are pregnant, usually confirmed by taking a urine test available from the pharmacy, you should make an appointment with the fastlege. From this point on, all your maternity care will be free and provided to you by the state. You do not need to pay for anything, even your first nappies, baby clothes, and the taxi-ride home from the hospital after birth is paid for.
At your appointment, the doctor will provide you with a green gravide helsekort form. You will keep this form with you for the entire pregnancy, and will take it with you to any doctors visits, midwife visits, and even to the delivery room when the time comes.
During your doctor’s visit, a nurse will take numerous blood tests to check your overall health and also any possible prenatal conditions. They will also take a urine sample, and confirm you are (still) pregnant. This will happen with every visit. You will be issued with various pregnancy booklets and other documentation, but all in norsk.
After your first visit, the doctor will schedule a follow up appointment. And these will continue throughout your pregnancy.
Step 3) The ultrasound (18 weeks)
Your fastlege will send off your information to the local hospital, and you will receive an appointment for an ultrasound at 18 weeks. This will check for any critical prenatal conditions that may require further monitoring.
At this point it’s worthwhile discussing Norway’s unusual policy on prenatal ultrasounds.
Most first world countries offer women a combined first trimester ultrasound at 12 weeks of gestation to check for genetic, or congenital abnormalities, such as Downs Syndrome, giving women the choice to terminate the pregnancy if the results are devastating. In Norway it is illegal to do an ultrasound to test for these conditions prior to 18 weeks. This is curious because Norway also has a very liberal stance on abortions. You can get an on-demand, no questions asked abortion until 12 weeks. Between 12 – 16 weeks you can still get an abortion but need to follow more closely monitored procedures.
But, it is strictly illegal to examine your fetus prior to 18 weeks of gestation.
Having to make the decision to terminate a pregnancy because you know the fetus will likely suffer from a devastating abnormality, is an awful one to make, and not something I would wish on anyone, but I still want to have that option available to me. In the UK 95% of women who receive a first trimester positive result for Downs will decide to terminate. As I began reading the statistics of all the horrific conditions out there, I was an anxious wreck. I needed confirmation that all was good now. Consequently, we booked a cheap flight to London, and made an appointment at a private clinic to get a first trimester scan. As statistically expected and as we hoped for, everything was completely normal. And as I started my second trimester we could both start mentally preparing for the exciting lifestyle change ahead with one less anxiety to deal with.
Then, as expected our 18-week Norwegian ultrasound also went fine. Feety, our fetus, was a picture of normality, complete with kidneys, brains, stomach, bladder, and surprisingly prominent boy bits.
We were give a green tick, with no further special care required, other than the standard monthly fastlege check-ups.
Step 4) The Midwife (24 weeks)
At 24 weeks of pregnancy you can choose to start seeing a midwife instead of a fastlege (or you can see both, if you prefer). The midwife will likely have more baby experience, and more time to answer any questions about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, or parenting courses. The midwife will only monitor your pregnancy until labour, as a general rule, they will not be present during your delivery.
To contact the midwife, find your local helsestasjon online (usually available from your local kommune website) Visit them, and make an appointment. They will generally all speak English and Norwegian. There is no need to request specifically for an English-speaking midwife.
Step 5) Applying for Maternity/Paternity leave (24 – 36 weeks)
When you are between 24 and 32 weeks pregnant, you need to notify NAV (the state social welfare system) in order to receive your maternity and paternity leave. As a rule you must start taking maternity leave no later than 3 weeks before your due date (but you can take it up to 12 weeks before your due date).
You can choose to take 47 weeks paid leave at 100% of your current salary, or 57 weeks paid leave at 80% of your current salary. Of your leave, the mother must take the first 12 weeks, and the father (if applicable) must take 12 weeks some time thereafter, the remainder can be divided up between the parents. If one parent is not applicable for leave the other parent can take the full 47/57 weeks.
In addition to this, because you are effectively still in full employment you will also be entitled for annual holidays, feriepenger, and half tax December. So, when you decide on how to take your 47/57 weeks leave, you need to start/stop the leave in order to make allowances for your holidays, as agreed with your employer.
Now, none of this happens automatically, and you need to navigate Nav’s extensive website to find the right forms, fill them out correctly, and then submit them for processing.
In short you require four forms:
- Official confirmation that you are pregnant and when your duedate will be. This is your Terminbekreftelse. This is not the same as your green helsekort form. Ask your midwife to provide you with this.
- Førstside. This is the easiest form. You just sign and confirm everything is correct.
- You and your partner’s details, and when you will be taking the leave. Note, all Nav needs to know is when you will be drawing maternity/paternity leave. If you plan on drawing your holidays inbetween, you should specify to stop the Nav payments, and restart them after your holidays.
- Form for your employer to submit to NAV separately on your behalf.
Both partners need to do this. And, the forms must be submitted six weeks before you intend to take the leave.
These links are good starting points:
- Nav Parental benefit on birth
- Nav calculator on when to parental payments start/end and how much
- Which forms do I need to fill out?
Step 6) Delivery