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FAMILY

What parents in Norway need to know before going on parental leave

Starting a family in Norway will give you some of the best early years benefits in the world, but even the most prepared new parents are surprised by a few things they discover during their parental leave in the country.

A baby in a pram.
Parents have shared their thoughts on what took them by surprise when going on parental leave in Norway. Pictured is a baby in a pram. Photo by photo nic on Unsplash

The generous maternity/paternity leave 

About to be a new mother, father, or guardian? Your quality of sleep is about to take a nosedive. But luckily, some parts of the parenting game are easier. Norway is a digitalised society. And applying for parental leave is done fully online. The layout on the parental leave NAV website is a straightforward layout for new parents to follow. 

Parental benefits are discussed openly among colleagues and a popular topic in Norwegian media. However, it is important to not take the “more general” rules you hear about parental leave as completely factual until you’ve had a chance to look into your specific situation. 

“There are actually so many different possible configurations on how to do it. For example, a colleague of mine was working 10% and on parental leave 90%. I did not know that beforehand, and I might have considered it if I had known,” says one Oslo-based mother. 

The amount of money and time you’re allowed free from work depends on circumstances such as if you are a sole provider, are in a relationship where only one of the parents is entitled to paid leave, or in a same sex partnership. Splitting up your parental leave also needs to be discussed with your boss as well. 

However, there is some blanket information expecting parents should be aware of before heading off to live life in a baby bubble.

You have to live in Norway and be a member of the national insurance scheme in order to apply for parental leave. 

The mother can apply for parental leave at the 22nd week of pregnancy. And the father/partner should apply just after the baby is born. You are entitled. But if you don’t apply in time you can lose your rights to paid parental leave so stay on top of the updates.

Check these resources if you have any questions relating to your situation.

Checkups, checkups and more checkups

When asked what surprised her most about parental leave in Norway, Bridget-Michelle Price O’Connell says: “How different the medications and approach to pediatric care can be from your home country,” says Bridget-Michelle Price O’Connell when asked what surprised her most about parental leave in Norway. 

It’s true. New parents are often surprised by how closely monitored their newborns and toddlers are by the Norwegian health system. For many, there is great appreciation in the close follow-up. For others, it can feel intrusive. Parents are given appointments to check in to their helsestasjon – the health care center for children ages 0-5 very often throughout the first years of life. 

The health center acts as a hub of knowledge and resources for new parents to visit freely. In addition, many are often surprised by a home visit from a nurse to check up on the well-being of parents and children within a week of returning home from the hospital.

Don’t forget about your health

Price O’Connell also wants future parents to dodge the expected feelings of loneliness if they can, listing how crucial it is to find a mommy friend to take walks with. 

Having a new baby will likely have you experiencing a wave of many emotions on the daily. It’s important to look after your own well-being and the Norwegian parental  leave culture is set up so you can keep your health a top priority. 

After you give birth, you will receive notice that you have been placed in a barselgruppe or “maternity group”. It’s arranged according to the date you gave birth and you are joined with other new mothers who live in the same city or area as you. Meet-ups are by no means mandatory. But they are heavily encouraged before you leave the hospital for home with your new baby. 

Getting out of the house to meet strangers may be the last thing you feel like doing post- partum. But take the chance. Maternity  groups are a great way to stay social and  hear about parent-baby activities in your area such as: baby swimming, family hikes, baby song, and baby dancing. 

The school stress starts early

In fact, it starts before your baby has reached their milestone first birthday. Kristine Ursfjord warns new parents that it can be stressful when it comes to kindergarten placement if your child is born at the end of the calendar year. 

Your baby can start attending barnehage or “preschool” or “kindergarten” from the age of 10 months. The entitlement to a place in a kindergarten applies to children who turn one year old no later than the end of October in the year that they apply for a place.  

So if your baby is born in November or December, you need to calculate your parental leave under the assumption your child might have to wait until after their first birthday to get into preschool. 

Don’t forget to register in time! Typically, parents need to apply for their top five preschool choices by the 2nd of March if their child will attend at the start of the school year in August. 

Even though every child is entitled to a place in preschool, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is space in your preschool(s) of choice. The quality of preschools in Norway is very high. Whether you choose a private or public institution, the systems and practices of the preschool are managed by the government to ensure a child’s equal right to care and education.  

That being said, parents like to talk and share. Ask around and you’ll quickly find out which preschools in your area have the best and worst reputations in your area. 

You can apply for a spot in a preschool close to your home through the municipality’s own website such as this one.  

So much free stuff

When asked what surprised her most about parental leave, one Oslo mother shares “The free stuff you get from different shops (Rema, kiwi pharmacies…)”

When new parents look and ask around, many are truly surprised by the baby pakker or “baby packs” they can receive just by signing up. National companies such as Rema and Kiwi give new parents a baby pack filled with practical products just by registering for one on their website.

For a complete list of what new parents can receive completely free or at discount, look here .

Parents are generous in Norway! Recycling and second hand shops are in every city and many towns. Now is a very good time in Norway to be a budget-conscious or environmentally conscious parent in Norway. 

In addition to the free give-aways, guardians can look on Finn.no, or your residences local marketplace group on Facebook for deeply discounted baby and toddler clothes and other necessary items.

Accept what is offered 

New parents in Norway are eligible for many generous benefits. And it may feel like a flex at the office if you don’t take all of your parental leave. Or if you don’t apply for a baby pack because you can afford to buy what you need. However, you’ll be surprised to find the looks of confusion from your Norwegian colleagues and friends if you choose to do this.

Norway is a society with strong family values. And the people take a lot of pride in work/family-life balance. Take the time off you are given. Accept the gifts. Trust us. No one will blink an eye if you choose to enjoy your parental leave to the max. 

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HEALTH

What to expect if you’re having a baby in Norway

From pregnancy tests to postpartum appointments here's what you need to know if you are expecting a baby in Norway.

What to expect if you're having a baby in Norway
Here's what to expect when you are expecting. Photo by Camylla Battani on Unsplash

The early days

If you are unsure and think you may be pregnant, you can take a graviditetest, or a “pregnancy test”. Pregnancy tests can be found at your local pharmacy, as well as in many grocery stores. Their cost varies depending on the brand you choose. But a common one sold in the shops is around 85 kroner (about 8 euro). You can also choose to make an appointment with your doctor to find out by taking a blood or urine test at their office. 

Note that if your Norwegian and English skills are still at a basic level, don’t take the chance and not be able to fully understand the useful information you will learn at these appointments. You have the right to request an interpreter to come with you or speak over the phone at all of your doctor’s appointments. You just need to let your doctor or midwife know in advance first so they can schedule one. 

Putting your health first

For many expectant families, adding another mouth to feed means added costs. Luckily, in Norway you might find these costs to be surprisingly manageable. Starting with your own health as a soon to be mother. If you are registered to be a part of Norway’s National Healthcare Scheme, medical appointments relating to pregnancy are free of charge. This includes the many checkups with your fastlege or “GP”. And in addition, the possible unplanned trips to your doctor or hospital you may make during the 40 weeks of pregnancy. 

You can expect regular check-ups with doctors throughout your pregnancy. Photo by MART PRODUCTION from Pexels

These pregnancy related appointments with your GP or midwife are valuable in checking up on the health of both you and your baby. And if you’ve already started having a bit of baby brain and are becoming more forgetful, then bring a notebook and a pen. Because you will also learn a lot of practical information about your health and what to expect as your belly grows at these appointments. 

If you get sick while pregnant — whether it is pregnancy related or just a common cold — you can apply for paid sick leave. But first you must see your midwife or GP. Together you will decide the appropriate amount of time off you should take. It is also a requirement of your employer to adjust what they can at work (within reason) for expectant mothers to be able to do their job as comfortably as possible. 

What is the Helsestasjon?

The helsestasjon or “child health clinic” is where new parents will take all follow-up appointments post giving birth. The clinic is open to all children from the ages of 0 to 5. It employs doctors, nurses, and specialists. It is also where children get their required vaccines and follow-ups done on any mental or physical health-related concerns. 

The children’s health clinic is also a place for new mothers to meet other new mothers. The clinic arranges a networking meeting called a barselgruppe. Barselgrupper or “ maternity groups” are made with women who have given birth around the same time you have, and who live in the same area. It is not a mandatory meeting. Though it is absolutely worth considering if you are feeling lonely or overwhelmed during this new phase of life. 

You can find out more about what the clinic has to offer new parents here

At the hospital

The check-ups you’ve had with your GP or midwife throughout your pregnancy also include making a birth plan. Of course, it’s impossible to know if you will be able to carry out your plan as expected. But making such a plan with your GP or Midwife includes important information about hospital rules and what to expect when you arrive at the hospital.  

Before you make your way to the hospital, give the labour and delivery unit a call to let them know you are coming. Once you have arrived and are declared to be in active labor, you are assigned a room and a midwife. Doctors, extra hands, and specialists usually appear as you near the labouring period and are actually ready to give birth, or if there is a sudden complication.

Depending on the hospital’s capacity, you may be given a private room to rest and heal right after giving birth. Or you may be assigned a room  with one or two other new mothers. 

Due to the ongoing pandemic, it would be smart to call the hospital you are planning on giving birth in to find out what their limitations are about having family in the birthing room. And information about visiting regulations afterwards. 

All newborn babies are examined by a doctor. Before you leave the hospital, your baby will be screened for hearing defects, and a number of other diseases. As a new mother, you will also be given a physical exam and plenty of time to talk with a nurse or doctor about any concerns you may have. 

Your newborn will be screened for any potential health problems. Photo by Vidal Balielo Jr. from Pexels.

The time you spend in the hospital is guaranteed to feel like a foggy dream. Which is understandable as there is a lot of emotion, adrenaline, and new impressions being made during this time. If you have any questions about your stay in the hospital, you are encouraged before you leave the hospital to make contact with your midwife and the doctor who was present during the time of birth. You can also look at a digitally medical review of your stay through your patient journal

Registering the birth

When a baby is born in Norway, the hospital reports the birth to the Norwegian Tax Administration. The Norwegian Tax Administration then assigns the baby a Norwegian identification number and sends a request to the mother to choose a name for the child. 

After the child’s name has been registered, the mother and father/partner will receive the confirmation in their Altinn inbox (a digital mailbox for government and business related forms). 

If you and the father/partner of the newborn are not Norwegian citizens, you must apply for a residence permit for your baby as soon as possible.

Helpful information worth knowing about giving birth in Norway

  • When you are far along enough in your pregnancy to start going to regular check-ups, you can choose if you would like to see your regular GP or a midwife for these appointments.
  • Most women in Norway choose to give birth in a hospital. You can choose to do a homebirth if you are more comfortable. Be sure to schedule it with your midwife first.
  • The mother can choose which hospital you would like to give birth in. In fact, it is one of the questions your GP will ask you when you go to your first pregnancy related appointment. Your GP will fill out the hospital choice request for you and send it to the necessary people. You will then receive either an acceptance in the mail or a call from your GP letting you know that your first choice isn’t available.
  • After giving birth, a home nurse who works with the child health care clinic will be assigned to make a home visit. This is so that new moms don’t have to travel to see a medical professional. The home nurse brings a scale so that they can weigh the baby. In addition, they will also bring additional informational pamphlets for the family and answer any follow-up questions you have about postpartum healing and breastfeeding.
  • In Norway, pregnancy leave starts three weeks before your expected due date. If you give birth before or after the expected date, your leave will be automatically adjusted by NAV and you will receive notice via mail. 

Maternity/Paternity leave 

You are entitled to maternity benefits if you have been in paid employment in Norway outside your home for at least six of the last ten months before you give birth. 

If you are entitled to maternity leave, you can choose between 15 weeks at a benefit rate of 100 per cent parental benefit. Or 19 weeks at a benefit rate of 80 per cent parental benefit.

If you and your partner both qualify for parental leave, you are allowed to split up a joint period of 16 weeks at a benefit rate of 100 per cent parental benefit. Or 18 weeks at a benefit rate of 80 per cent parental benefit as you see fit. Note that these weeks do not include the three additional paid weeks the mother gets to take before the baby’s arrival.  

Make sure you know your parental rights so you can make the most of parental leave. Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

You must take your parental leave before your child turns three or before you have another child. There is a lot of flexibility given between the mother and father/partner on when and how they can divide up their leave. Though it is a requirement that the mother takes the first 6 weeks of leave after the baby is born.

Norway’s focus on family life and a secure society for children is reflected in many of their laws and benefits. This includes a very generous maternity and paternity leave. For a full overview over how much you as the mother and father/partner are entitled to, look here

Pregnancy related vocabulary 

gravid – pregnant 

termin due date

blodtrykk – blood pressure 

Jordmor – midwife 

livmoruterus 

vekt weight

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