“And since this is a culture where people don’t like to make a fuss, it keeps costs down,” she adds.
Midwives also take care of the delivery, although that is with an entirely different team from the one that has followed the mother throughout her pregnancy.
A doctor will only intervene if there are complications during the delivery, or if the woman in labor asks for an epidural, which is the case in about half of all deliveries.
Entrusting pregnancy and delivery care to midwives to such an extent is unique in the world.
Midwives in Sweden have been in charge of pregnancy care since the 18th century.
While the rise of the modern medical profession meant midwives in much of Europe were forced to yield at least part of their responsibilities to doctors, Sweden’s midwives held on to their traditional role thanks to doctors’ consent and, in recent times, a strong union.
The system has never been called into question, owing primarily to its strong track record.
The number of Caesarian sections is relatively low in Sweden, at around 17 percent of births in 2011, and only 10 percent of women undergo episiotomy, an incision to widen the opening for delivery.
“It’s an efficient system in terms of cost management,” says University of Gothenburg professor Berg.
In countries where doctors care for pregnant women, she says, the number of “tests and ultrasounds often multiply, which opens the way to easy money.”