30 Issues | If You Were Having a Baby in Norway... | KUOW News and Information

30 Issues | If You Were Having a Baby in Norway...

Apr 26, 2016
Originally published on June 7, 2016 11:02 am

"Congratulations, you're about to have a jentebaby or a guttebarn!"

That's what they'd say to you in Norway if you were expecting to bring a baby girl or a baby boy into the world.

They'd also tell you to put your wallet away. Prenatal care in Norway is completely covered under the publicy-financed national healthcare system. That means expectant mothers pay exactly $0.00 in out-of-pocket fees for medical appointments during and after their pregnancies.

In fact, not only are Norwegian citizens not expected to pay anything for birth-related costs, the government literally pays you to have children.

If the mother is employed for at least 6 months before the baby is born, she's entitled to 42 weeks off at full pay and a lump sum of about $5,000 for the baby (mazel!). From then on, you'll receive a small monthly deposit from the government into your bank account until your child turns 18.

So if any American parents reading this can recall the distinct mix of joy and horror when you first held your little newborn in one arm and your 10-page, itemized hospital bill in the other…the Norwegian way sounds pretty good, right?

And for comparison, here's what it's like to have a baby in a few other countries...


Childbirth-related costs can vary so greatly in America, depending on insurance plans and even hospitals.

The average cost of delivery and newborn care hovers around $30,000 for natural birth and $50,000 for a Caesarean section; and while insurers pay the bulk of that, women are left paying $3,400 out-of-pocket, on average.


There are two types of health insurance available in Japan: either Employee Health Insurance (provided through your employer) or the National Health Insurance. Both cover 70% of the costs of medical bills, with premiums depending on your income.

The total cost of childbirth can be anywhere from $3500 to $5500, depending on which area of Japan, but most of those costs are reimbursed by National Health Insurance (NHI).

But take note: the use of pain relief, especially epidurals, is very uncommon in Japan and isn't covered by the NHI.

A fun fact from Japan: the Ministry of Health provides expectant mothers with a Maternity Mark key ring (see the design below), which is meant to be displayed in public to signal to strangers that they should show the mother special care and consideration.


France has a mixture of public and private health insurance, and everyone is covered to a certain extent through the government.

The minute a French woman knows she is pregnant, she should declare her pregnancy with a doctor and book a bed in a public maternity ward. One of the downsides to government-run healthcare means overcrowding, but if you manage to book a public ward your birth costs are completely free.

If she misses her chance at snagging a public bed, she'll need to go to a private clinic at a cost, which the government will reimburse at about a 70% rate.

The French government covers a pregnant woman's full medical costs, starting from six months of pregnancy until 11 days after her child's birth.

We'll continue to examine other healthcare scenarios all week, as part of our "30 Issues in 30 Weeks" elections series. And if you like knowing tidbits like these, sign up for our newsletter! It'll be a once-a-week digest of what we learned while preparing our series segments, Brian's insights, and fun facts that didn't make it to the air.

30 Issues | If You Were Having a Baby in Norway... This post first appeared on The Brian Lehrer Show

Copyright 2016 WNYC Radio. To see more, visit WNYC Radio.