Finland's healthcare system has helped give it the lowest maternal death rate in the world -- and it's available to everyone for next to nothing.
Dr. Aydin Tekay is the chief physician at a labor ward in Finland where every mother there gets a private room and even the option of a water birth. The cost? Less than $100 euros, and almost 50 percent of which they'll get back as reimbursement. That means it costs less than $60 to have a baby, compared with the U.S. where the average natural birth costs over $12,000 and insurance doesn't cover all of it. Tekay said there's no reason the U.S. can't replicate what Finland is doing. He blames U.S. politics.
The maternal death rate in the U.S. has nearly doubled over the last three decades; in Finland they've cut it in half.
At a play group in Helsinki, we met Laura Smith from Detroit who's living there with her Finnish husband and their 10-month-old baby Ella. Maternal death rates are even higher for African American women, one of the reasons Laura chose to have Ella in Finland instead of back home.
"My concerns mattered, my voice mattered. They saw me, they took care of me no matter what I look like and that's something I couldn't be certain about in the States," Smith said.
Mother and baby are also entitled to free check-ups and when Ella goes to day care, that'll cost less than $100 per week. It's all paid for with tax dollars. The wealthy hand over much more in Finland than the U.S. Annika Saarikko, the minister for family affairs in Finland, said the Finn's don't mind the high taxes, they're used to the system.
That system began in the 1930s when Finland started handing out free baby boxes to new families, filled with basic necessities. The government is still giving out those boxes, which double as a makeshift crib.
Finland also wants parents to spend time with their babies. Mothers are guaranteed around four months paid maternity leave by law and parents can then split another six months paid parental leave – though not at the same time.
Nobody we spoke to in Finland bragged about their success. They're all trying to improve things even more, like making childbirth even safer, and encouraging fathers to take longer paternity leave.
Finland's minister for family affairs is also trying to figure out how to encourage more Finns to have babies because despite all the benefits, the birth rate in Finland is declining.