Staff Shortages Impact Mothers’ Safety, Midwives Say

The vast majority of midwives in Iceland say mothers’ safety has been put at risk due to staff shortages. Almost one-third of midwives have considered leaving the profession altogether within the last two years. Too much strain, staff shortages, and dissatisfaction with how the shortening of the work week has impacted shift work are all named as key reasons.

The data is from a recent survey by BHM which was commissioned by Icelandic Association of Midwives last month. According to the survey, 85% of midwives say the safety of mothers has been put at risk at some point in the past six months due to staff shortages, and 48% of them say that such incidents happen more often than before.

More strain on shift workers

When asked to consider the last six months, 85% of midwives say they have encountered situations where staffing was not sufficient to ensure minimum safety requirements for patients. This percentage is lower among midwives who work daytime hours (72%) and higher among those who work shifts (93%). Notably, 39% of shift workers stated they have often encountered such situations within the past six months.

Dissatisfaction with impacts of “shortened” work week

Three-quarters of midwives stated that the level of strain they experience on the job is “high” or “very high,” and 70% say that strain has increased over time. These figures are higher among shift workers than daytime workers.

When asked how their working conditions had changed with the shortening of the working week, 54% of midwives working shifts in the public healthcare system believe that working conditions have worsened as a result, while only 30% believe that working conditions have improved. There is great satisfaction with the shortened work week among midwives in daytime work, while dissatisfaction among shift workers is mainly related to a system that financially incentivises them to take more evening and night shifts, as well as the negative effect on work flexibility.

Staff shortages and strain have been an issue across Iceland’s healthcare system for years, including among nurses and in emergency care.

Birnir Most Popular Baby Name in Iceland

baby swimming

Birnir was the most popular name given to newborns in Iceland in 2023. Emilía was the most popular name given to girls. The data on the most popular baby names of 2023 was published by Registers Iceland today.

Thirty newborns were given the name Birnir last year in Iceland, more individuals than any other name. Emil and Elmar were the next most popular boys’ names, followed by Jón and Óliver. Emilía was the most popular girl’s name given to newborns last year and sixth most popular name overall. Sara, Sóley, Embla, and Aþena (Athena) were the next most popular girls’ names given to babies last year.

Nameless newborns

Naming culture in Iceland differs from that of many other countries. Newborns are not typically named at birth, but at their baptism or a non-religious naming ceremony around two months later. It is quite common for Icelandic children to be named after their grandparents, although, as the data from Registers Iceland shows, naming trends do change over time.

All names given in Iceland must be pre-approved by the country’s Naming Committee. The committee maintains a register of approved Icelandic given names and governs the introduction of new names into Icelandic culture. Its existence has been a topic of debate in recent years, with former Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir proposing its abolishment.

Anna and Jón most common

But what are the most common names in Iceland overall? The two most popular names in the country are Anna (6,272 individuals) and Jón (5,599 individuals). They are followed by Guðrún (4,923), Sigurður (4,445), and Guðmundur (4,208), which round up the top five spots.

‘Mom Training’ Workout Groups in High Demand

A new exercise regimen and community is in high demand among new mothers in Reykjavík. Vísir reports that there has been a spike in the popularity of so-called mömmuþjálfun, or ‘Mom Training’ classes, in which new moms work out with each other and bring their kids along, too. Mom Training sessions focus on areas of the body that were directly impacted by childbirth and give new mothers a rejuvenating activity outside the house during their maternity leave.

Mom Training is the most popular offering at Afrek Functional Fitness, with three classes already sold out and a standing waitlist.

Screenshot, Stöð 2

“We just started with one class in January, but since then, in order to meet demand, we added classes in February and again in March,” said Hildur Karen Jóhannsdóttir, a trainer at Afrek who is also herself a new mother.

“It’s insanely fun,” said Andrea Björk Harðardóttir, a mom who takes part in the classes. “The exercises are varied and there’s something for everyone. Her fellow classmate Jónína Einarsdóttir agreed: “It’s necessary and so much fun. You get so much out of it.”

Screenshot, Stöð 2

Moms are able to ride exercise bikes, do step exercises, lift weights and more—and all while their babies watch from nearby carriers or loll about on the mats around them. A small playpen is also set up in one corner of the gym.

‘One of my goals is that they walk out sweaty’

Hildur Karen credits a recent boom in births with the course’s popularity, but not entirely. “I think women are looking for something more. One of my goals is that when they come in here, they walk out sweaty and having had a bit of an outlet.”

The participants enjoy opportunity to get out of the house during their maternity leave and to “get back into the shape you were in,” says Andrea Björk.

The fact that new moms can bring their children with them while they exercise is also key.

“I couldn’t come work out if I couldn’t bring her with me,” said Jónína, bouncing her new baby. “And she thinks it’s fun, too.”

A Splash of Happiness

baby swimming

Long before I got pregnant, I heard about parents in Iceland taking their newborns swimming from a colleague of mine who joined baby swimming classes with her infant. She shared her experiences online, and in one of her videos, her four-month- old son stood unaided in the hands of his swim teacher. I was intrigued; […]

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