First Child Of the Year Born In an Ambulance


The first child born in Iceland in 2022 was a healthy baby girl born en route from Siglufjörður to Akureyri, RÚV reports. Her parents were attending her grandfather’s seventieth birthday party when she decided it was time to be born, two weeks before she was due.

The parents of 2022’s first child, Elfa Sif Kristjánsdóttir and Ásgeir Frímannsson live in Ólafsfjörður in North Iceland but were in the nearby town of Siglufjörður attending a birthday party when things started moving. The new mother told RÚV that her water broke around ten pm and it was only minutes before paramedics arrived. They picked up the midwife in Dalvík hoping to make it to the hospital in Akureyri, but it soon became clear that they needed to make a stop. The girl was born at 23 minutes past midnight in an ambulance parked at a side road. Mother and child are in good health.

More Icelanders Consider Home Births Due to Maternity Ward COVID-19 Restrictions

pregnant woman

Icelandic couples with a baby on the way are increasingly considering home births due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The National University Hospital of Iceland has imposed strict regulations that limit expectant fathers’ presence to just the birth itself – they may not attend check-ups with their partners nor stay while the mother recovers. Intended to limit the risk of COVID-19 infection within the maternity ward, these regulations may be what is motivating more couples to consider birthing at home.

Björkin, which provides services for home births, has published a notice on their website to inform potential customers that they are fully booked all spring. There are a few spots open on their waiting list for July, but otherwise, they are not taking new bookings until August.

Changing regulations cause anxiety

Midwife Anna Guðný Hallgrímsdóttir works at the National University Hospital’s maternity ward. She says patients have expressed concerns about the changes to regulation. “Our patients have found it very difficult to think about going through some part of the birthing process without their partner there to support them.” It’s not only having to go through the process alone that induces anxiety for soon-to-be mothers, rather also the uncertainty around the regulations themselves. “They find it very uncomfortable that the rules are often being changed from day to day.”

Rules at the hospital were, however, slightly relaxed this week – while partners were previously allowed in one or two hours before the birth itself, they can now be present for the entire time a woman is actively giving birth. Of course, if a woman’s partner presents symptoms or has been quarantined, they may not attend the birth. Expectant mothers are also directed to avoid visiting the hospital or health clinics if they have symptoms of COVID-19, and call their healthcare provider instead.

Midwives’ tasks change

Although she isn’t experiencing increased pressure on the job, Anna Guðný says the nature of her work has changed somewhat under the circumstances.

“Women now have to stay in their rooms, they can’t walk out to the kitchen to grab food, for example, so we need to bring them food and drinks. And their partners are not present so we often have to help them care for the child, change diapers and so on.” Some services have moved to the phone in order to minimise health care staff’s contact with others. “Women going to their first pregnancy check-up are sometimes attended to by phone, also some 16-week check-ups.”

No changes to services

Anna Guðný assures expectant parents, however, that the same services are still being provided to pregnant women and new mothers. “I think women should know that our services haven’t changed, and if anything, it’s calmer than usual. Because women who have given birth before and who are healthy are choosing to go home sooner and take advantage of home visit services from midwives rather than recover at the hospital which they would have otherwise done, because their partners can be with them at home.”

Mother Gives Birth In Ambulance En Route to Hospital

iceland ambulance

An expectant mother had an unexpectedly eventful ambulance ride to the hospital on Friday night, giving birth to her child on her way to the hospital, RÚV reports.

The ambulance was transporting the mother from the Suðurnes peninsula in Southwest Iceland to the National and University Hospital in Reykjavík. The mother went into labour on the way and gave birth to her child in the ambulance on Reykjanesbraut. A midwife was present during the birth and both mother and child are in good health.

Had to Pay for Pregnancy Out of Pocket

Friðjón (left), Aria, and Fernanda.

A young couple in Iceland had to pay for their pregnancy and the birth of their first child out of pocket because the mother is foreign, RÚV reports. Little Aria was born in Iceland one month ago to an Icelandic father, making her an Icelandic citizen. Because her mother is foreign and her residency paperwork is still being processed, however, the pair had to pay for all the medical costs associated with the pregnancy and birth out of pocket. If the child’s mother were Icelandic and the father foreign, public health insurance would have covered the costs.

Months to process paperwork

Friðjón, an Icelandic citizen, and Fernanda, from Mexico, got married last July and moved to Iceland in August. “We would have come earlier, if we hadn’t had to spend three months getting all the papers we needed for a residence permit and to get married,” says Friðjón. “That took three months in Mexico.”

It will take Fernanda eight months to obtain a residence permit and therefore the right to access public health insurance. That will happen in March, some four months after Aria’s birth. As a result, the couple has had to pay for all of their doctor’s visits and medical costs associated with the pregnancy out of pocket.

Risky pregnancy

Friðjón says he has stopped keeping track of the total amount the two have spent. “We’ve maybe spend around [ISK] 900,000 [$7,600/€6,700]. But this wasn’t a smooth pregnancy or birth, it was categorised as a risky pregnancy.” The birth itself cost almost ISK 700,000 ($5,900/€5,200), but the couple has also had to pay for all doctor’s visits and other medical services associated with the pregnancy. “We visited the emergency room twice, for example, and the first time it cost around 65,000 and the second time 100,000,” Friðjón stated. “This has a direct impact on my family’s quality of life.”

Friðjón says the couple avoided accessing healthcare several times because of the prohibitive cost. “It was really hard to make a decision about – should I go now and get an invoice that will come down on the family as a whole, or should we wait and see if this gets better?”

Gender gap in coverage

If Fernanda were an Icelandic citizen and Friðjón foreign, most of the couple’s medical costs would have been covered by public health insurance. Friðjón says this is a flaw in the system that ignores the rights of the father and child. “The child certainly has no rights until after birth,” Friðjón says, adding that he considers maternity service is not only service for the mother, but also the child. “For me, this is a basic human right. This has to be changed.”