How it works: Packages must be requested at least two months prior to the due date, and the mother-to-be needs to have visited a doctor or prenatal clinic by the beginning of her third trimester to qualify. “It’s part of the tradition, and you’re a little bit prepared mentally for the newcomer,”says Oskari Heikenheimo, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Helsinki.
What you can do: Go to kela.fi/web/en/ maternitypackage, and add the Finnish must-haves to your registry. Or buy your own box at finnishbabybox.com or finnbin.com. For a wallet-friendly option, request hand-me-downs from friends and family, or hit up thrift stores or yard sales.
France: Perineal re-education
What it is: Women in France are treated to state-sponsored physical therapy sessions to strengthen the perineal, or pelvic floor muscles, after delivery. “It’s very important for women presenting with urinary or fecal incontinence or sexual dysfunction,” says Xavier Deffieux, an OB/GYN at Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris in France and co-author of several studies on pelvic floor rehabilitation.
How it works: Exercises are performed under the guidance of a midwife or physiotherapist to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which stretch and weaken during pregnancy and labor. “They have you squeeze [until] you reach a certain level, or they’ll have you squeeze in a pattern, and measure the force both manually and electronically,” says Seattle resident Claire Lundberg, whose children were both born in France.
What you can do: Check with area hospitals and midwifery clinics to see if they offer postnatal pelvic floor muscle training or perineal re-education. You can also ask your OB/GYN for exercises to do at home.