Eating pigeon to get pregnant in Sweden

While fertility treatment in Sweden did eventually help her get pregnant, Stockholm-based Australian writer Louise Ling explains that her journey to motherhood wasn't without a few unexpected bumps – and birds – along the way.

Eating pigeon to get pregnant in Sweden

I’d always thought when our baby would be conceived, I would at least be in the room. My husband also, perhaps.

A bottle of red and a bed was all I thought we would need. I’d also always thought that the use of stirrups would come later at the delivery and not at the conception but alas, how wrong I was.

Instead, my child’s beginnings were marked, not with candle light and mood music, but by men in white coats, local anaesthetic, test tubes and everyone speaking in a language that contains 3 extra vowels.

Talk about romance.

With no medical explanation, who would’ve guessed it would take us four years of invasive fertility treatments and a whole team of world-class experts before I would get pregnant.

Or that I would have to eat pigeon.

Oh Mother Nature, you are just like my real mother, always full of surprises.

So after many years of so many tears, we decided to pull out the old sperm shaped balloons again and to soldier on.

We would try another round of IVF.

By this stage, you want your fertility specialist to tell you that they are willing to put back many, many embryos to improve your chances, but that is not the case in Sweden.

Using some good old-fashioned Nordic rationalism, our fertility doctor calmly told us about the dangers of multiple births to both mother and baby and the heightened risks of preeclampsia and birth defects.

Blah blah blah…I wasn’t listening.

You see, after so many failed attempts and with adoption waiting lists in Sweden lasting up to five years, becoming the octomum didn’t seem like such a bad idea.

But the fertility doc thought it was.

“And anyway,” he continued, “with someone as young as you, we would never put back more than one embryo”.

Well now he was just flirting with me.

But then he gave me the good news, Sweden is leading the way and winning gold in the Fertility Treatment Olympics.

The country’s statistics and methods are considered to be some of the best in the world, he crowed.

Well big whoop.

I’d had enough of this and just wanted to go home. Literally, not just a short train ride but a 24 hour plane ride back to the land Down Under.

Instead of being impressed, I just found myself saying things like, “Well in Australia, they do IVF like this…” to which he would reply, “Well in Sweden, we do IVF like this…”


To up our chances with our just one embryo, we decided that I should also do acupuncture with a Chinese fertility specialist. (And when I say we, I mean me.)

At this point my husband was just along for the ride and would agree to anything to keep me calm and give me hope.

Timing is everything and the fertility specialist requested that I attend every day, for two to three hours, starting from the seven days prior to my egg collection.

Well at least I think that is what she requested.

See, she spoke Chinese-Swedish and I spoke Australian-Swedish and never the two shall meet.

Hand gestures were common, as were handwritten stick figures – most of our conversations ended up looking like the final round in a lively game of charades.

Over the course of several days, my crazy Swedish life became a hell of a lot crazier as I embarked on this last ditch effort to get pregnant.

Apart from taking IVF drugs and attending daily acupuncture sessions, I was told to lie in the bathtub, rub fresh ginger on my stomach, and burn an evil cigar-like substance on my belly for 20 minutes every night.

So I did.

I was also told to drink a horrid concoction that tasted like stale bone marrow every night before heading to bed.

So I did.

And if that weren’t enough, I was told that I had to eat pigeon (that’s right, pigeon), once a week for the coming month.

I cried. Did I hear her right? Did she really expect me to eat pigeon? Or had my Swedish comprehension simply hit rock bottom?

She drew a picture.

I drew one back, and sure enough, this so-called fertility whiz wanted me to eat one.

“Remember, it’s a French delicacy,” commented my husband later that night.

Sure, I thought, noting that he wasn’t the one who was going to eat the feathered little thing.

I mean, most people just shag to get pregnant and we would have preferred it that way – but you can’t always get what you want, right?

But, lo and behold – after Sweden’s famed IVF methods, some needles, and a few bites of scrumptious pigeon – we are now the proud parents of a precious baby girl.

Finally, we can take full advantage of Sweden’s generous paternity schemes and state-subsidized day care, just like everyone else who got pregnant the old-fashioned way.

Sweden, I’m forever yours.

Louise Ling is an Australian writer living in Sweden. Follow her adventures at

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Spain restores free IVF to singles, lesbians and now trans people

The Spanish government on Wednesday confirmed it will restore state-funded fertility treatment to singles, bisexual women and lesbians, also extending it to transgender persons capable of conceiving who can access IVF on the national health system.

Fertility treatment is now free for the majority of people in Spain. Photo: GENYA SAVILOV / AFP
Fertility treatment is now free for the majority of people in Spain. Photo: GENYA SAVILOV / AFP

The measure had long been demanded by LGBT rights groups and is part of the Socialist-led government’s drive for equality.

Fertility treatment is free in Spain, but in 2014, the conservative Popular Party government that was in power at the time, limited it to heterosexual women who have a partner, forcing others to pay for private treatment.

Since then, in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment has only been free for those with fertility problems resulting from a medical condition, or to prevent the transmission of a serious disease or disorder.

It was not available to those who were unable to conceive without having fertility problems, such as single women or lesbians.

“The government has restored the right of single women, lesbians and bisexuals to access assisted reproduction techniques within the national health system and has extended it to transgender people with gestational capacity,” a ministry statement said.

Under the new ministerial order, which came into effect on Wednesday, the service will affect some 8,500 women, according to the health ministry.

“This is a milestone,” said Health Minister Carolina Darias on signing the order, indicating it would have “an important impact on these groups, guaranteeing access to assisted reproduction techniques under equal conditions”.

“Spain is a world leader in public health and in rights for women and the LGBTI community,” she added.

Despite the conservative government’s move to limit the service seven years ago, many of Spain’s 17 regions, which are responsible for their own healthcare policy, refused to enforce it.

Spain’s current government, which describes itself as feminist, has a record number of women serving in the cabinet.