As if having your first child isn’t nerve-wrecking enough, giving birth in a foreign land without sufficient knowledge of the local language can only add on to the stress. Occasionally I receive a couple of emails from readers in Singapore who chance upon this blog asking me about what it’s like to have a baby in Germany. I thought it would be thus useful to summarise the main things we should know about giving birth here. Of course, if you have any more questions, do contact me and I’ll try my best to answer.
1. Gynaecologists don’t deliver babies
Once you see that positive sign on the stick, make an appointment with your gynaecologist. If you live in the city (I live in Frankfurt, thank goodness!), there are many who speak English. I know many people who are conversational in German but when it comes to medical issues, they’d still prefer to speak their native language.
Unlike in Singapore, your gynaecologist (Frauenartz) in Germany won’t be the one delivering your baby. He/she is responsible for the routine checks throughout your pregnancy, but no way is he/she be the one encouraging you to push when the time comes. Once labour starts, the OB/GYN and midwives at the hospital take over.
Usually, midwives (Hebamme)are the ones who deliver babies in hospitals. You can choose your midwife if you’d like to and she’ll work with you during your pregnancy till childbirth. When choosing a hospital, make sure your midwife is authorised to work there if you’d like her to be the one delivering the baby.
2. The Mutterpass is your best friend
You’ll be given a pregnancy health booklet at your gynaecologist clinic. It’s a book that has all the details of each tests and check up. Bring it everywhere you go! It was very helpful as I had to see my own gynaecologist and the ones at the hospital too.
It kind of ensures that everyone is on the same page regarding your wellbeing and the baby’s.
3. Book an after-birth midwife ASAP
This midwife is responsible for visiting you and your baby at your home for the first 8 weeks. German Health Insurance covers this service which I think I couldn’t have done without. I can’t praise this system enough – I had so much support from my midwife, and I needed it. You could ask for recommendations online (Facebook or Google) as to which midwives to choose. If you’re breastfeeding, you can have access to your midwife for the first year as long as you have a doctor’s note. From my experience, it’s not difficult at all to get either your gynaecologist or padeatrician to prescribe you more midwife visits.
Those who have summer babies tend to be a little more stressed out over unavailability of midwives. Many of us love going on summer vacations, so do midwives. I booked mine when I was 20 weeks pregnant. I thought I was early, but apparently not.
4. Al Natura
As much as possible, the Germans love to go all natural. Unless necessary, there’s a lot of encouragement to have a natural birth. Not to scare anyone, but so many other mums have mentioned how slow/reluctant midwives are to give an epidural.
When I visited the hospital (in case I needed an epidural), I freaked out. For legal reasons, the anaesthetist had to explain to me everything that could go wrong if I had an epidural before I signed the papers. What would they do if I refused to sign?!?! It gave me nightmares!
So yes, you’ll be given lots of herbal tea to help with milk production and perhaps be recommended to even try hypnobirthing! I’ve had quark and cheese slapped on my boobs to help with engorgement!
5. Hospital Stay
Unlike hospitals in Singapore, do NOT expect 5 Stars hotel service in hospitals here. You don’t actually fork out a single cent here for the birth, so just make do with it. Depending on where you go, the service and experience will vary. I had Theo at Uniklinik in Frankfurt and was pleased with the ward I stayed at. They tend to not have more than 2 women in a room, unless it’s a busy period then they might have 3 in a room.
For natural births, you can expect to stay for 3 days and 5 days for C-section deliveries. It’s of course more comfortable at home, but staying put in the hospital means the doctors can conduct the U1 and U2 health checks on your baby. You don’t have to then rush to book a paediatrician to get U2 done when you’re still feeling sore and exhausted.
Before you leave the hospital, make sure you’re given the baby’s health booklet – Kinder-Untersuchungsheft.