In speaking with my Expat friend here, it became apparent that there are many questions about giving birth in Germany.
As such, here are my top 10 things to know about giving birth in Germany.
Top 5 things that Sucked:
1) Maternity Clothes – They are already expensive in the US, but even more expensive here. Plus, the sizes are meant for little pregnant women.
2) Doctor’s appointments – The language barrier was difficult. I didn’t know terms in English let alone trying to learn them in German. My poor husband had to attend most of my appointments and then once the doctor heard him speaking German, the whole “The Doctor knows English” was thrown out the window and everything continued in German.
3) Doctors, Doctors, and a Hebamme – Unless you find a doctor at a hospital who will also be your regular Gynecologist, you will most probably have a doctor for all of your checkups, a doctor who delivers your baby and whom you will have never met before (and I have yet to see again, nor would I know who that doctor was or even looked like) and then a Hebamme who comes to your house, but we’ll get to Hebammes below. (Oh, and when you go to your Gyno appointment, don’t be bashful. You undress in front of the doctor as the infamous stirrup chair awaits; there isn’t a bed/table, but at least you don’t have to lie around half-naked and cold while waiting for the doctor. This is actually a bonus in my book.)
4) Hospital Stay – Some may like the fact that you are required to stay longer in the hospital in Germany, but I was not a fan and wanted to go home as soon as possible.
5) Accommodations for the Husband – It may have just been the hospital I was at, or the fact that I had standard insurance, but Kay had no place to sleep/lay down during my entire 20-something hours of labor. And no place for men after the baby is born. I was sharing a room with another woman and her baby. I was lucky that only two of three beds were full in my maternity room. I know it sounds ridiculous to complain for my husband while I was the one giving birth, but I was in complete need of his support and needed him well rested too. Especially since he is also my personal translator and I could have used him during my actual hospital stay. (Apparently private insurance provides a completely different experience and if you can afford an upgrade prior to trying to get pregnant, I recommend doing so.)
Top 5 things that Rocked:
1.) Pee-Pee Boxes – In many places, you are required to pay to use the restroom in Germany; when you are pregnant, you don’t have to pay to use the restroom anywhere. Not only that, but when I was at a museum with a long line, the bathroom attendant pulled me aside and found an empty stall for me, bypassing others who were patiently waiting. Now that’s service.
2.) Toilet shapes – I haven’t posted my official article on toilets in Germany because I think when Kay initially read it he was not only completely shocked and grossed out, but was afraid some of the ads on our blog would no longer allow us to post them on the site. So, I will just say that because of the different shaped toilets in Germany, although I typically hate them, when giving a urine sample at the doctor’s office, the toilets are the most convenient shape to hold a cup while trying to pee. Especially when you are so big you can’t really see your hoochy-coochy any more.
3.) Insurance and Prices – Having not spent several years paying an insurance company in Germany, I was probably their worst nightmare when I moved here and instantaneously became pregnant. I paid 10€ per quarter to go to the Doctor as many times as needed and then 10€ per day to stay in the hospital. Although not called “socialized medicine” anyone who is bashing the idea of such has never lived in Europe. I will stipulate that the equipment may not be as new as things I’ve seen in the US, but it was completely adequate, served its purpose, and I’d take the setup here over going broke to have a baby in the US any day. I don’t know if it was just my doctor being nice or what, but I had plenty of ultrasounds; almost every appointment at the beginning of my pregnancy.
4.) Diapers, Formula, and Nuk Products – They are actually the few things that are cheaper in Germany than in the US. Nuk is a German brand, so maybe that’s also why.
5.) Hebamme – This was my absolute favorite part about being pregnant in Germany. The closest English word for Hebamme is “Midwife” although not the same concept as Midwives in the US. The insurance company is required to provide a Hebamme should you choose to accept. The Hebamme comes prior to the birth to answer questions and you can take classes through the Hebamme. Some will even be acupuncture certified… and they come to your house. After the baby is born, the Hebamme makes sure that mother and baby are both healthy; she took care of Fynn’s belly-button, helped with the first bath, and then checked on my stitches and helped me get through breastfeeding. You can also take “sports” classes for rehabilitation after giving birth. Again, the Hebamme came to my house. I like to think of her more as a “life coach.” And, I was lucky to find one in Krefeld who not only spoke fluent English, but liked speaking English. (If you are looking for an English speaking Hebamme in Krefeld, let me know.)
I can only compare having a baby in Germany to giving birth in the US based on stories from my US friends, well except for being present during the labor and birth of one of my dear friends in Washington who was kind enough to invite an audience. (And it was awesome! Especially since I wasn’t the one in the hot-seat.)
I will say, that it seems doctors in Germany are also less reluctant to hand out medication and pain relievers than in the US. And although I didn’t understand all of the terminology and answers to my questions throughout my pregnancy, not once did I question whether or not I was in good hands.
Most of the time I had to be completely reliant and trusting of my husband to be able to not only make well-informed decisions together, but also translate everything even though he didn’t always want to (yes, he can be lazy like that, but I do understand it can be tedious and straining).
Which is also why I like to say, “It must be true… because my husband says so.” It’s kind of a coping mechanism because if I questioned his every translation, I think we probably would end up severally injuring each other. If it came down to a physical battle though, I would surely win. Hey, I have four brothers.