My aim for the 'Pregnant in Berlin' section of this site is to try and make some aspects of being pregnant and having a baby in Germany a little less overwhelming. With this in mind, I thought I'd write an overall information post full of tips on how it works having a baby in Germany and more specifically, Berlin.
DISCLOSURE: As is the case with a number of posts on this blog, I can only give a rough guide to having a baby in Berlin. Your own experiences may differ from what is written here, as a lot is dependent on your own pregnancy and the type of people you deal with throughout it. I have based this post on my own experiences from having a baby in Berlin. Any mentions of health insurance are related to the public health insurance system, if you are receiving private health insurance, please consult directly with your insurer to find out what is covered.
Confirmation of Pregnancy
I'll start from the very beginning. Should you suspect you are pregnant, you can buy a pregnancy test (Schwangerschaftstest) from either your local Apotheke or drug store such as Rossmann or DM.
Once you are sure you are pregnant, you can make an appointment with your gynaecologist / OB/GYN (Frauenarzt). Here's a list of recommended English speaking gynaecologists/ OB/GYN's in Berlin. If you don't already have a gynecologist, start the process of finding one you like. I would recommend finding one that is located not too far from you, or at least, one you can get to easily (you will be visiting them regularly throughout your pregnancy).
The first appointment you will have with your gynecologist will be a 'confirmation of pregnancy'. You will likely receive a few pamphlets with general pregnancy information and about some of the tests that can be carried out in pregnancy (not covered by the health insurance) such as the Nuchal Fold Test (Nackenfaltenmessung), an assessment of risk of Downs Syndrome. You will also likely be asked to fill out a questionaire asking about your health history such as any previous operations, allergies etc. If you have your 'confirmation of pregnancy' appointment before you reach the 9 weeks point, you may be expected to pay for your ultrasound if you want one at this point (I paid just under €30 for my ultrasound), of, it you wait until after the 9 week stage, it will be covered by your health insurance as your scan for the first trimester (this is for public health insurance, if you are on private insurance, please consult directly with your insurer regarding your coverage).
For non-risk pregnancies in Germany, you will typically receive 3 standard Ultrasounds (Ultraschall):
- Scan 1: between 9 - 12 weeks
- Scan 2: between 19 - 22 weeks
- Scan 3: between 29 - 32 weeks
Plus, a number of people receive a full Anatomy Ultrasound (Feindiagnostik) around the 20th week, paid for by their health insurance (please contact your insurer to find out if you are covered for this.)
You will see your gynaecologist / OBGYN a lot through your pregnancy, with likely checks every 4 weeks from the confirmation of pregnancy appointment up until week 32, when check-ups will likely take place every two weeks.
Finding a Midwife
It is a good idea, considering the relative difficulty in Berlin at the moment, to go about finding a midwife (Hebamme) as soon as you know you're pregnant. In Germany, midwives play an important role in the later stages of your pre-natal and post-natal care, and if you choose a Beleghebamme, or 'Attending Midwife', they will also be present at your birth. I have lots of information on the types of midwives available in Germany as well as how to find a midwife in Berlin on my post here. For those who are struggling to find a midwife, I would recommend joining the Facebook group 'Hebammenvermittlung Berlin', a group filled with Berlin based midwives and stating your need in there. Often at least one, if not more, of the midwives have availability last minute. There is also the Hebammenliste, which when opened in Chrome, will handily translate.
Alternatively, if you are struggling to find an English speaking midwife, you may want to consider a Doula. Here's a list of English (and other language) speaking Doula in Berlin.
Pregnancy Rights in the German Workforce
If you have recently discovered you are pregnant and are unsure how and when to tell your employer. I have a post that details your rights as a an employee in a German firm here. Please note that if you are working on a non-German contract, you will have to consult the maternity laws of the Country from which your contract originates.
Somewhere around the 10 - 12 weeks stage in your pregnancy, you will likely receive your Mutterpass. The Mutterpass is a very important booklet that you will use often throughout your pregnancy. Information taken from medical examinations during the pregnancy will be noted in this pass, as well as important details from the birth of your baby. Your Mutterpass will be requested throughout your pregnancy for visits to the
- gynaecologist / OBGYN
- hospital / Geburtshaus (and also at the labour)
You can find a translation of the Mutterpass and more information about it on my Mutterpass post here.
Choosing Where to Give Birth
One of the main issues affecting expats currently is the increasing number of people registering at more than one hospital. Scaremongering tales of women in labour being refused entrance because their hospital is full are not helping matters. If, in the unlikely event the hospital you have registered at is full, there is a possibility you will have to find another. However, registering at two or more hospitals 'just in case' is creating more problems and compounds the issue. So please do only register once.
There are a selection of options available to you for giving birth in Berlin. You can give birth in the hospital (Krankenhausgeburt), in a 'Birthing House' (Geburtshausgeburt) or at home (Hausgeburt). It is useful to think through which option best fits you and your wishes before selecting a midwife, as there are midwives that deal specifically with home births for example and birthing houses are run by their own set of midwives. This doesn't mean that you need to choose which specific hospital or which birthing house etc you wish to give birth in straight away, just be aware of the options.
You will receive regular pre-natal check-ups during your pregnancy. These will initially take place at your gynaecologists / OB/GYN. Later in the pregnancy, you can talk with your doctor about your midwife taking over some of the appointments if that's preferable for you. You are expected to bring your Mutterpass to all of these check-ups (see the details about what this is above in the post) and it is common for you to receive blood and urine tests for a large portion of the check-ups. At some point in your pregnancy, you will likely be handed a list by your doctor asking if you would like additional tests that aren't covered by your health insurance. I recommend asking for the list to take away with you so that you can research what they are called in your own language and what is involved so that you can make an informed decision without the pressure of doing so in the doctors waiting room.
Towards the end of your pregnancy, you will likely receive regular CTG scans. These can involve long appointment times, so make sure to bring a book and wear something comfortable.
Health During Your Pregnancy
German public health insurance comes with a number of bonuses for pregnant women (if you are on private health insurance, please consult directly with your insurer to check what you qualify for.) There are a number of fitness classes throughout Berlin that are paid partially (often up to 80%) by your health insurance. You can read more about these here. If you are having bad pains and discomfort during your pregnancy, it is worth speaking with your Frauenarzt or midwife to see if they will officially sign that you need some form of physical therapy to help (this will then often be covered by your health insurance). Some examples of therapy often covered for those in need includes: acupuncture, Bowtech, Massage. There are also a number of places offering English maternity yoga / Pilates in Berlin.
Meeting Other Expectant Parents in Berlin
Not everyone knows other parents or parents-to-be when they are pregnant and it can be incredibly helpful to meet others going through similar experiences to yourself. There are lots of opportunities to connect with and meet other expectant parents and parents in the city. I've written a list of how and where here.
German Maternity Leave (Mutterschutz) begins six weeks before your expected due date and ends eight weeks after childbirth. If you qualify for Mutterschutz, you should receive full-paid maternity leave. You can read more about the rights of pregnant women and mothers in Germany here.
Birth Preparation Classes
If you would like to take an antenatal / birth preparation class, there are a selection on offer in English here in Berlin. These classes are sometimes paid for partially by German health insurance (partner's usually have to pay full price) and you can find more details of the English antenatal / birth preparation classes in Berlin here. Doulas also offer private birth classes.
Nearing the third quarter of your pregnancy (or earlier if you are super organised), I highly recommend you start to get to grips with the paperwork that is involved with having a baby in Germany. Many new parents in Germany qualify for monies from the government such as Elterngeld and Kindergeld and you will need to fill in paperwork to receive this. Getting such paperwork done before your baby is born is highly recommended to avoid dealing with it through blurry eyes, with a baby in your arms. I have a checklist of the paperwork you should look in to when having a baby in Berlin here. It is also worth studying up on how to register your baby's birth and applying for their birth certificate. You can find this information here.
Preparing for Baby
Despite what all the advertising tells us, babies don't actually need very much in their first months of life. It is worth knowing where you can buy your baby supplies from in the city. Basics such as nappies, wipes, creams, first feeding items etc can be bought from stores such as DM and Rossmann, Clothing can be bought both new and secondhand. Check out my list of secondhand kids shops.
Packing Your Hospital / Birthing House Bag
If you are giving birth in a hospital or birthing house, it is useful to pack a bag ahead of your dute date with all the useful items you will need for you, the baby and all the paperwork needed for the bureaucratic side. I've compiled a list of what is useful to pack in your hospital / birthing house bag in Germany here.
Getting to the Hospital / Birthing House
Many people living in Berlin don't own a car but don't panic, this doesn't mean you can't easily get to your hospital or birthing house when in labour. I travelled by taxi to the hospital whilst in labour with both my sons using the taxi number 030 20 20 20. The taxis turned up within minutes and neither drivers had an issue with me being in labour, in fact, they were both quite useful during my labour, keeping me distracted through the contractions with their chatter. There is often talk about drivers refusing to take a woman in labour, but this is very rare and I haven't yet met anyone who has experienced this themselves.
Going 'Overdue' in Berlin
What happens when an expectant mother becomes 'overdue' of course varies depending on the specifics of their case, the doctor /midwife they are seeing etc, so I am going to explain my experiences with going overdue (which I did twice.) Please speak to your doctor / midwife about how this would work in your case.
From your due date onwards, it is common for you to experience very regular check ups either with your gynaecologist / OB/GYN or midwife. These can vary from every couple of days, once a week or daily depending on the person you are dealing with or the situation (the level of amniotic fluid for example) of you and your baby. In my case, my midwife and I discussed that I would go up to 10 days overdue (all being well with baby) before we would consider any sort of medical help in inducing labour. I never got to that point but was explained that the options I would be offered should that happen, included a sweep and then induction (which is often done in tablet or drip form).
If you are nearing the end of your pregnancy, here are a few useful posts that you may want to read:
- Registering Your Baby's Birth & Applying for a Birth Certificate in Berlin
- The U Screenings Explained: Baby & Child Developmental Checkups
- List of English Speaking Paediatricians in Berlin
- Getting Fit Post-Baby: Rückbildungsgymnastik (covered by health insurance)
- Kindergeld: What is it and how do I apply for it?
- Elterngeld: The Basics of Elterngeld Explained
- The Zoo Babycard
So, there you go, my detailed list of what is involved in pregnancy and having a baby in Berlin. It has been quite a while since I was last pregnant and gave birth here, so if I have missed an important aspect out that you think should be covered, please let me know. I'm afraid I can't give guidance on all individual cases, but I hope this helps ease the load a little.