Having a baby in Germany
If you're having a baby in Germany, here's a guide to German prenatal care, delivery, aftercare, and maternity leave in Germany.
If you're going to give birth in Germany, you will find the German health care is highly developed and offers a great deal in terms of both clinical care and organisation to ensure the best possible outcomes for parents and newborns.
Prenatal care in Germany
Your main point of contact during pregnancy is the community midwife, who coordinates arrangements on your behalf with a team of midwifes, GPs, obstetricians and other hospital staff. The midwife is the person who will arrange appointments and tests on your behalf.
Your community midwife will arrange an antenatal appointment for you to be seen by the hospital consultant. At this appointment you will be asked to complete the hospital registration process, which usually takes around 45 minutes. This is important as it will allow you to go straight to the maternity unit when the time comes for the birth of your baby.
Parents-to-be can visit the hospital as part of a scheduled tour of the maternity unit (Info-Abend). During this you will have the opportunity to visit the delivery suite and also meet with the hospital midwives and medical staff, giving you a chance to discuss any aspect of your care.
Health professionals who are providing care for you will record your progress on a maternity record (Mutterpass) and this will have details of each medical appointment. This is an important document and you must bring it with you to each appointment and to the delivery suite when you are giving birth. After the baby is born the midwife will store it for safekeeping.
If you have time it can help to phone ahead to the delivery suite (Kriessal). Although this is not required, it lets them know you are on your way. When you arrive you will be asked to give your maternity record to the hospital midwife, who will confirm your hospital registration. You will also have an opportunity to advise the medical staff of your birthing preferences, if these are not included in your maternity record, and these will be accommodated as much as possible.
Remember to bring the following with you to the hospital:
- Maternity record
- Child Health Record to record the baby’s measurements, examinations and test results
- Your birth certificate (advisable)
- Marriage certificate (advisable, if applicable).
National policy in German hospitals prohibits the use gas or air for pain relief but a range of alternatives are used instead, including epidurals, heat treatments, massage, acupuncture, as well as birthing pools and also TENs (transcutaneous electrical stimulation) in some hospitals.
Bringing a few personal items will help to make your stay more pleasant and comfortable. You will need to bring your own nightclothes, dressing gown, slippers and personal toiletries including towels. However the hospital will provide clothes for the baby. You may also wish to bring portable electronic devices, books or magazines to help you relax during your hospital stay.
Hospital staff in Germany are not allowed to give out details about your labour or the baby’s condition to any callers. Therefore your birth partner will need to inform people about your progress.
You should be aware that in Germany, hospitals will ask for the name of the newborn soon after the birth. This differs from some other countries where parents have time after the baby is born to think of a name.
German maternity wards generally have two to four beds and are equipped with washing facilities, telephone and television. Showers and bathrooms are located on the main ward.
You may find that nurses appear not to be checking on you regularly. However this is because rest is valued in German hospitals and nurses expect to be called by patients if help is required. Therefore feel free to use the bedside call system.
Once the baby is born nursery nurses support mothers with their newborn babies, including helping with feeding and general care.
German hospitals run a number of tests on newborns via the heel prick test to detect any deficiencies or abnormalities. In addition they will be given vitamin K to prevent a bleeding condition and possibly also vaccinations to protect against Hepatitis or TB.
Generally mothers stay in hospitals for up to five days after the birth. Before going home you must collect a notification of birth (Geburtsmeldung) so that you can register your baby, a legal requirement. You can collect this from the German Administration Office in the hospital.
Also make sure that the car you are leaving in has a suitable child seat. Similar to the UK it is a legal requirement in Germany for cars carrying children to have one.
Aftercare in Germany
Your community midwife will generally visit you at home the day after you have been discharged from hospital. This is in order to assess and provide care for both you and your baby at home. This will also check the hospital tests and help you with the general care of your baby. Thereafter you will be supported by a Health Visitor who can assist you with health and immunisation advice along with providing information on baby groups in your area.
Most children will have nine check-ups (Vorsorgeuntersuchungen) with a doctor, up until the age of five. After this there is another check-up when they are 12 or 13 years old. The appointments are usually referred to as U1, U2, U3 etc. and are recorded in a yellow booklet, similar to the Mutterpass.
You must register your baby within six weeks of the birth, something that can be done by either parent. You will need to send copies of the following documents:
- Hospital (Krankenhaus) Notification of Birth (Geburtsmeldung)
- Birth certificates of both parents (long version only)
- Marriage certificate (if married).
German maternity and paternity leave
Germany is keen to encourage parents to have children as a way of addressing under-population issues – women have 1.36 children on average. Women receive 14 weeks of paid maternity leave – six weeks before the expected birth date and eight weeks after. Furthermore, a parent who interrupts his or her career to raise a child receives 67 percent of their last net income (up to EUR 1,800). This benefit lasts for one year, which can be extended to 14 months if the second parent likewise stays at home for at least two months. The aim is to allow both parents to take time off.
The monthly child benefit in Germany is EUR 184 for the first and second child, EUR 190 for the third, and EUR 215 for every other child under the age of 18. Parents also have the legal right to take up to three years leave from work, which helps to support parents. During this time the parent receives a small monthly allowance from the government. Furthermore, as long as there are no valid company reasons against it, parents can choose to work part-time.
In addition there are also plans to extend childcare. Currently every child has the legal right to a place at kindergarten from the age of three until they start school at six. However, by 2013, 750,000 crêche slots are to be set up for under-3s, equivalent to one third of all children in that age group. This is intended to make it easier for mothers and fathers to combine working and raising a family.
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