Having a baby in Germany
Everything you need to know to prepare for having a baby in Germany; including prenatal care, childbirth costs, German birth certificates and citizenship, aftercare, maternity leave, child benefits and allowance.
If you're considering having a baby 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 their newborn baby.
This guide explains everything you need to know about childbirth 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 giving birth in Germany.
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 and your baby's 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) before giving birth in Germany. 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 baby 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, a telephone and a 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 after giving birth in Germany, 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.
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 birth certificate
You must register your baby’s birth within one week of birth. This must be done at the Standesamt (registry office) in the town where you delivered your baby. You can do this yourself, otherwise it can also be done by your midwife, the baby’s father, your doctor, a relative or friend. If deemed necessary, an official from the registry office may attend the maternity ward to register your child while still at the hospital.
The registration office will require confirmation of the birth (provided by the doctor or midwife). This is called a Geburtsbescheinigung in German. They will also ask for a copy of the parents' birth and marriage certificates (some may ask for a translated version).
Multiple copies of the Geburtsurkunde (birth certificate) will be made available to you so you can arrange child benefit and health insurance for your child. Your child’s birth certificate will also be used for arranging identity cards, a passport and registration at nurseries and schools.
Should you wish for your child to have an international birth certificate, this can be requested at the Standesamt for the same fee and is often produced in French, German and English.
Childbirth cost in Germany
Your state German health insurance will typically cover the basic costs of pregnancy and childbirth. You may, however, be charged additional costs for some of the paperwork involved in giving birth in Germany. If you choose to give birth in a private hospital, you should check what is covered by your private health insurance or what costs you will have to pay for the baby’s delivery and care.
Giving birth in Germany and citizenship
A baby is registered German by birth if they were born to at least one Germany parent, irrespective of whether the child was born in Germany or abroad. If neither parent is German, a child born on German soil automatically takes German nationality provided that at least one parent has been living in Germany for eight years, is Swiss, or has a permanent right of residence in Germany. For more information read our guide to German citizenship and permanent residence.
Germany is keen to encourage parents to have children as a way of addressing under-population issues – women have 1.6 children on average.
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.
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.
The monthly child benefit in Germany is EUR 190 for the first and second child, EUR 196 for the third, and EUR 221 for every other child under the age of 18. For more information regarding child benefit in Germany, including the application form, visit the Bundesagentur Fur Arbeit (Federal Agency for Work) website.
There are on-going plans to extend childcare. This is intended to make it easier for mothers and fathers to combine working and raising a family. Preschools in Germany range from structured kindergarten groups to smaller, privately run child-minding services. Currently every child has the legal right to a place at kindergarten from the age of three until they start school at six. In Germany, children aged up to three years old are considered to be nursery-aged, while children from three to six years old attend pre-school, known as kindergarten. In 2015 for every full-time pre-school teacher, 9.3 chidren were under their care.
Maternity leave in Germany
Following the standard five days stay in hospital, women receive 14 weeks of paid maternity leave in Germany – six weeks before the expected birth date and eight weeks after. The initial six weeks of maternity leave in Germany provides the mother with time to mentally and physically prepare for giving birth. The final eight weeks allows her to recover, get settled at home with her new child, and allow for the midwife to visit.
Paternity leave in Germany
The law enables both parents to take time off should they wish to, enabling fathers to also pause their careers to raise a child and claim a reduced income. If a father’s employer agrees, he may also choose to work part-time for a certain period if desired, while taking parental leave in Germany.
Child allowance in Germany
Germany's child allowance (child benefits) is known as Elterngeld and given to parents to help cover the income loss of having a baby in Germany. Elterngeld (parental allowance) supports a parent who has stopped working or reduced their working hours to look after their baby. This payment ranges from a minimum of EUR 300 to a maximum of EUR 1,800 per month. Elterngeld payments are made for up to a maximum 14 months after birth, if the second parent also claims the allowance for at least two months.
The government has also introduced the ElterngeldPlus package with the aim to help parents who work part-time following the birth of their baby in Germany. This offers additional financial support options. Read more family policies on the government website.
Pregnancy in Germany: your options
The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth provides several services to women who need support and advice regarding their pregnancy. A 24-hour, free hotline is available on 0800 40 40 020 in 18 languages, as well as online support.
Women have the legal right to terminate their pregnancy or undergo an abortion in Germany but are expected to attend schwangerschaftskonfliktsberatung (pre-termination counselling). There are other conditions before undergoing abortion in Germany:
- The mother must have written consent from a recognised centre as proof that she has attended the necessary counselling sessions.
- There must be three days’ minimum between the counselling and the operation.
- The abortion must take place within 12 weeks of conception.
Find more information on the family planning website (in German).
Glossary for having a baby in Germany
- Ultrasounds/Sonograms: Ultraschall/Ultraschallaufnahmen
- Birth preparation classes: Schwangerschaftsvorbereitung
- Baby due date: Termin Datum
- Mother's pass: Mutterpass
- Hospital: Krankenhaus
- Midwife: Hebamme
- Nurse: Krankenschwester
- OB/GYN: Frauenartz
- Head doctor: Chefarzt
- Delivery room: Kreissaal
- Cesarean section: Kaiserschnitt
- Forceps: Forzeps/Zange
- Push: Pressen
- During labour: Geburtsverlauf
- The birth: Geburt
- I want an epidural-anaesthesia: Ich möchte die Epidural-Anaesthsie
- I do not want strong medicine: Ich möchte kein starkes Mittel
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