Having a baby in Germany
If you have a baby - Congratulations! There is a high level of care in the German medical system. As soon as you found out (pregnancy test "Schwangerschaftstest" can be bought at every drugstore or pharmacy) you should make an appointment with a Frauenarzt (gynecologist). In Germany, there is a definite distinction between a gynecologist (with their own practice), an obstetrician (who actually delivers babies in hospital), and a midwife (who may work at a hospital, a birthing clinic, or supervise homebirths). Usually the GYN will perform all routine medical exams and oversees the pregnancy until labor begins, then the hospital of choice takes over. Midwives care for you during and after birth. More information can be found in following paragraphs.
At your first pre-natal checkup, you will be handed a little booklet called Mutterpass (literally: mother’s passport). This will have details of each medical appointment and must be brought to each appointment and to the delivery suite when you are giving birth.
If you have public health Insurance, most costs during and after pregnancy are covered by the insurance company. If you have a private insurance you should check with your insurance for further details or consult the International Office.
Choosing a hospital
You should choose a hospital a few weeks before your due date. 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. As you tour the facilities, keep in mind that not every hospital has birthing suites, chairs, tanks, etc., so look carefully. If there is something specific that is important to you, make sure you ask. Be aware that while all hospitals have some pediatric care facilities, not all have a full pediatric hospital (Kinderklinik). If the baby is born premature or needs extra care, your baby will be transferred to the nearest Kinderklinik and you will remain at the hospital where you gave birth. Therefore, you will be separated.
Once you have chosen a hospital, you should register at the delivery room (Kreissaal) at the hospital. If you pre-register, the hospital will already have all the information they need in order to process you and then they can focus on the baby and not worry about paperwork.
Choosing a midwife (Hebamme)
A midwife is allowed to do pre-natal checkups (except for ultrasounds), offer you advice on pregnancy-related questions or aftercare, and assist you in a routine delivery without complications. If you are looking for a midwife, you should check Hebammensuche. The German-language website is a search engine for officially registered midwives which allows you to search for various parameters (such as “homebirth” or “yoga”) and midwives able to speak languages other than German.
Some of you might like to hire a midwife privately for at home pre-birth instruction, to accompany you to the hospital for the actual birth and/or to provide follow-up medical care for mom and baby at home after the birth. Others might want to hire one that they liked from the hospital for post-delivery help only. This is a nice choice if you want to leave the hospital earlier than the standard amount of time, which is 5-7 days for a vaginal delivery and 7-12 for a Cesarean section (Kaiserschnitt).
Your employer is required to give you some time off for such mandatory medical appointments, and all employed women with state-funded health insurance then go on maternity leave (Mutterschutz) six weeks before the due date. However, when you are pregnant, you should also take care to tell your employer as soon as possible.
If you have time it can help to phone ahead to the delivery suite (Kriessal). Although this is not required it can help to let 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 (Mutterpass)
- child health record to record the baby’s measurements, examinations and test results
- your birth certificate (advisable)
- marriage certificate (advisable, if applicable)
To apply for child allowance and parental money (Kindergeld and Elterngeld), to travel with your child and to get a passport, the most essential document is the birth certificate. In most cases, officials from hospital maternity units register the birth during the mother's hospital stay. Therefore please be prepared to take the following papers to hospital:
- a copy of the birth
- a copy of marriage certificates (and Apostille) of the parents. Check with the International Office if an official German translation is needed as well.
About 1-2 weeks after birth, the certificate can be picked up from the Standesamt (www.dresden.de/index_en.php) in Dresden. Please check before you go whether any additional documents will need to be presented and if the certificate is ready to be picked up. You can also ask the International Office to take care of this for you.
Some nationalities (e.g. India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Afganistan, Iraq, Pakistan, etc.) need to have further proof of marriage certificates and/or birth certificate. This process can take up 2-3 months. However, you can initiate this further proof well in advance of the delivery. The International Office can tell you if and what kind of further proof will be needed.