Moving to Germany can be stressful. Why not raise the stakes and add a pregnancy to the list of things to worry about? I am here to tell you, that having a baby here in Germany is not much different than having one in United States. How do I know? I was 34 weeks along with our third child last July when we arrived in Stuttgart. Having had my other two in Florida, there were some things I liked much better here than America and some things that I found frustrating as well. I’ve broken the process down into three posts—Prenatal Visits, Birth, and Paperwork. The most difficult of the three? By far, paperwork. If you plan ahead and get your ducks in a row though, it’s not as bad as it seems.
The first and most important thing you need to do after arriving in Germany is to have your sponsor switch your Tricare coverage from wherever your last duty station was to their overseas program. Once you are in the Tricare Overseas program, then you can contact the base clinic to get all of your pregnancy records transferred into the system. They will also give you a packet of information filled with an enormous amount of helpful information about being pregnant and having a baby in Germany. Make sure your last doctor gives you a print out of all of your prenatal visits for your current pregnancy. It is very important to have as much information as possible for your new physician.
If you are in the Stuttgart area, as I am, all pregnancies are referred out to a German physician. This can be a bit scary, but rest assured, Tricare pays for you to see the head of the obstetrics department at whatever hospital you are assigned. That means that you are being seen by the leading doctor in his or her field of study! That is an amazing perk and really put my mind at ease.
Once you have your referral in hand, I recommend heading over to the Tricare office and having them make your first appointment. Though most of the staff and every doctor I have encountered here speak very good English, that initial appointment set up usually involves more of an exchange of information and I never wanted those critical details to be lost in translation.
My first appointment here was at 36 weeks with Dr. Weiss at Boblingen Hospital. With all of the hospitals in the Stuttgart area, be prepared by getting there about 20 minutes early. You will need to head over to the registration area in the lobby to fill out some paperwork, sign some forms, and show your military ID card for insurance purposes. Once completed you most likely won’t have to do this for your other appointments.
When you check in for your first prenatal appointment, whether at 8 weeks or 36 weeks, they will give you a book called the “Mutterpass” or Mother Passport. This is one of the things the Germans do differently, but I loved. It is a little passport-sized book that you will bring to all of your appointments and to the hospital when you are in labor. It contains all the information about you and the baby from all of your prenatal appointments. Blood type, weights, sugar screening results, lab work…anything and everything is in that book. I think this is brilliant especially if an emergency comes up with your pregnancy and you can’t get to see your regular physician. All of your information is in one place, easily accessible!
The routine for your appointments will be very similar to that in the United States. Check in with your Mutterpass, give a urine sample, blood pressure and weight screening and any other routine tests, then you wait to see the doctor. Dr. Weiss, not the nurse, came to the waiting room and got me for each appointment. We started in a room with a desk and he asked me a few standard questions at each visit, then told me what we would be doing at the appointment. We then went into an adjacent room with an examining table and ultrasound machine. At each of my appointments, I was given a 3D ultrasound of the baby to check for growth and position with a few picture printouts. Another awesome perk that you don’t get in America! The doctor then wrote down the size estimates in my Mutterpass and setup my next appointment. Done! Now that doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
I must add that I can not say if the first and second trimester screenings are just like the United States, but I would think that they are not that different. Of course, each office and doctor is different in what they want to see. This can also depend on whether or not you are a high-risk pregnancy or have any special circumstances surrounding your pregnancy, so please take my account as just a sample of what to expect.
- Have your current doctor (U.S.) give you a print out of all your prenatal visits for this pregnancy BEFORE leaving the states. Even if “it is in the system” I always make sure to have a hard copy, just in case.
- If you are later in your pregnancy, be sure to have your doctor write a letter saying that you are still safe to travel. Many airlines will require it before you board.
In Germany Tips
- Get your Tricare switched from CONUS to ONCONUS BEFORE trying to make a referral appointment with the clinic.
- Have Tricare make your first appointment.
- Keep your Mutterpass in a safe place and on you at all times. It is the first thing they will ask for at EVERY appointment.
- Arrive 15 minutes before all appointments, but especially the first one as you will need time to register. Parking can be an issue at many hospitals and is generally not free so make sure you have some euro coins!
Most importantly remember that Germany is a highly developed, highly educated country. You are not having a baby in a hut in the middle of Africa. Take a deep breath and know you are in good hands whether it’s your first baby or your fourth; it’s always a little scary dealing with the unknowns. You are not alone. There are support groups on base where you can meet up with other moms-to-be, take prenatal preparation classes, and set up hospital tours. Check your garrison webpage for more information.