Ok. You made it through, hopefully, your third trimester so far without incident. You’ve tackled and lost your fear of seeing a German doctor. You get to your appointments on time, have enough money for parking, and have all your prenatal appointments scheduled from now until B-Day (birthday). Oh, hell…the birth?! A scary and nerve racking time in any pregnant mother’s life, but in a foreign country? What is that going to be like? Calm breaths…in and out. Read on to get my first hand account. I did it, and once again, found it to be not that much different than the way we do things in America.
Giving Birth in Germany
So many questions go through your mind as your due date gets closer and closer. What do I do if I go into labor? What if I can’t get to the hospital in time? How long will I have to stay in the hospital? What kind of pain medication can I receive? These are all questions any mother-to-be asks, but add in the additional questions being away from home and it can be over whelming. From talking to other moms who have given birth in Germany, just like in the United States, each doctor and hospital has different procedures and rules, so do your homework and if you can, pick the setting that best fits your idea of what you want your birth to be like.
I would highly suggest you take the special Maternity Ward hospital tour offered by the Patient Liaisons on base. Make sure you contact them by about 36 weeks along at the latest. It may take awhile to schedule a tour. They will meet you and possibly other expectant moms in the hospital lobby and walk you through the check-in procedure, take you to the labor and delivery section, and finally show you where you and baby will be staying in the maternity ward. Make sure to bring a pen and paper for taking notes. You will get a lot of useful information! If your spouse can also make the tour I would suggest he come as well. My husband wasn’t able to make it, so I had to sit him down and debrief and quiz him later that night.
Here are some big questions and answers that almost everyone has on having a baby in Germany…
What do I do if I go into labor and the registration office isn’t open or I am too far along and don’t have time to check in?
One, don’t panic. It is ok if you don’t have time or the registration office is closed for the day or weekend. You or your husband can take care of this later. You can head straight up to labor and delivery if you need to. If you are in labor during the middle of the night give the MP’s office a call and let them know. They will contact the patient liaison for you.
What if I have to be induced?
I was induced, electively, on my due date. Some doctors, maybe more so than in the states, aren’t as willing to induce you electively. Dr. Weiss had no issue with it once he checked to make sure I was somewhat dilated already at my last appointment with him. They also have a few options that you can choose from for the induction. I chose Pitocin, just like in the states, but they have other options that you may prefer. Talk to your doctor and see what works best for you.
With my induction, Dr. Weiss called labor and delivery at my prenatal appointment, set up the time to come in on the date we agreed on and that was it. I came to the hospital on that day, checked in and registered, then headed up to labor and delivery. They checked my dilation when I got there, put in my IV, and started monitoring the baby’s heartbeat for about 30 minutes. I was then moved to one of the labor and delivery rooms and started the Pitocin drip. During my induction they also gave me some homeopathic medicines to help with thinning my cervix and speed up the process. This was something different than I had in the U.S. but I was more than willing to speed up the process!
What kind of pain medication can I receive?
Much like in America, you have options. I wanted the epidural and they were more than willing to give it to me. If you want to go with a more natural birth, at Boblingen Hospital they have a room with a birthing tub, birthing balls, even a structure that looks like a ladder on the wall that can help you manage the pain while laboring. I can only speak from my experience, but the epidural they give you here eliminates the pain, but does not make you feel like you are without legs. You will feel pressure and know when to push but it is not unbearable. I actually preferred it because I was able to get up and walk around much sooner than with the other epidurals I had.
What do I need to bring with me to the hospital?
This really depends on what you feel is necessary for you to be comfortable. The hospital does provide you with towels, those lovely mesh underwear and giant pads, a gown to wear during labor and delivery (although it is much shorter than the U.S. hospital gowns), and some basic toiletries in the room. They also provide diapers, wipes, and clothing for the baby while in the hospital. Bring something to entertain yourself with! Three days with only German T.V. and I was ready to go insane. Magazines, drinks (if you don’t like room temperature mineral water), snacks (like most hospitals the food is not great), an outfit to take baby home in, comfortable clothing for yourself for 3-5 days, pajamas, personal toiletry items, a hair dryer, your own pillow, and a hotspot stick. Most all hospitals around here have no Wi-Fi access or very poor access. They do not have the Dermablast spray, tucks pads, or ice packs like we get in America so you may want to check out the PX or place an order with Amazon before you get too far along for those items. Additionally you’ll need to have cash and all the documents you’ll need for obtaining your baby’s German birth certificate. I talk about that in my next post.
What will my hospital stay be like? How long will I need to stay?
Depending on the conditions around the birth of your baby, you should expect to stay at least two nights in the hospital for a normal delivery and as much as five nights for a C-section. German hospital rooms are pretty bare bones, but serve their purpose. Tricare pays for you to have a semi-private room. This means you could have a roommate. If you would like your own room, you can pay a fee of about 30 euro a day for a private room. Additionally if you would like your husband to stay with you it is a bit more, but he also receives meals. These options are only available if there is room however. One thing I greatly appreciated was the lack of interruptions at all hours of the day and night by nurses checking vitals and running tests on you and the baby. I actually got some rest! The staff is attentive but not hovering.
I know there are many more questions out there, but I hope if you are having a baby in Germany soon the answers above help put your mind at ease a bit. Every labor and delivery is different. Some are easier than others, but no matter what happens know that the doctors, nurses, and midwives here are highly trained and have you and your baby’s health as their top priority.
The final, and most daunting step of having a baby here is the paperwork! Check out part three of this post to get some insider tips on navigating all those forms!