Knocked Up in Germany

Congratulations! You have successfully procreated! It’s a time of excitement, fear & joy! If  you live in Germany it’s also a time of paperwork, confusion, desperately looking for a doctor you can get along with (or at least tolerate),  peeing into cups, having your blood drained & scans…lots of scans! The German health service is fantastic…it’s the people working for it who can make it or break for you, especially during hormonal pregnancy time!

Finding a doctor:

There are several websites (in German) to help you find a Frauenarzt Praxis (Gyno office) in your area, here’s a good one,  just type in your postcode & start calling through the list – not all praxis doctors speak English so be sure to ask before you make an appointment. None of the medical receptionists/ nurses we met during our pregnancy spoke a word of English so if you do not speak German be sure to have a German speaker on hand to call to ask your questions & make appointments.

In Germany doctors are referred to as Die Goetter in Weiss (The Gods in White). After meeting a couple of them I’m sure they thought up the name themselves. Bedside manner is definitely not something taught in medical school here, I guess the class on Holier Than Thou Attitude -aka- My Sh*t Doesn’t Stink takes precedence. Eventually we were able to find a lovely doctor in our area who speaks passable English & has a great sense of humour – a top priority for us!

Once you’ve been declared officially pregnant you’re given a Mutterpass. This little book contains all of the information about your pregnancy & should be with you at all times in case of emergency.  In addition to your Mutterpass  you’ll be asked to bring some wee to each appointment. My praxis thoughtfully provided me with wee-vials for easy transportation.  My doctor wanted to see me every 4 weeks until 32 weeks, then every 2 weeks until week 36 & finally once every week until the birth! A lot of appointments but wonderful to be so well looked after!

*Tip: If you’re at all shy, take a towel or wear a long shirt to your appointments. Unlike in Canada, “modesty sheets” are not provided. In the corner of the exam room is a changing area where you’ll remove your pants & underwear, then walk across the room to the exam chair in all your glory, feeling the breeze in every nook & cranny and immediately sit & get your feet up in the stirrups.

* Also different from Canada was the fact that the doctor who saw me through my pregnancy would not be the doctor delivering my baby. Natural births are overseen by midwives (either in hospital or at a birthing house) & C-sections are performed by the doctor on staff on the day of your appointment.

Stupendous Scans! My doctor did an ultrasound at nearly every one of my appointments. It was absolutely wonderful to be able see our healthy daughter developing & get a printed photo to take with us each time!

At 20 weeks you will have your first 4D scan…THIS IS AWESOME! We had ours here.  It was at this scan that we discovered the sex of our baby and heard her little heart beat for the first time. Wheeee!

Midwives (Hebammen)

Midwifery is very popular in Germany (all natural births – without complications – are delivered by midwives, even in hospitals) & a certain number of before/after birth ‘home visits’ are even covered by healthcare. Unless you’re completely clueless about babies,  I personally don’t really think a home visiting midwife is necessary, more so if you’re planning on having C-section (as I did). However, at my (German) husband’s insistence I did actually try to get a midwife. Out of the 20+ that I contacted (through German & English e-mails & messages) only 2 got back to me – informing me that they were not accepting new clients – nice. Getting a midwife is also a rather complicated process as German law only allows you to have a midwife who is registered to work in your area & not all midwives registered to work in your area will be registered to work in the hospital where you wish to give birth, etc, etc, etc… If you do plan on having a midwife the online search begins here.

Choosing your hospital:

In Germany you have a choice between giving birth in a hospital or in a Geburtshaus (Birthing House: only for natural births delivered by the midwives registered to them). As we knew I was having a C-Section (and had absolutely no interest in midwifey/incense/chanting/water/natural birth) we went  on the hunt for a hospital that would suit our needs.  At about 32 weeks ask your doctor to recommend some for you to choose from. All German hospitals that deliver babies offer a Parents Orientation where you will get all the info you need to make decision. We decided on Charite, the largest hospital in Berlin with a wonderfully international staff.

Almost there…The last 2 months of your pregnancy are the busiest with appointments not only at your own doctor but also at your chosen hospital (Yay, more scans to take home!). Due to known complications I had a scheduled C-Section so had a few extra appointments as well – meeting with the anesthesiologist and such…nothing scary or complicated just time consuming.

The big day: I can’t comment on giving birth naturally but this is what happened the day of my scheduled C-Section: We arrived at the hospital; went to the appropriate floor; gave my ID & Mutterpass to the nurse on the desk; were shown into a room where I changed into a gown & was put on a baby monitor; answered some basic questions about my pregnancy; waited; waited some more; were taken to another room; monitored again; met the doctor(s); waited and waited some more; were taken to the operating room (where hubby had to wait outside for a bit).

I was then sat on the table & what seemed like an army of people in blue rushed around hooking me up to machines & tubes. The epidural came next and was honestly not painful at all! Once I was completely numb from the torso down a screen was erected around my lower half & my husband was brought in. The doctor peered around the screen and said she was beginning. All I felt was some minor pushing & pulling and just as my husband & I started cracking jokes & giggling we heard our daughter’s first bellowing cry in the outside world! My husband went with our new girlie as she was whisked away for the initial tests/checks & 10 minutes later returned with our healthy, (somewhat) clean baby.  I was stitched up & wheeled into recovery where we remained until the feeling returned to my legs. Our new addition was also given her first complete medical check-up during this time. Once I was able to feel my toes we were taken up to our room. I highly recommend paying extra for a Familienzimmer (a private room for you and your immediate family to remain together 24 hrs/day during your hospital stay).

Easy Peasy! After 3 days we were given the all clear and got to go home to begin our new lives as Mommy & Daddy!

click here to check out all of my Life in Germany adventures:

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