After spending my first Christmas in Germany, we planned a trip to Cologne, Germany to celebrate our New year 2014. Cologne was a beautiful city with a wonderful architecture. It was a New year’s Eve, my husband and I were standing on the bank of Rhine River in a minus degree weather, when the clock struck 12, the blaze of fireworks lighted up the night sky, it was such a delightful treat for our eyes.
We had such a nice trip without knowing it’s going to be the last trip for us as a couple, yes we were pregnant and we found out on 6th of January, 2014. It was a mix of emotions for me as I am new to Germany and far-away from my home town. Lucky for me as my pregnancy and delivery in Germany was overwhelmingly positive. In this blog, I just want to spread the knowledge of what I know from my experience of being pregnant and giving birth in Germany.
An appointment with OB/GYN (Frauenarzt). As soon as you found out your pregnancy with the pregnancy kit (Schwangerschaftstest) which can be bought at any drugstore, make an appointment with the gynecologist (Frauenarzt). In Germany, there is a definite distinction between the gynecologist, practice on their own clinic and the gynecologist who actually delivers baby in the hospital. The gynecologist who practice in their own clinic will perform all routine medical exams and oversees the pregnancy until labor and then the hospital of choice takes over the delivery. We cannot expect the same gynecologist who performed all the tests and checkups to be a gynecologist for your delivery. Most of the Frauenarzt speak English which actually helped me a lot.
Mutterpass is a must. On the first day of the checkup, the doctor will issue a booklet called Mutterpass (mother’s pass). It is an essential thing to be carried along by every pregnant women in Germany throughout the pregnancy. The book consists of all pertinent information such as the results of all tests and examinations made during the pregnancy. It is a most important document to be carried as the doctor who performs all test will most likely, not be the one who delivers the baby, hence the person who delivers your baby needs this book for all the information. Mutterpass is also necessary after your delivery, when you plan to have a second child it provides all information about the previous delivery.
Regular checkups. After the pregnancy confirmation there will be checkup every four weeks until week 32. After this point there will be regular two-week checkups. Basic examinations are done on every checkup like urinalysis, blood pressure check, weigh-in, blood tests, ultrasound and a talk with the gynecologist. Glucose tolerance test is done around the week of 24 to 28. At the third trimester, CTG (Electronic fetal monitor, EFM) scans will be added which takes about an hour, this EFM monitors will measure heart rate and Braxton-Hicks contractions.
Bunch of ultrasound pics. This is an exciting part for me, because in Germany along with your regular examinations, there will be an ultrasound scan almost on every doctor visit. These are safe, non-invasive scans which produce image of growing fetus inside the uterus. My doctor always ended up giving many ultrasound pics in every visit, I could even make a book out of it (Ha.. Ha..).
Touring the hospital before delivery. It is necessary to select a hospital for birth when you enter your third trimester (some people will do even before that). Couples can visit the hospital as part of a scheduled tour of the maternity unit (Kreißsaal). Here couples are allowed to visit delivery suite, nursery, midwives etc. After touring many hospitals you can choose one and register the hospital of your choice as soon as possible because you may miss a private room (if you wish to have one) and end up in shared room. While registering you will get the chance to meet your midwife and discuss the birth plan of your choice and finish the paper works before delivery. While registering its important to see whether the hospital has full pediatric care facilities, as some hospitals will have only limited pediatric care facilities, in this case, if the baby needs extra care, then the baby will be transferred to the nearest Kinderklinik and you will remain in the same hospital, therefore you will be separated from the baby.
Hebamme (Midwife). Midwife play a major role in Germany, they are trained and licensed professionals to perform all the medical examinations. In Germany, your birth will be midwife-led. Doctor’s play a background role, they come only in a medical emergency like C-section. Midwife offer you advice on pregnancy related questions and after-care. In Germany some will hire a midwife privately for pre-birth guidance and also to accompany them in the hospital during the birth. Others might hire them only for post-delivery help. If you do not choose a Hebamme in advance, the hospital will provide one. Good thing is that there are midwives able to speak languages other than German too.
Natural medicine. The German people are so supportive of natural medicine. Homeopathic medicine are used very liberally by the hospital midwives. These medicine helps to prepare the uterus for childbirth, induce labor, dilate the cervix, start contractions, and make contractions more effective. Germans believe homeopathic medicines are completely safe for women to take during childbirth, and it will also never harm the unborn baby. They are always gentle, non-toxic and have no side effects.
C-section is the last key. In Germany, unless if there is a medical emergency, C-section delivery is not appreciated. C-sections are scheduled only when doctor knows that a vaginal birth is risky. Midwives will encourage the women to have a vaginal birth. Germany’s cesarean average is 30 percent. This is something amusing to see as an Indian because India’s C-section rate is very high when compared to Germany as some Indian women choose to have C-section and some end up in C-section due to obvious reasons.
A women, as long as she lives, will remember how she was made to feel at her birth, as the quote says, the positive birth is a good beginning for you and your baby. I am extremely happy for having such experience in Germany. In this blog I have touched some of the important points, as it is a vast topic which cannot be written in one blog. I wanted to share my newly acquired knowledge which might help some women out there.