Pregnant in Germany – Now What?

PHOTO: Erin Porter

Pregnancy in Berlin

I know people have been here before. In fact, I’ve been slogging through the extensive German-Way archives and reading about my more established contributors’ experiences. The fact is, I’m pregnant in Germany and just a little terrified.

While my husband and I have been together for a total of 10 years, this wasn’t exactly planned. We were in perfect agreement that we wanted a kid – it was just a question of timing. You may have gotten the sense from my previous post about moving in Germany that I can be a little tentative about long-term plans, and nothing is more long-term than having a kid.

Pregnancy Tests in Germany
The usual symptoms alerted me that I might be in need of a pregnancy test, but first I had to figure out exactly what that was called. While I had learned the fun-to-say word of schwanger (try saying it, “shh-vong-er”) early on, Schwangerschaftstest (pregnancy test) proved a mouthful.

First step – check.

PHOTO: Erin Porter

Pregnancy Test Vending Machine

Next on my list was where one buys a pregnancy test. Unlike the USA where there are a plethora of over-the-counter drugs at most grocery stores and pharmacies, Germans keep a tight leash on their pharmaceuticals. A talk with your friendly Apotheke is required for everything from a head cold to an upset stomach. I was fretting about having to discuss the most delicate of matters with the kind, but brusque, German ladies who run our local shop. Luckily, I remembered seeing (and photographing for comedic proof) the “Maybe Baby” pregnancy test vending machines on the S-Bahn platforms. Has there ever been a better product name? Surely if these had such indiscriminate standards, I should be able to buy a test at the nearest DM.

My hypothesis proved correct and soon I was standing in my very own bathroom, trying to decipher the German directions. My German-speaking husband and years of television dramas guided me through the process. Abject terror, hope and absolute uncertainty were all emotions at the forefront. I didn’t need to be fluent in German to understand that the strong blue line meant that we were having a German.

Second step (gulp!) – check.

Meeting With Your Doctor
Our next stop was at my gynecologist (Frauenarzt) to confirm our findings. We wee there initially to consult on an insurance claim (ugh – private insurance), but Herr Doktor calmly answered our slightly panicked questions before asking if I’d like to hop on the table and take a look (ultrasound – Ultraschall). We blinked. Already? See the baby? He had estimated that the fetus was about 7 weeks along and the American pregnancy sites I had been reading said nothing about such an early check. But we only hesitated for a moment before we said, “YES! Yes, please show us this tiny thing that it upending our entire life”.

With the flick of his wand, a small blurb appeared on the screen within my uterus. No idea what we should be looking for, we held our breath and looked to the doc to fill us in. He informed us that it had made it to the right place (no ectopic pregnancy) and everything was in ordnung. (What pleasure it must give a German doctor to utter those words.)

Now 18 weeks along, we have had a total of 4 visits and 4 perfect black and white sonogram pictures of our newest roommate. While this appears to be a higher number than usual for the UK or USA, it is common in Germany to get a scan and pic each time you go in. I, for one, love it. As your whole life is spinning, it’s wonderful to have something tangible to hold onto. And living so far away from our parents, every little piece of the pregnancy we can send them makes us all feel a bit closer.

Third step – check. Only about a 100 more steps to go.

I am currently discovering prenatal care in Germany, the ins and outs of my private insurance coverage, how to find a Hebamme (midwife), registering with a hospital and citizenship laws – among other things – and promise to share my findings in my next dispatch. Until then, anyone out there in Germany have tips for a pregnant expat? Please?

For the complete guide to pregnancy abroad, refer to our Guide on Having a Baby in Germany: Prenatal Care and Having a Baby in Germany: Giving Birth.

3 thoughts on “Pregnant in Germany – Now What?

  1. As a fellow expat and former Seattleite (1996-2001) I really felt for you, having now had two kids in Germany. Both my kids (5 and 18 months) are healthy and bright and I think the better prenatal and especially POSTnatal care here helped a lot.
    First bit of advice – get a Hebamme. A good one who you like and trust; she should speak English if you’re not comfortable in German. Ideally you can get one who works ‘ausserklinisch’ (at a Geburtshaus for example) so in a pinch she can do your exams at home. This was a HUGE help to me when I was HUGE and even taking the tram was a trek.
    There are multiple ways to plan births here, everything from as natural as possible to planned C-sections, depending on your, and your baby’s needs. One BIG plus in Germany; Hebammen (midwives) are very highly trained, in addition to being certified and insured. When my brother was fretting about us planning a home birth with my first, I reassured him that the midwife could get us to the hospital if she was at all uncomfortable with the birth ‘before the doctor finishes his coffee’ and this turned out to be absolutely true.
    There will also be midwives in the hospital who have the same training, including lactation advising and newborn care.
    Both my births were planned ‘Ausserklinisch’, both ended up being in the hospital after all (C-sections, babies fine). In both cases the midwife was my best partner in pregnancy, in the long, long labor process, and in getting used to baby and nursing. In both cases I was glad I labored in a more cosy environment as long as I could. And in both cases I felt my midwives were sensitive, competent, and trustworthy.
    I wasn’t registered with a hospital; with my first we went to the closest, and with my second we ‘had time’ so went to the one my second midwife liked best, which turned out to be MUCH better in terms of warm, human care, family room (so hubby could stay and we had a week’s mini-vacation getting to know our son), extra food for hungry moms, etc. As with the doctor and midwife, trust your gut instinct! Kindness should be part of professionalism and I believe in rewarding those professionals who are kind and warm with my business. 🙂
    In terms of pregnancy in general, I hope you like and trust your doctor (you can switch, you know; I did!) and are getting exercise (some courses might be paid for by your insurance – ask!) and eating well. You may have discovered that Germans don’t believe in vitamins; I had my mom send me some anyway, because it’s so culturally ingrained in me that a pregnant woman needs her prenatal vitamins! I also took extra essential fatty acids, available here in the Apotheke.
    Take a look at the flea markets for kids’ stuff – your best shopping bet for the next years, and as far as I know nothing like them in the US. At ours, you can get in earlier and avoid the rush if you’re pregnant (showing your Mutterpass) and this is a great way to stock up on recycled baby gear as well as maternity clothes and the other stuff you ‘need’ for a newborn.
    Get to know other pregnant mamas, both those expecting their first ‘Kind’ and those with more experience ! Pregnancy yoga, birth preparation classes (another HUGE plus – make sure your partner can take part; his insurance might pay for it too), are all nice ways to make new friends who are in the same boat as you and who you can meet up with after the baby is here. They can also help ease you into German kid culture – I found this really helpful for learning baby songs and rhymes, learning that Germans call their kids ‘mouse’ (I couldn’t bring myself to do so) and other fun cultural oddities.
    There’s so much more but I’ll stop and say good luck, be well have fun, and enjoy your pregnancy as much as possible, meaning SLEEP now while you can. 😀
    Anne in Bremen

  2. Pingback: The Week in Germany: Bilingual Families, Homesickness, and Kita | Young Germany

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