What to Do if you Get Pregnant in Germany

PHOTO: Erin Porter

Pregnancy Test Vending Machine

When I first found out I was pregnant in Germany, I freaked out. I was married and happy, we were kinda trying but I was still terrified. I suspect I would have been apprehensive no matter where I was, but there were so many questions about how this would go in Germany.

I dug into the German-Way archives and their experience calmed me. I had seen the mobs of hip, strollered woman parading around Prenzlauer Berg. I could do this. I did do this. And you can, too. Here are the first few steps of what to do when you find out you’re pregnant in Germany.

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 practiced the mouth cocktail that is the German word for preganant, Schwanger (try saying it, “shh-vong-er”), I seriously stumbled on Schwangerschaftstest (pregnancy test).

First step – check.

Next on my list was where I could buy said 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 big and small. 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 (as seen above). Has there ever been a better product name? This surely meant pregnancy tests were readily available so I headed to 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 Frauenarzt (gynecologist) to confirm the findings. We were there initially to consult on an insurance claim (ugh – private insurance), but Herr Doktor calmly answered our apprehensive questions before asking if I’d like to hop on the table and take a look by Ultraschall (ultrasound). 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.)

PHOTO: Erin Porter

Pregnancy in Berlin

Third step – check.

From the doctor I picked up my first prenatal vitamins, the very common Femibion brand in Germany, so I could start observing some folic acid and then I had to just wait. As you’ve undoubtedly heard, the first three months are the most uncertain whether you are in Germany the USA or Namibia. This is a golden time where you will look for all the small signs that your body is growing a human being (exhaustion, nausea, a glowing sense that you are incredible).

And about 100 steps later I can tell you that I did it! I had a baby in Germany and learned so much along the way. If someone as clueless about all things baby as me can do it, so can you.

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.

This edited GW Expat Blog post was originally published on May 26th, 2014.

3 thoughts on “What to Do if you Get Pregnant in Germany

  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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