Prenatal Courses in Germany

antenatal in Berlin

Prenatal Courses in Berlin. Photo: Erin Porter

Do I look a little tired here? That’s because I am. Last week was baby week. After 35 weeks of pregnancy, we were cramming hospital registration, one of our last doctor visits (plus ultrasound) and 2 long nights of prenatal courses into just a few days.

My dad politely asked if we weren’t a bit behind as he remembered taking courses before breaching the 9 month mark. He gave me an out, saying maybe this was just a difference in countries’ standards or that they took their courses 30 years ago. Erm – nope. We were just late.

After being all gung-ho to get started on classes, find a Hebamme (midwife) and generally be prepared early in the pregnancy, life had simply caught up with us. All the decisions that come after the relatively breezy, “Sure, we are ready to have a kid!” and just after the “OMG. We are having a kid!” have been daunting. Trying not to make a false move, we now find ourselves in the position of being the typical Americans in German, half-cocked, only partially ready and surrounded by people who know better.

Geburtsvorbereitung or Birth Preparation Classes in Germany

The Germans we took our courses with were much more prepared. I was furthest along in my pregnancy, although that didn’t stop one of the other couples from leaving during the first break to actually give birth…show-offs.

Birth classes, known as Geburtsvorbereitung or the even more awkward Schwangerschaftsvorbereitung, are widely available in a city as large as Berlin. They come big or small, for single ladies, partnered couples and in an assortment of languages. This in itself was mildly overwhelming. Our first dilemma was,

Where should we take our Birth Preparation Classes in Germany?

Our first instinct was to take courses through the hospital we had chosen to give birth in, Maria Heimsuchung Caritas-Klinik Pankow. We had already attended an informational night and felt comfortable with the facilities and staff. We hoped that attending a class with one of the hospital’s Hebamme would help familiarize ourselves further.

As we were already well past the 30 week mark, we weren’t sure if there would be any openings. We called Astrid Gröpper for the partner course for first-time parents (in the hospital’s listings) and pressed our thumbs that she had room. She did and we booked ourselves two long (5 hours each) sessions of courses after work on a Thursday and Friday. This approach was quite successful for us as it helped me map my route (plans A, B and C) to the hospital and I got to know the hospital’s specific staff and policies.

The only drawback, and this could be a big one depending on your comfort in German, was that the course was completely auf Deutsch. While my husband is fluent, I am not and worried that vital information would be wasted on my untrained ears. This crash course on vocab was difficult, but I hope will help me understand the commands of “DRÜCKEN Frau Porter!” (“PUSH Mrs Porter!”) and “MACH WEITER! MACH WEITER!” (Keep going! Keep going!) on the big day.

If you would prefer an English language class, Hebammen and hospitals are an excellent source of information. In Berlin, I would also recommend UK expat Sarah’s post, Where to Find English Birth Preparation Classes in Berlin.

Have classes to recommend? Please leave a comment below!

What do I wear/bring to Birth Preparation Classes in Germany?

Looking for info in English, I came across results for classes in English-speaking countries. Hmph. A common thread seemed to be comfortable clothing, 2 pillows and a blanket. I took a risk and followed half that info by putting on some stretchy pants, a sports bra & t-shirt and bringing a husband.

Success! We entered a quiet room in an auxiliary building to the hospital to find a few other couples milling around in comfortable dress and  rows of blankets, mats, balance balls and pillows lining the floor. In addition, our Hebamme provided basic snacks like bottled water, fruit, gummis and cookies. A break in the middle of each class allowed us to go  scavenge for more food and our brains to unscramble from the massive amounts of information we were taking in.

Husband's role in birth class abroad

Husbands are a helpful accessory at Prenatal Courses in Germany. PHOTO: Erin Porter

What is covered in Birth Preparation Classes in Germany?

Our Hebamme gently guided us through the entire process of how our bodies change throughout pregnancy, what we should understand about labor, when to come in, what the speed of your water breaking reveals about your baby’s position, how to pick up the baby, breastfeeding and preparing to take a new baby home – to name just a few of the things we covered. The Hebamme‘s facts were cushioned between stories of her vast experience working with pregnant woman, each aimed at giving us real-life examples that anything could happen, and usually that is ok.

10ish hours in class sounds like a lot, and it is. At times my mind would lose focus and wander into idle exploration of what we should eat next, which pillow best supported by ballooning bum and why in the world Germans chose such horrifying words for female anatomy (see below). This was certainly complicated by my sometimes floundering grasp on the German language, but may have been inevitable. How much can you take of talking about your uterus?

This course also opened my eyes to things I hadn’t considered. Initially, I wasn’t too keen to learn the ins-and-out of labor as just making it through the first months of pregnancy seemed formidable. Now that I am looking down the barrel, I am on a mission to hear everything that can happen and this course delivered. While I hesitate to say I’m ready, I can say I’m getting there.

German Vocabulary for Pregnancy

One of the largest obstacles for me has been trying to wrap my head around all this new terminology and vocab. Folsäure, Schwangerschaftsvorbereitung and Muttermund (shudder!) don’t often come up in my day-to-day interactions.

  • Schwanger / Schwangerschaft – Pregnant / pregnancy
  • Schwangerschaftstest – Pregnancy test
  • Vorsorgeuntersuchungen – Pre-natal care
  • die Folsäure – Folic acid
  • Mutterpass – Mother’s passport complete with blood work, data on pregnancy, etc
  • Ultraschal – Ultrasound
  • Geburtsvorbereitung/Schwangerschaftsvorbereitung – Birth Preparation Classes
  • Entbindungstermin / Termin Datum – Due date
  • Frauenartzt – OB/GYN
  • Hebamme / Beleghebamme – Midwife / Midwife who, for an extra fee, will attend the birth with you
  • Krankenschwetser – Nurse
  • Geburtshaus – Birthing house
  • Krankenhaus – Hospital
  • Chefarzt – Head doctor
  • Wehen/Wehe/wehen tropfen – labor / contractions / Medication to start contractions
  • Kaiserschnitt – Cesarean section
  • Plazenta / Mutterkuchen – Placenta (For some reason, Germans seem to favor Mutterkuchen which literally translates to “mother cake”).
  • Fruchtwasser – Amniotic fluid
  • Muttermund – Cervix. (Again, this features a rather horrifying literal translation – “Mother mouth”.
  • Scheide – Vagina
  • Brustwartzen – Nipples or “breast warts”. Not helping the case that German really is a lovely language.

This is only the tip of the iceberg of German Wortschatz (vocab) to know for pregnancy and labor. I’ll throw some more pertinent words for once you’ve had the baby into my next post (hopefully complete with a birth story) on Giving Birth in Germany.  In the meantime, I’ll practice. Mein Entbindungstermin ist am 26. Oktober.

Tips, vocab and words of advice are greatly appreciated. Please leave your comments with your own birth preparations and stories below.

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.

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