Having a Child In Germany: The Ups and The Downs
It is true that living abroad can be extremely adventurous. Everything so unknown and ready for you to discover. I am talking about everything from food to language, and from transportation to clothing. You might question what you have done and how you’ve lived until now.
All these experiences opened my mind, and I am so grateful for that. When our little lion (how we call our almost 2 years old son) was born it all got other proportions. Let me tell you all about the ups and downs this road teached me as an expat mother living in Germany.
I am Portuguese and married to a German. We live with our little lion in the beautiful city of Heidelberg, in Germany. Heidelberg is an University city and thus very international, that makes me feel part of it and less isolated.
The German Health insurance is known to be one of the best in the world and it lives up to its reputation. However having a health insurance is not automatically regulated, but mandatory. Any pregnant woman should be sure to be enrolled in one, it could be through your employment contract, your partner’s employment contract, an European health insurance or others. You can also chose to pay each appointment and service privately, either through a private health insurance or independently.
Pregnant women and new moms have the right to midwife services. But you have to actively search for one! The midwife will support you during pregnancy and in the first months of live of your newborn. The health insurance covers midwife services until your child is 9 months old.
The midwife will make sure you and your baby are in good health and refer to a doctor if needed. She will also help you with everything around baby feeding and birth recovery. Our midwife taught us also how to bath our little lion and made a question and later on a Q&A session with us about starting with solids.
Pre and Post partum classes and services
These classes are usually also offered by your midwife, if she is available. If not you can sign for classes given by other midwives, the health insurance will cover it.
There are the classic pre and post partum classes, which are fully covered by the health insurance. You can also take yoga classes for pregnant women, for new moms or even for moms and babies, aqua gym classes during pregnancy, receive acupuncture treatments and many others. But, depending on the health insurance, those might be totally, partly or not covered by your health insurance.
Almost all mothers have the right of a financial support starting 6 weeks before until 8 weeks after the due date. It depends on many factors but the most important are how are you health insured and your salary amount. Most of the time it is possible to extend up to 36 months.
The childbirth is generally performed by a midwife and not by a doctor, but trust me, they know what they are doing! And a doctor is nearby if needed. You can choose in which hospital you would prefer to give birth, but if you would like to have a room alone it might have costs. Some hospitals even offer family rooms, where you, your baby, your partner and other children can stay. Many hospitals offer explanation sessions, where they present the hospital, the team and the services offered. We went to 4 of those sessions before we chose where to go.
Usually a mother and her baby stay in the hospital until 3 days after delivery. This might change in special situations like COVID-19.
Everything around childbirth is a mother’s choice, from the delivery place (hospital or at home), to the type of anesthesia (or no anesthesia), the birth environment (water or not for example) or even even the delivery position (or positions!).
Your midwife is usually not with you during childbirth, you can pay for that service privately, the health insurance doesn’t cover it. The delivery will be performed by a midwife working on the hospital you chose (and by you, of course!).
In Germany many people speak English, however more in a touristic or relaxed context. You might find a bilingual midwife, which would be great! But you would still need to communicate in German with your doctor, going to pre and post partum classes and so on. So it is not a bad idea to know some German and get familiar with some pregnancy and birth jargon.
Finding a midwife
There are midwives almost everywhere, but they are fully or almost fully booked. This is a known issue often underlined by the German midwife association. The midwife should be available for you and your baby and she takes the due date and the number of women that she is already supporting around that time into consideration to accept or not more mothers.
You might hear some really mad stories about pregnant women who called 40 midwives and just got rejections. So it is not a bad idea to start looking for one from the moment you know that you are pregnant!
As any other experience outside our own culture, being pregnant and giving birth in a foreign country might teach you something about the German culture. For me, one of the weirder situations is the fact that having a huge belly is not a reason to let you pass in supermarket queues or give you a place to sit on a public transportation. The same with mothers with strollers, you rarely find someone helping to go up and down the stairs.
Germany is known to be bureaucratic, and having a child in Germany is not an exception. It already starts during pregnancy, for example to receive the health insurance refunds for specific tests or classes. Registering your baby and applying for the various types of financial support needs many different forms and documents.
Searching for daycare
Similar to the midwives’ situation daycare and kindergarten places are scarce in Germany. You might register your baby even before birth. Get informed of the possibilities you have around your home. There are different types of day care for children up to 3 years old and from 3 years old on they start the kindergarten.
Becoming a mother is amazing and despite all these downs I would chose again Germany to have a second baby. I feel that here concerning the system, the mother is highly valued before and after the pregnancy, and the midwife service is extremely valuable. But I have to tell you that I do not feel in the community’s environment this positive feeling of generating a new life. Families have great health and financial support, but usually lack that community and family support that I grew up in back home. This aspect might impact one’s mental state and health, so my final tip would be to use modern communication, which is able to make us feel less far away from our families and friends. But also to reach to other pregnant women and young mothers, online or in loco.
This post is written by Margarida, a Portuguese mother living in Germany, married to a German and with a small child. I met Marga through social media, and we have connected over our passion for everything about expat life and parenting. You can follow Marga and ABOE (A Bit Of Everything) on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Marga also has a YouTube Channel.