What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?
How recently did you give birth in the country that you are reporting on?
2000 (five years ago)
Describe your experience giving birth there. What type of facility did you go to? What (if any) type of pain management did you use? How long did you stay in the hospital? Was it a positive experience? Etc...
I went to a hospital (Krankenhaus) close to our apartment in the heart of Hamburg. I had a wonderful birthing experience despite communication difficulties.
A brief outline of my experience:
The hospitals in Germany are often a series of different buildings instead of one huge building which is often the case in the USA.
This was my first birth so we weren't sure if I was really in labor (of course, subsequent births have proven to me that even experience never prepares you entirely - every birth is unique). We took the bus to the hospital and the nurses checked me and said I was at a 3 and they would keep me.
I ended up walking around the Kreissal (birthing section) for most the night. When my contractions were stronger they had me rest in a Wehen (contraction) room. I was mostly forgotten because it was a Sunday and other women needed the nurses and midwives more than I did. I was supposed to get a tea, but it never came. I remember being ticked off about it at the time, but now I think it's funny.
One thing you should know is that midwives run the show in the labor and delivery section of a German hospital. The doctor will come when the baby is "caught" and watch-but that is the extent of it. Also, the OBGYN that I saw didn't deliver me. Basically you go to the hospital and are treated by the midwives and OBGYNs that are there. This is not necessarily a bad thing. My midwife was great.
When I was a six the midwife came and asked if I needed something for the pain. I said yes, thinking I was going to get an epidural. No epi. If you want an epi make SURE you ask for a PDA. I did not, and because my birth appeared normal, I was not asked if I wanted one. They did give me some kind of pain relief, but it didn't last long.
After the wehen room we were walked to the delivery room. I liked that in this hospital everything was muted but not kitschy. They did have a waterbirth pool but they told me it was "broken" (umm...I've always wondered about this. I think they were just understaffed because it was a weekend). In the delivery room were all kinds of things to help the process of labor-birth balls and a rope to hang from, birthing stools. Being an American from a mother who always used epis I had no idea what to do with those things (ended up laying down on the bed - dumb, but I didn't know any better). Now I realize how progressive this hospital was.
SO - I had my baby and felt it all without epidural. And guess what? I lived through it and it was one of the coolest things I've ever done. The midwives I had in Germany were top notch. I loved being able to walk after I'd given birth, and the swoosh of pure energy - not numbed by sedatives or epidural. Also, they didn't cut me! Woohoo. I did have a minor tear, but it healed so well I was able to have sex after three weeks.
They also NEVER rushed me. They gave us over an hour in the delivery room with our baby and put my dd on my chest after she came out. They let us stay like that for a long time and even left the room so we could bond as a family, let me nurse her right away, and never whisked her away to a nursery to bathe her or take pictures. They showed me my placenta and the midwife even hugged and kissed me! It was the best. I had subsequent births in the US and they were not as neat -even though the last was with a midwife and without meds as well.
On to recovery! We were wheeled out of the labor and delivery room and went to the recovery area. It was a huge room with red geraniums and classic large German windows. Because I wasn't privately insured I had to share my room with 3 other women. That got annoying when all the babies screamed at once.
Rooming in with your baby is expected and I was also expected to do everything myself. When I asked to sleep alone hours after the birth the midwife who took care of me stared at me as if I was crazy (or maybe a whiny Ami). I changed my dd's diapers, checked her temperature and bilubrin levels, and made sure everything was noted on a sheet they had in the nursery (I think we had to check for stool and urine too - see if baby was fed enough). The midwives would help watch the babies occasionally, but no one served me my meals. If meal time came and I didn't go to the hallway and get it - I didn't eat. They served us great food - huge portions. Every morning we were offered nursing tea. A lactation specialist did see me, but I couldn't talk to her very well because I had only been in Germany a year at the time.
A typical hospital stay for labor and birth in 2000 was 7 days. I stayed the full time, but now I know they have "ambulante" birth-you can leave the hospital the same day if you request to do so. Overall I would give it a thumbs up. Of course, you can get the full American treatment if you have private insurance.
We are living in Germany again and I am considering having a fourth child. But this time I'm going to get a midwife who will catch the baby at home.
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How did you choose your doctor, midwife or other type of medical professional?
An expat friend who is also married to a German referred me to a great doctor in the city section of Eppendorf. Insurance paid for everything then. It even paid for birth classes taught by the midwife who visited me for a week after my birth. She came to check up on me, see how breast feeding was going, etc. This is a great system - it helped save my nursing efforts (not to mention my poor breasts) and I will always be grateful for this womans knowledge and expertise. Hopefully this all won't change too drastically with the new insurance reforms here in Deutschland.
If you were to have another child in this country, would you do anything differently in terms of preparation and/or the delivery?
I'm confident enough now that I would elect to have my baby at home. My insurance will pay for it. Also, this way I could have the same midwife practitioner from the beginning.
If a friend of yours living in the same country were expecting, what advice would you give her?
Go check out the hospitals in your area - they usually have nights where they show parents the facilities. Stay away from University clinics and hospitals. My experience is that they are not as nice and full of gawking medical students (just like the USA). Yuck. Try to go to a childbirth class and arrange a midwife to visit after the birth. And I would also suggest securing a doula, either informally with a friend, or find out if a woman with childbirth knowledge could attend with you.
Last, be open to different ways of experiencing birth. Germany is much more holisitic and even mainstream doctors are apt to prescribe tea or homeopathic medicine for an ailment. Try it. You might be suprised.