How recently did you give birth in the country that you are reporting on?
2000 (eight years ago) and will again in a month
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...
It was awesome, especially since I had public German insurance (this time, I have non-German insurance, which puts a damper on things, as it doesn't cover as much). First, my doctor saw me within two days of contacting him to say I was pregnant (in the States, for my subsequent child they wanted me to wait four months to come in--so much for socialized medicine being "slow and inefficient"). I had ultrasounds every time, had a copy of my medical records, and the doctor shared information with me instead of acting like I had no business knowing what was going on with the body I live in (in contrast to my US experiences). One thing, many German OBGYNs just do prenatal care, they don't deliver the babies. So they leave good notes in your Mutterpass (medical record) and you take that with you to the hospital.
Okay, so delivery. When you are in labor you just go to the Frauenklinik, to the Kreissaal. You don't have to call in advance. I'd been on a tour already and I knew they had all kinds of useful things in the labor room, like Pezi balls and a thing called a Roma Rad that looked like um, an antigravity machine. They didn't have a water birth facility here, but I know some other area clinics do. I went in to the Kreissaal and they checked me and I was already at an 8, so I went straight to delivery. Oh, they don't give you any hospital clothes. You just wear what you have on, which was a little weird.
Anyway, my first child took 18.5 hours and was posterior and it was all extremely painful, so I asked for an epidural, but they told me this was going to be too quick. They did agree to give me "something to take the edge off" (some kind of IV narcotic?) which basically did nothing for the pain and just made me feel sleepy between contractions. I think I saw the doctor twice--once when he told me no to the epidural, and once when he walked in, did an episiotomy, caught the baby, and walked out. Out of four kids, it was my only episiotomy, and I don't think they are routine at all, but this baby was bigger than the others. It was to the side and not the back, and healing from it was quick. Oh, and I did forgive the doctor over the epidural, because in an hour and a half, the kid was out. I would have preferred to have more movement, though--I don't care for the sitting - 3/4 reclining position--even if they can't see as well, I prefer kneeling with a little more gravity on my side. The doctor didn't agree.
There were about three midwives present the whole time. They were great. They washed, weighed, dressed my baby and I nursed him until everything was taken care of (sewing, placenta, etc.) Then, since it was around 10 pm, they took my baby to the night nursery, where the kindest nurse ever received him as if she already knew him and was excited to see him again. One of my best memories! They said that after birth, babies need to sleep because they're exhausted, and they weren't going to wake him up on purpose. They give the babies fennel tea at night to help them with digestion as well, so that they aren't colicky. And they brought my baby to me when he did wake up.
I was there five days (standard in 2000). I had a roommate and in the daytime the baby was with me; at night he went to the nursery. They have since remodeled the clinic, and I hear that they do rooming-in 24 hours now, which is something I'm less excited about. I don't mind being close when we're at home, but I don't like the idea of my baby being in an unattended room when I'm dead asleep. (Especially with someone else's guests coming in and out.) We'll see how it goes this time.
The only drawbacks (besides being kind of bored after five days!) were that the first night I had afterpains and couldn't find anyone to dispense painkillers for me. Also, the food. Despite tons of emphasis on a healthy diet with lots of vegetables, I got dry bread after delivery. You really need a healthy, well-balanced, iron-rich meal after giving birth! I ate every scrap they offered, but had to ask people to bring me "real" food as well. So get your husband and friends to bring you takeout. :)
Oh, and one more thing that was cool--they let me donate the stem cell blood from the placenta. The ultimate recycling (we ARE in Germany, after all!) and it was free and could save a life.
How did you choose your doctor, midwife or other type of medical professional?
If you were to have another child in this country, would you do anything differently in terms of preparation and/or the delivery?
Well, I moved away and then moved back, and I'm going to the same doctor, so obviously it was a good experience. I'm getting ready to go back to the same clinic as well, curious about the supposed changes the remodeling has effected. This is child #5 and my last two were born in 1.5-2 hours, so I don't really have much choice in where to go--the nearest one possible, please! I probably won't ask for an epidural--I KNOW I won't ask for whatever they did give me last time, as it was useless. I might be a little more assertive on birth positions as well.
If a friend of yours living in the same country were expecting, what advice would you give her?
Go for it! "Normal" German prenatal care is like extra-special American care. Similar birth philosophies, only the German model is a bit more deluxe. Oh, and ask about prenatal vitamins. They didn't used to use them at all, and only recently have they started to.