Expat Health Insurance & Healthcare Guide to Germany
Expats share their experiences with healthcare and expat health insurance in Germany.Share Your Healthcare Experiences Share Your Childbirth Experiences
Our new Expat Healthcare Guide is designed to collect and share information about expat healthcare and expat health insurance from expats in Germany. If you are already living in Germany, please take a few minutes to answer several questions in our Expat Healthcare Report.
The hospital here has all the modern technology and natural birth gadgets you can think of.
My first delivery was in the states and was aweful. The nurses there thought they needed to monitor everything and wouldn't allow me to walk or do anything without the monitor on all the time. One nurse wouldn't allow me out of bed during her shift. After 22 hours of that I ended up with pitossin and an oxygen mask and a big nastey perinial cut. In comparison this hospital is awesome. It doesn't have the homey birthing rooms like in the states, but the rooms are candlit and "soft" and functional. With my first German baby, I didn't know what to expect but was plesantly surprised. I had attended the birthing classes and been on a hospital tour, but still only had my stateside experience to guide me when it came to the actual delivery day. When I arrived, the midwife looked at my papers and asked questions like what names I had picked out for the baby and if I wanted them to call the local priest. Then she said, "OK, you are a privately insured patient, so how do you want to proceed? Would you like me to call the head OBGYN?" As a private patient, she let run the show. She made me tea and talked to my husband and I through the whole delivery, just chatting and checking on the baby occassionally with a monitor and checking my vitals. I had a totally natural childbirth up until the last minute when she made a perineal cut without asking or saying anything, just "snip" and that was over. I was furious. Then she sewed me up afterwards with no anisthetic! I learned to tell them from the very beginning not to do that! My next two deliveries were in the birthing pool. This is done completely naked, so beware. In order for a water birth, our hospital required an enema and shaving. I was offered water and tea throughout the birth. With my last baby, I had been in the delivery room for 6 hours without much progress. My water had broken, but I was not having any regular contractions. The midwife had tried massages and everything she could think of. I wasn't allowed to walk the halls like in the states. I wasn't allowed to leave the delivery area. So, with no progress, the new midwife that came in at shift change wanted to set an IV with pitossin. I asked her how they would do it, because in the states they had increased the pitossin every 20 minutes until I was almost out of my mind. I didn't want that. The midwife said, "Ya, that it pretty much how we do it here too." So, I refused. She asked me what I had against pitossin. I asked her if she had ever had it and she said, no she didn't have any children. Well, she lost all credibility in my eyes. I held my ground and she called for the doctor on duty. When the doctor arrived, the midwife announced that "Our patient here is afraid of giving birth." I was irrate. I asked the midwife to leave the room and then I talked to the doctor alone. I told her my concerns and she said we could compromise. They would set the pitossin and I could turn it up or down myself as I saw fit. The midwife was mad and didn't come back until the actual delivery. She sent another midwife instead. Once the pitossin started, so did the contractions and I never had to turn it up. Two hours later, my baby was born in the birthing pool. The midwife got her revenge though. During my last contraction, she turned the pitossin up on high. I had the worst "nachwehen" I have ever had, but my baby was safe and that was my victory! I had all of my babies "ambulant" or as outpatient. I gave birth and as soon as they were certain that we were both well and stable, about 6 hours later, they let us go home. With my first baby, they needed the delivery room, so they moved us into a small private room for the 6 hours. With the last two we just stayed in the water birthing room. It takes about that long for them to disinfect the pool and get everything ready for it to be used again anyway. In our city there are 3 midwives who visit all of the mothers and babies when they return home. With an out patient delivery, the midwife came once or twice a day for a week and once a day or every other day for another week and stopped in once or twice during the third week. We were well taken care of. If you have someone to help you out at home, I highly recommend it. You can sleep when you want, eat when you want, have your baby with you when you want. The two of you can bond and set your own schedule and no one is there to bother you. You don't have to share a room with any other mothers and their visitors. You don't have any drill sargeant nurses barking orders at you. And yet, help is just a phone call away. My midwife is the best!
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.
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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