Finding out you are pregnant is a moment filled with joy and excitement but also a long list of unknowns and to-dos. Whether you are new to Munich or have lived here for years, navigating the system can be complicated. The information below should help demystify the pregnancy and birth experience here in Munich so that you can enjoy this happy time!
The care providers
As a Maternity and Postpartum Consultant, I often coach people on building their support system. Bringing a baby into the world is not something that is done alone but rather with a team of emotional, medical and physical support. Choosing this support system should be your first order of business.
One of your first calls should be to a Gynaecologist (OB/GYN) or Frauenarzt who will confirm your pregnancy usually with a vaginal exam and vaginal scan. It is usually recommended that you wait until about 8 weeks of pregnancy for this appointment but try and make the appointment as soon as you find out you are pregnant. Be sure to tell them on the phone that you are pregnant as well as this will help you secure an appointment sooner rather than later. You will visit the Frauenarzt every four weeks from the confirmation of pregnancy until week 32 when you will have an appointment every two weeks. At each appointment, you will have a urine analysis, blood pressure check, weight check and periodic blood tests as well as the chance to chat with the doctor. Some doctors will offer an ultrasound every time but this depends on your insurance. Public insurance normally pays only for three ultrasounds if everything looks fine.
One of the first words you might have learned when pregnant was Hebamme or Midwife. In Germany, midwives run the show and many women opt to have a midwife follow their pregnancy instead of the OB/GYN. Hebamme work freelance, from a home office or in a Hebamme Praxis and many are trained in acupuncture, reflexology, homeopathy, aromatherapy and more. They often offer prenatal classes as well.
Whether you choose a prenatal Hebamme or not, the thing that I find most impressive about the German system is the Nachsorgehebamme. The Nachsorgenhebamme are specifically for postpartum care and will visit you up to 20 times in the first 8 weeks postpartum. Usually, they will visit every day for the first 2 weeks and then less frequently in the second two weeks. At these visits, they check baby’s development as well as how Mama is healing, help with breastfeeding and answer any questions you may have. Unfortunately, due to a huge baby boom in Munich, these Hebamme are very hard to nail down and many women have difficulty finding a midwife as early as 8-10 weeks into their pregnancy so start early!
One thing that might differ from countries like the USA, for example, is the lack of continual support. Your OB/GYN might follow you prenatally but not necessarily practice in the hospital where you will be giving birth. At the birth, you will work with the midwives and doctors on-call and then your postpartum midwife will follow you within the first 8 weeks postpartum. This is where a Doula can be a huge support. Doulas are not medically trained but offer emotional and physical support to new mothers and mothers-to-be before, during and after birth. They can be a huge continual support to you and also help with any language barriers that you might find here in Munich, specially if you arrived recently or you don´t feel comfortable speaking German.
In Munich, you have three options on where you want to have your baby:
Hospitals and Clinics offer the standard delivery options with epidurals on hand and emergency services in case of a cesarean (C-section) or any other issues. While hospitals will definitely be a more sterile environment, they do not usually discourage a natural birth and often have birthing balls, stools and even bathtubs available for water births. You will be in the hands of a qualified midwife who will deliver your baby as doctors only step in under emergency circumstances. After birth, you will usually stay 3 nights after a vaginal birth and 5 nights after a cesarean. It is rare to have a single room but you can usually pay a low fee and secure what is called a “family room” where your partner can stay with you in a private room.
Another option here in Munich is a midwife-run birthing house or Geburtshaus. These centers have a homey feel and a relaxed atmosphere. The Geburtshaus do not have any emergency services so in case of an emergency you will be transferred to the nearest hospital. It is important to ask what the transfer time is when visiting and choosing a center. Additionally, many of these centers offer out-patient treatment which means that only a few hours after birth you and your new bundle of joy will be sent home. Your midwife will check in with you that day to make sure all is well but otherwise, you will be on your own. Finally, you can hire a Hebamme to oversee a home birth or Hausgeburt. You can have your baby in the comfort of your own home with the expertise of a midwife but in case of an emergency, you will be transferred to the hospital.
All of these options are covered by state health insurance but because of the high demand, many hospitals and clinics fill up quickly so reserve your spot as soon as possible. Additionally, hospitals and birthing houses all offer tours and the opportunity to visit the birthing rooms. Make sure you attend these before making your final decision and feel free to ask as many questions as possible.
At your first OB/GYN appointment, you will be handed your Mutterpass which is the single most important document you will receive. Guard this with your life! Seriously, I’m not kidding. It charts all of your examinations, tests, medical history, and serves as a documentation of your pregnancy. It will be required at every appointment and should be kept with you at all times.
…now get excited!
One of the most impressive things about birth in Germany is the extensive options available to mothers. Midwives, doulas, doctors, epidurals or birthing tubs, hospitals or home births, the options are seemingly limitless. The problem with this, however, is that many newly pregnant woman are at a loss at where to start and what kind of experience is right for them. Add the stress of the baby boom here in Munich which means that all of these major decisions need to be made within the first few weeks of pregnancy and things can just get messy.
My suggestion: call everyone and sign up everywhere as early as possible. You can always cancel later but you won’t know who will be the right fit until you talk to them face-to-face. Need anymore advice or someone to help walk you through the process? I am always here!
US Embassy list of English-speaking physicians
Little Munich Black Book – women-only Facebook Page, a group of expat women filled with excellent information
Hebamme Suche Bayern – English-speaking Midwife search engine for Bavaria
The International Doulas of Munich – a group of English-speaking doulas
Originally from New York City, Sasha spent 15 years in Paris before moving to Singapore and now settling in Munich. She spent a decade supporting the expatriate community in Paris as a personal concierge but after the birth of her baby, she struggled to find the right support for expats as she became a new mom. She is now using her skills to help new parents prep for birth and parenthood through her maternity and postpartum consulting services. As a certified Postpartum Doula with Childbirth International, she provides new families with hands-on, practical support. Find Sasha here or follow her on Instagram.