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Delivery and Aftercare
For the actual birth, you generally have three options in Germany. You can give birth in a normal hospital (Krankenhaus), go to a birthing clinic (Geburtshaus) or hire a midwife to support you during a homebirth (Hausgeburt). In all of these cases, the medical staff’s foreign language skills and their preferred medical procedures (e.g. pain medication and epidural anesthesia) are of particular importance.
Most hospitals offer regular information sessions for pregnant women who want to choose their maternity ward. Find out what sort of birth preparation classes they offer (breathing exercises or relaxation techniques); who exactly will be in charge of the delivery; how their staff treats you, and how forthcoming they are with information on your treatment. As for the latter, it’s always recommended to “pester” doctors, midwives, and nurses for updates and details since the patient is still considered mostly passive and less involved in Germany.
Once you have chosen a hospital, you should pre-register for their maternity care in week 33 to 36 of your pregnancy. When you deliver your baby there, you usually stay in hospital for three to seven days after a routine vaginal birth (Entbindung) and for seven to twelve days after a normal C-section (Kaiserschnitt). Your midwife and the nursing staff can advise you on how to take care of your newborn (holding the baby, bathing an infant, breastfeeding vs. formula etc.) as well as yourself (getting enough rest, sitting baths, pelvic exercises…).
Birthing clinics are a popular alternative to regular hospitals in Germany. Usually, a resident midwife is in charge of the delivery. But they all have a nearby emergency room available should any unforeseen complications arise. If you wish, you can also have your baby at home as long as a licensed midwife is present. She will visit you daily for ten days after the delivery, too. However, not every midwife is willing to assist in homebirths since they are only recommended for low-risk pregnancies.
After Your Child Is Born
In the first one to five minutes after your baby is born, the medical staff in attendance performs the very first exam. In Germany, it’s called U1 or APGAR-Test since the doctor or midwife will check the infant’s Atmung (breathing) – Puls (pulse) – Grundhaltung (limb movements) – Aussehen (looks and complexion) – Reflexe (reflexes). The results of this test indicate whether your baby might be in need of intensive care. There are also a few other tests to check for possible birth defects (e.g. monitoring heart and lungs, abdominal and rectal exam, etc.).
After three to ten days in hospital, the second exam (U2) is due. It mainly focuses on metabolic disorders, but also involves respiratory functions, heartbeat, skin color, digestive system, genitals, skeleton, and nervous system. Once you have been released from hospital you should look for a pediatrician (Kinderarzt). They will take care of all further examinations, which include, among others, a hip ultrasound, checking for motor reflexes and speech defects, recommended vaccinations, and monitoring your child’s general development.
Even the exhaustion and exhilaration of giving birth won’t protect you from the dreaded red tape. Firstly, it’s important to register your child’s birth at the nearest German registry office (Standesamt) within one week. This can be done by the mother (if she’s able to), the father (provided the parents have joint custody), another relative who knows about the baby, the midwife or obstetrician present during the birth, and even the hospital staff in general. You need the following documents:
- a statement confirming the birth of your child
- your passport(s) (if one or both parents aren’t German)
- the parents’ birth certificates (sometimes with official translations)
- your marriage certificate (if applicable)
Make sure to look up the office’s opening hours in advance; to take your time; to bring extra cash for registration fees; to ask a German native speaker or interpreter to accompany you, and to apply for an international birth certificate (Geburtsurkunde) in addition to the German one. You should also contact your embassy beforehand and ask if you need to register your baby’s birth with them as well and which documents they require.
As far as the baby’s name (both given and family name) is concerned, it can be chosen according to the legal conventions in your country of origin. However, if at least one parent is German or has been residing in Germany for more than six months in a row, German Family Registration Law (Namensrecht) may be applicable as well.
Maternity leave (Mutterschutz), child allowance (Kindergeld) and parental leave (Erziehungsurlaub) are essential parts of Germany’s social security system. You can read more about these important topics in our articles on social security and childcare.
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