Prenatal Care in Germany Part 3: Preparing for Birth

Welcome to the third and final part of my prenatal care in Germany mini-series! Part one was about visits at the gynaecologist’s office and part two was dedicated to midwife’s services. This post is about preparing for birth, namely, the world of birth classes and choosing the place where you want to deliver your baby.

Birth preparation classes

If you want to do a birth preparation class you should start looking for one already during the second trimester. You’d typically start your class at the beginning of the third trimester (unless you do an intensive weekend course) and places tend to fill up quite quickly, at least in the big cities. Most hospitals and birthing centres (Geburtshaus) offer courses so you can simply choose a course in the place where you have chosen to give birth. That said, as opposed to other countries (e.g. the US) most birth preparation classes in Germany are similar content-wise independent on where they take place, so you’re completely free to choose any course. The public insurance covers 14 hours of instruction for the mother-to-be but, if you want your partner to come with you, you might need to pay yourself or excel at negotiation skills with your health insurance provider.

Based on the little research I did about birth classes in Hamburg, they mostly come in two types:

  1. intensive weekend courses with the 14 instruction hours split over two days, typically offered only for women and their partners;
  2. 7-week courses with 2 hours of instruction a week, can be either for women only (frequently morning classes) or for women and their partners (usually evening classes).

Our health insurance didn’t cover the course costs for my husband and I set out to find a moms-to-be class in the neighbourhood. Sadly the hospital of our choice suddenly cancelled their moms-only classes so I went for the second best option and applied for a class at the nearby birthing centre. I must admit that I was a bit nervous. First of all, the whole “birthing centre” thing sounded and looked a bit Hippie to me. Secondly, I just couldn’t imagine what we could possibly do there for whole 7 weeks! Not to mention that my only idea of birth classes came from Hollywood movies… I’m sure you can summon the mental image: couples sitting in a circle, the husband behind the wife, doing strange looking breathing exercises. Plus the idea of possibly needing to watch a birth video kind of freaked me out.

Six weeks into the experience my initial fears couldn’t seem sillier. The birthing centre was a really nice place, the young midwife who lead the course was great, and nobody made me watch scary videos or do strange breathing techniques (well, not too strange ones anyway). Instead, we did different exercises, the midwife told about different techniques for preparing for the birth, the birth process itself, as well as the time thereafter. We discussed and exchanged experiences, and tried out the different things to find out what we feel comfortable with, e.g., as birth positions or ways of dealing with pain. And even when speaking of such potentially scary themes as things that can go wrong during the birth, the midwife succeeded in leaving a general feeling of being reassured and safe no matter what happens.

Other classes

There are two other types of courses that are offered by most hospitals and birthing centres. The first is about baby care and means some 4-6 hours of instruction on how to take care of a newborn.

The second is first aid for babies and toddlers and also takes between 4 and 6 hours. Although useful, these courses can leave quite a dent in your wallet, especially if you live in a big city. In Hamburg two people would need to pay between 60 and 90 Euros for a baby care course another 80 Euros for a first aid class. Add that to the approx. 100 Euros that you’d need to pay for the partner to attend a weekend birth class and you’ve got yourself a nice sum of money. We decided to invest it a baby stroller and to buy a couple of good books instead.

Birth choices

Finally, once you have reached the beginning of the third trimester you should make your choice about where to give birth – a hospital, birth centre, or home (the majority of Germans opt for hospital births). Most hospitals offer bi-monthly parent info evenings where they tell about the hospital, answer to people’s questions and give tour of the facilities. It’s a nice chance to find a little more about the hospitals, compare them and make your choice. From around pregnancy week 30 you can register at the hospital of your choice – remember to bring your Mutterpass, health insurance card and a transfer paper from your gynaecologist!

That’s all for now, I hope you have found the series useful!

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2 Replies to “Prenatal Care in Germany Part 3: Preparing for Birth”

  1. Olga @The EuropeanMama says: Reply

    Interesting observations! We took a weekend birth preparation course in a Geburtshaus and my feeling was that it was quite crunchy- it was visible that they were also trying to persuade us to give birth there instead of the hospital, and while they were’t quite anti-hospital, they “sold” the Geburthshaus as more women-friendly. Based on what they told me, I made the decision to wait at home longer- if I had gone to the hospital, maybe it would have been much easier and wouldn’t take so long, and maybe I would have been in a much better shape afterwards. Who knows obviously but at least they could have made me more comfortable. That being said, I chose a geboortekliniek in the Netherlands the third time around (didn’t happen, but hey it was awesome anyway). I know it is a great choice for so many women, and I am glad that they exist.

    1. I guess every Geburtshaus is different. I was a bit afraid that they might do the promotion thing you mention and was pleasantly surprised when that didn’t happen. Out of my group only two of the women are giving birth at the birthing center, everyone else has chosen a hospital. Though now when I have seen the place from the inside I suppose I would considered giving birth in one, just not for the first time around 🙂

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