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, including 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, birthing centres (Geburtshaus), as well as midwife practices, offer courses for parents-to-be. Look into the options nearby or use a website like kidsgo to search classes in your area.
As opposed to other countries (e.g. the US) most birth preparation classes in Germany are similar content-wise no matter 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 so, if you want your partner to come with you, you will likely need to pay yourself or excel at negotiation skills with your health insurance provider.
Based on the research I did about birth classes in Hamburg, they mostly come in two types:
- intensive weekend courses with the 14 instruction hours split over two days, typically offered for women and their partners;
- 7-week courses with 2 hours of instruction a week that 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 so 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. Second, I just couldn’t imagine what we could possibly do there for a 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 have seemed sillier. The birthing centre was a really nice place, the young midwife who led 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.
If you live in a big city, you’ll discover that there are seemingly countless other classes for parents-to-be. There are courses on newborn care, on first aid for babies and toddlers (definitely recommended!), introductions to cloth diapering and classes on baby sleep. There are even special courses for grandparents and siblings.
Although generally useful, such classes can leave quite a dent in your wallet, especially if you live in a big city. Here in Hamburg courses with 2-3 hours of instruction cost between 30-50 Euros per person, longer ones from 50-60 Euros upwards. Add to this the 100-150 Euros that you need to pay for your partner to attend a weekend birth class and you’ve got yourself a pretty hefty sum.
We decided to invest in a few good books and trust the guidance of our postnatal care midwife.
Choosing where to give birth
Finally, once you have reached the beginning of the third trimester you should make your choice about where to give birth – in a hospital, a birth centre, or at home. The vast majority of Germans opt for hospital births. Most hospitals offer bi-monthly information evenings where they tell about the hospital, answer to people’s questions, and give a tour of the facilities. It’s a good way to find out a little more about the hospitals in your area, 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!