In this post, you will find everything you need to know about having a baby in Germany. This includes the benefits of giving birth in Germany, what you should know during your pregnancy in Germany, options for giving birth and postnatal care in Germany.
Having a baby: 4 reasons to give birth in Germany
1. Maternity and parental leave in Germany
When I first moved from Hong Kong to Germany, one thing that surprised me most was the length of the maternity/ parental leave in Germany. Many people have at least one year off from their work when they have their babies. This totally blew my mind.
Fully paid maternity leave (Mutterschutz) in Germany
Maternity leave in Germany starts from 6 weeks before your expected due date to 8 weeks after the actual birth date. If you have multiples or complications, this period may be extended. The nice thing is that, during your maternity leave, you will get 100% of your salary. Your public health insurance will pay you 13 EUR a day, and the rest will be covered by your employer during this period. This money is called Mutterschaftsgeld.
In case if you have a high-risk job, you may be able to go on maternity leave once you announce your pregnancy. For example, my friend works in a hospital. It is considered to be a risky job for a pregnant woman as she may have contact with bacteria or viruses that may harm her unborn baby. So, once she informed the employer about her pregnancy after being pregnant for 3 months, she was immediately banned from work and had a long maternity leave of 6 months before her expected due date, fully paid.
Long parental leave (Elternzeit) in Germany
Parental leave can be shared between both parents. During the parental leave, you can get up to 12 months of parental allowance, or up to 14 months if your partner also takes the parental leave. The parental allowance amounts to about 65% of your salary (up to 1800 EUR per month). This is called Elterngeld and it is paid by the government.
There is also an ElterngeldPlus package which provides financial support for parents who work part-time during their parental leave. With this package, you can receive the parental allowance for a longer period but with a reduced amount. You can keep much more income from your part-time job comparing to the basic Elterngeld package.
It is quite common for the mother to take one year off after birth, while the father takes usually 2 months of parental leave. The father can decide which months he would like to take, and he can also get the parental allowance during these two months.
You can take parental leave for up to 3 years in Germany after your kid is born. The parental leave will be unpaid after the first 12 or 14 months, but your position in the company will be retained.
I also know a couple who decided to take their parental leave at the same time so that they can travel around the world together with their baby for a few months. This is such a nice family time opportunity that is almost impossible in Hong Kong!
Read also: 13 Tips for Working From Home with a Toddler
Your job is protected during your long leave
Once you inform your employer about your pregnancy, it is very difficult to get fired. During your parental leave, you also have full employment protection so that you don’t need to worry about your position in the company. Furthermore, you can choose to work part-time during your parental leave if there are no valid company reasons against it.
In case your job nature does not allow a part-time job, you are eligible to work part-time in a different company, after having an agreement with your employer. Your job position will still be secured during this time.
For example, it is pretty common for the mother to take off the first year and then work part-time in the second and third year during her parental leave. This is a great opportunity for mothers who would like to spend more time with their small kids.
2. Social benefits for families in Germany
Child benefit (Kindergeld) in Germany
Besides the amazing maternal and paternal benefits, you can also receive child benefit in Germany when you have kids. In 2020, you can get 204 EUR monthly from the government per kid if you have one or two kids; 210 EUR for the third kid, and 235 EUR starting from the fourth kid. You can get this benefit until your kid is 18 years old, and in some cases until 25 years old if your kid is still studying or if certain requirements are met. You can find more information on the website of the Federal Agency for Work (Bundesagentur Fur Arbeit).
Family benefit (Familiengeld) in Germany
On top of this child benefit, some states also provide other social benefits to support families. For example, in Bavaria, the government provides a family benefit (Familiengeld) to families with small kids. In 2020, you can get 250 EUR monthly per kid between his first and third birthday. If you have more than 2 kids, you will get 300 EUR monthly from the third kid onwards.
Daycare and education in Germany
Furthermore, public daycare and education are very affordable in Germany. They are either free or subsidized by the government. If you live in a big city, it can be difficult to get a place in the daycare though. You would need to be lucky and apply very early. An alternative would be private daycare schools or universities which involve additional fees.
3. Giving birth naturally in Germany
I had always been afraid of giving birth. Since I was young, I was told that giving birth is the worst pain ever, even worse than getting burned by fire. So, I had always wanted a C-section as I thought it would give me less pain.
Unlike in Hong Kong or in the US, most women in Germany give birth naturally. C-section (Kaiserschnitt) is not recommended without any medical reasons. I couldn’t understand it at the beginning until my friend recommended this book to me about Hypnobirthing. I was so happy to discover that there is a way to give birth naturally without pain. This really helped me with my birth. My daughter was born completely naturally without any medicine or pain killer. I am sure I will do the same for my second kid.
In Hong Kong, hospital surgery is the standard of giving birth. In Germany, we have different choices like home birth, water birth, giving birth at a birth house, etc. I really like this natural approach. I believe it is better for both the mother and the kid, if there are no medical complications.
Besides, holistic medicine is very common in Germany. Instead of antibiotics, homeopathic medicines or herbal teas can be recommended by the doctors. In Hong Kong, taking conventional medicine is the norm and I didn’t even think about the natural approach before coming to Germany. Other natural therapies like acupuncture are also common in Germany to assist with giving birth.
4. The low cost of giving birth in Germany
If you have a public health insurance in Germany, it is almost free to give birth in Germany. Public insurance normally covers all the basic costs of pregnancy and giving birth. You may need to pay some extra costs for paperwork or additional checkups. The average hospital bill for childbirth can range from 0 EUR to a few hundred EUR, depending on the facilities you need.
If you have a private health insurance in Germany, you will have to check with your insurance what they cover for pregnancy and childbirth. You can also use this website to compare the coverage for different private health insurance.
Giving birth in Germany without insurance can cost around 1500 EUR to 8000 EUR, depending on the services and facilities needed. If you need to transfer money from your home country to your German bank account to cover this cost, using the services from CurrencyFair can help you to save a lot of money compared with a regular bank transfer.
With CurrencyFair, the fee is only 3 EUR no matter how much you exchange. The exchange rate it uses is also much cheaper than the one used by the bank. Currencyfair is also offering 3 free transfers to our readers at the moment if you want to try it out for free.
Since I have a health insurance in Germany, I paid almost nothing for my pregnancy and childbirth. This is really a great benefit for me to give birth here in Germany.
Having a baby: Pregnancy in Germany
Visit a gynecologist (Frauenarzt) in Germany
If you suspect that you are pregnant, you can buy a pregnancy test (Schwangerschaftstest) to check it out. You can find one easily in pharmacies or drugstore like DM. If the result is positive, you will need to book an appointment with a gynecologist.
Once the gynecologist confirms your pregnancy, you will need to book regular check-up appointments during your whole pregnancy. It is usually once a month until the end of your second trimester. Afterward, it will be every 2 weeks. After you pass your due date, you will have to go for the check-up every other day.
During these appointments, the gynecologist will perform different medical exams and blood tests to make sure everything is on track, e.g. checking your urine, weight, blood pressure, etc. It is also common to have ultrasound scans in Germany. If you have a public health insurance in Germany, you will normally be offered three ultrasound scans. If you want to have more, you may need to pay additionally. In my case, I paid around 180 EUR so that I could have ultrasound scans whenever I visited the gynecologist. This also includes a series of 3D photos. All the ultrasound and 3D photos were given to me in a USB stick which allowed me to make a book from it afterward 🙂
If you do not want to be informed about the gender of the fetus, you can let the gynecologist know so that it can remain as a surprise until birth. In our case, we cannot wait to know about the gender so that we can start thinking of the name and buying baby clothes.
You will get a mother’s passport (Mutterpass)
Once your pregnancy is confirmed by the gynecologist, you will receive a small booklet called the mother’s passport. It is like a passport where all your tests and examinations results relating to your pregnancy are documented.
A mother’s passport is an important document that you should bring with you to every medical appointment. You will also need to bring it to the hospital when you give birth.
The best is to have your mother’s passport with you at all times, also when you are traveling. It is helpful for you to get medical help in case an emergency happens, as all the critical information about the health of you and your baby is documented there.
Inform your employer and insurance about your pregnancy
Once you confirm your pregnancy, you should check with your health insurance to understand what costs are covered. As mentioned before, most of the necessary costs relating to pregnancy and childbirth are covered if you have a public health insurance.
Besides, you should inform your employer as well about your pregnancy. You can then determine the time for your maternity leave. As mentioned previously, you will get 100% of your salary (Mutterschaftsgeld) during your maternity leave, which is paid by both your employer and your public health insurance. You will need to provide your health insurance a written confirmation of the expected due date to get the Mutterschaftsgeld. You can get this confirmation from your gynecologist six weeks before the baby due date. This confirmation is called “Bescheinigung zum voraussichtlichen Entbindungstermin” in German.
You will also need to consider how long parental leave you would like to take and let your employer know. You may be able to shorten or extend your parental leave later on, after discussing it with your employer.
Find a midwife (Hebamme) in Germany
There is a difference between a gynecologist and a midwife in Germany. Your gynecologist is the one who does all the medical check-ups in the clinic, while the midwives are responsible for the actual delivery of your child. Your midwife will visit you at your home during and after your pregnancy. They will give you any advice relating to pregnancy, breastfeeding, childbirth, taking care of your newborn, postnatal care, etc.
I found it really helpful to have a midwife, especially if it is your first pregnancy! For example, my midwife came to my home many times during my pregnancy and taught me all I needed to know about childbirth. After my baby was born, she came to my home every day in the first 10 days and checked my recovery process. Besides, she also gave me loads of advice on how to take care of my newborn. After the first 10 days, she still came from time to time for a few months to check if everything is ok. I could also contact her anytime if I had questions.
Note that your midwife may not be the one who actually helps you with the delivery. If you decide to give birth in a hospital, you will need to check with your midwife upfront to see if she is authorized to work in that hospital. Otherwise, your hospital will provide another midwife for you during birth.
If you live in a big city, you should search for a midwife as soon as possible because it is difficult to find one sometimes due to the high demand. You may also be able to find one who speaks English (mine did). The best way is to ask your local friends or gynecologist if they have any suggestions. You can also use this website to search for midwives in your area.
Read also: How to learn German: My 10 fun ways
Join a birth preparation class (Geburtsvorbereitungskurs)
It is common in Germany to join a birth preparation class during your pregnancy. These classes are usually available in the hospital or Red Cross. You may also be able to get a private birth preparation class at home from your midwife.
The cost of a birth preparation class is normally covered by your public health insurance. For some classes, you may be allowed to bring your partner with you so that he can also learn how to help you during birth. He may have to pay extra costs in this case as normally the health insurance will only cover the cost for the pregnant women.
During these classes, you will learn about the birth process, breathing techniques, birth positions, and everything relating to pregnancy and childbirth. Besides, you will get to meet other expecting parents in your area. This is very good as you may find someone with whom you can connect during your parental leave.
I would highly recommend your partner to join the class with you if he can. It makes sense that he also knows what to expect and can be of help somehow during the birth process.
You should register for the birth preparation class early in advance to ensure you get a place. However, you should only join a class after your 26th week of pregnancy. It is easy to forget the things that you have learned if you join the class too early. So, it makes sense to join it not too long before your expected due date.
During my first pregnancy, my midwife also offered me a private birth preparation class at my home. Since she speaks English, I had my private English class which was excellent for me. So, you should check with your midwife as well. She may provide a private class for you at home and the cost may be covered by your health insurance.
If you are interested, you should also check what other classes the hospital is providing. Sometimes they also offer prenatal yoga classes, which may be fully or partially reimbursable by your health insurance. Check it in advance so that you can register and join the class during your maternity leave.
Choose the birthplace
One thing I really like about giving birth in Germany is that there are different options for birthplace. Back in Hong Kong, I only know about giving birth in hospitals. In Germany, you can choose among hospitals, birth house (Geburtshaus) or even birth at home (Hausgeburt).
Giving birth in a hospital is still the most common option in Germany. There are doctors and medical equipment in a hospital in case of emergencies. You can also get epidural (“PDA” in German) pain relief during labor. In a hospital, there are normally also natural birth assistances like birthing balls or tubs for water births. Hospital birth is suitable for women who have a risk of birth complications, or for those who like to feel safe as medical emergency services are on the spot.
Birth houses provide a cozy, home-like environment for women to give birth. They are run by midwives and there are no emergency services on the spot. Similarly, you can also choose to give birth at your own home. In that case, you will need to find a midwife who specializes in home births. Both birth houses and home births are suitable for women who have no medical complications and those who would like to give birth in a relaxing environment. There will be limited medicated pain relief. So, it is good for women who would like to have a natural birth. In case of emergency, the midwife will send the woman to the hospital immediately.
Register at the hospital
If you choose to give birth in a hospital, it is good to join an information session in the evening (Info-Abend). The hospitals normally hold these sessions regularly. You can check on their websites for the time of the sessions.
During these sessions, you will have a chance to ask any questions and take a tour of the hospital to understand what kind of facilities they offer. For example, you can see what their birthing pools look like if you plan for a water birth. Note also that not all the hospitals have a full pediatric clinic (Kinderklinik). If your baby is born premature or needs special medical care, he will need to be transferred to a Kinderklinik after birth.
Once you have decided on which hospital to give birth, you will need to book an appointment to register at the hospital. This is so that all the paperwork and formal procedures are done and you can focus on giving birth later on in the hospital.
In my case, since I did not have a risk of medical complications, I chose to give birth in a small hospital without a Kinderklinik. It was a good choice for me as the staff in that small hospital was very personal to me and took care of my needs. There were only 2-3 births a day on average and they were not too busy so that they could focus on me. I heard that in a big hospital, since the staff is much busier, the birthing process can be more or less like a production line and the staff may be less personal.
Another benefit of a small hospital is that it is easier to book a family room (Familienzimmer). It means that you have your own private room and your husband can stay with you overnight during these days. I would highly recommend it as the first few days and nights could be chaotic for someone who has no baby experience before.
Read also: Living in Germany – Big City vs. Small Town
Having a baby: Giving birth in Germany
Items to bring to the hospital
The facilities in each hospital can be different. So, the best is to ask them beforehand what they will or will not provide. To reduce stress, you should start packing your hospital bag a few weeks before your expected due day. In general, I would recommend bringing the below items with you during your hospital stay:
- Electronic devices for music (if you want to relax or do hypnobirthing)
- Nursing bras and pads (if you plan to breastfeed)
- Comfortable clothes for breastfeeding and sleeping (hospitals in Germany normally do not provide hospital gowns)
- Going home outfits for your baby (do not forget the jacket and hat especially in the winter)
Regarding the paperwork, many hospitals in Germany will register the birth certificate for your baby. But please check with your hospital beforehand what documents they will need from you. In general, the below documents may be needed:
- Your mother’s passport (Mutterpass)
- Your health insurance card
- Your passport
- Your birth certificate (Get your translation online here*)
- Your partner’s birth certificate (Get your translation online here*)
- Your marriage certificate (Get your translation online here*)
*A translation may not always be needed. Please check with your hospital or your local registry office (Standesamt) beforehand.
If you plan to go home from the hospital by car, you will need to prepare a car seat for your baby beforehand. We use this car seat and we love it. The important point here is to find a car seat that is compatible with your stroller. It is a lifesaver for us when I can transfer the whole car seat to the stroller without having to wake my baby up.
Note also that it is not necessary to buy all your baby items new. I bought almost everything from flea markets (Flohmarkt). There are flea markets exclusively for baby stuff called Babybasar. You can find good quality second-hand baby items there for a much cheaper price. Be there early enough to get the good stuff. Most of these flea markets also allow pregnant women to enter half or one hour earlier than the others if you show your mother’s passport.
What happened after birth in a hospital?
The good thing about giving birth in Germany is that in most cases, your baby will be with you right after birth for your whole hospital stay. It is believed in Germany that the skin-to-skin contact of the mother and baby is very important.
People on average stay 3-7 days in the hospital after birth for a vaginal delivery, and a few days more on top if they have a C-section. The hospital will do an APGAR test on your baby shortly after birth to see if there are any problems or birth defects. In the next few days, your baby will be regularly weighed and measured. All these measurements will be documented in a small children’s examination booklet called Kinder-Untersuchungsheft. This booklet is kind of similar to your mother’s passport. It is an important document and you will have to bring it with you to all the future check-ups for your baby.
Besides the baby’s check-up, the nurses in the hospital will also show you how to take care of your newborn during these days, e.g. breastfeeding, bathing your baby, changing diapers, etc. This is very helpful, especially if you have no experience with babies before.
If you have a vaginal delivery, you can go home even after one or two days if you want to, and if everything is ok. In my case, I found it helpful to stay a bit longer at the hospital because I could ask for help from the nurses around the clock. Having our first baby without any related experience before was very chaotic for us and breastfeeding was not working as easily as I expected. Staying in the hospital allowed me to have a chance to ask questions and practice until I felt comfortable that I could handle these things alone at home.
Another reason to stay a few days in the hospital is that the baby’s second check-up normally happens on the third day after birth. Being in the hospital has the benefit to have the check-up on the spot, rather than going to a pediatrician additionally later on.
Besides, I made a big mistake by walking home from the hospital after a vaginal delivery. My home was really closed to the hospital and it was normally a 5-minute walk. I thought I felt ok to make it. So, I asked my husband to take our baby home first and I walked back by myself. It took me half an hour to go back and I could barely walk without pain! I am sure we will drive home with our car next time…
Having a baby: After birth in Germany
Register your baby in Germany
An important administrative work you have to do is to register your baby within seven days after birth. As mentioned before, many hospitals will help to register the birth certificate of your baby. Make sure you check with your hospital beforehand so that you bring all the necessary documents with you. If you do not give birth in a hospital, you can also register the birth at your local registry office (Standesamt).
The birth certificate is an important document as you would need it to apply for all the social benefits like child benefit (Kindergeld), parental allowance (Elterngeld), etc.
If you plan to travel to other countries with your baby, you will also need to apply for a passport. There are two types of passport: a normal German passport (Reisepass) or a child’s German passport (Kinderreisepass). A child’s German passport is easier to apply, cheaper and faster. But your baby cannot travel with it to all the countries, e.g. the USA. You can check more details and apply at your local Citizens Registration Office (Bürgeramt).
It is better to think about the name of your baby already before birth. The hospitals in Germany will ask for the name of your newborn soon after birth. Besides, you will need to fill in the name in all other paperwork when applying to the social benefits and the passport.
Postnatal care in Germany
As mentioned before, after you come home from the hospital, your midwife will visit you to check your recovery process, the development process of your baby and also provide advice on taking care of your newborn, breastfeeding, or any other questions you may have.
It is recommended to join a post-partum class called “Rückbildungskurs” after birth. Many hospitals offer these classes and the cost may be covered by your insurance. These classes help with your pelvic floor muscles after birth.
Besides the Rückbildungskurs, you can often find many other classes for moms with their newborns like baby swimming class, baby massage class, etc. I would highly recommend joining these classes as they really made my days during my parental leave and helped me to connect with other moms.
Breastfeeding in Germany
Public breastfeeding is widely accepted in Germany. Since I came from a more traditional culture, where you have to hide yourself in special rooms when breastfeeding, I was not feeling completely comfortable to breastfeed in public areas at the beginning. However, I got used to it after some time and I think it is really cool here in Germany that you can basically breastfeed anywhere. If you do not feel comfortable, you can always use a blanket to cover during breastfeeding.
In the first year after birth, there are a lot of check-ups and vaccinations to be done for your baby. You need to bring your baby to the pediatrician and you should always bring your children’s examination booklet (Kinder-Untersuchungsheft). The pediatrician will document all the measurements and observations in this booklet. You can also see the time schedule on the booklet which tells you around when your baby should have the check-ups (which week or month after birth). These check-ups are called U1, U2, U3, etc.
Will your baby get German citizenship when he is born in Germany?
Citizenship is always a complicated topic. Unlike in some other countries, your baby will not automatically get German citizenship just because he was born in Germany. In general, he can get German citizenship if
- At least one of his parents is German; or
- One of the parents has permanent residency status in Germany and has been living in Germany for at least 8 years.
Germany also allows dual citizenship under certain circumstances. However, it also depends on the rules of your home country. For example, after checking with my home town Hong Kong, I found out that my baby is not eligible to have a Hong Kong passport, at least not directly. The reason is that my baby was not born in Hong Kong and we do not reside in Hong Kong.
Every country has different rules. Some countries will grant your baby a passport no matter where you live or where your baby is born. You should check the requirements beforehand so that you know what document is needed and how you can proceed with the application process after birth.
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Are you planning to have a baby in Germany? Or have you already given birth in Germany? Leave a comment below and share your experience!