A brief guide on how to navigate pregnancy in Berlin, Germany.
- I’m not a doctor. Always, always check with your doctor before following any online advice, including mine.
- This guide is not an exhaustive list of everything you need to know. Pregnancy is very personal, and differs from woman to woman. You’ll need to do additional research.
- The links on this page might not lead always to the right place because they were written at a specific point in time (and I don’t check the efficacy of the links all the time). If a link doesn’t work, do a simple a web search.
So with that, let’s get started.
IF YOU’RE PLANNING TO GET PREGNANT
Get a health checkup at your regular doctor. Make sure important things such as your iron levels or Vitamin D levels aren’t too low. Tell your doctor that you’re planning to get pregnant and ask them how you can best prepare. Pregnancy is a very personal thing that differs woman to woman, so you need to know how best to prepare for you.
As part of your health checkup, you might also want to ask about genetic testing for you and your partner, to rule out or address any potential genetic issues that might arise for your baby.
If you haven’t been exercising and eating healthy, don’t fret. It’s never too late to start. Start small, with a brisk 30-minute walk 3 times a week. Cut down on refined carbs and free sugars such as chocolates and candy, and instead switch to whole grains, lean meats, and fresh fruit. Check out my curated YouTube playlist for pregnancy workouts.
If you don’t already have an OBGYN (Frauenarzt), get one now. The best way to find one is through word-of-mouth. Ask your friends! Another option is Doctolib, a website that serves as a repository of doctors in Germany. I’ve used it myself and I can recommend it.
Read paperwork or the website from your health insurance company to learn what is and is not covered by them for pregnancy. Even if you’re with public health insurance such as TK or AOK, what’s covered depends on your employment status, so definitely check.
Eliminate smoking. My opinion has always been that nothing good can come of smoking (and I’m particularly distasteful of public smoking — it’s just plain selfish). It’s bad for you, especially if you’re trying to get pregnant. Find a way to stop the habit completely.
Reduce your alcohol intake (or give it up completely if you can). Giving up my gin ‘n tonics and Friday beers was tough. Really tough. But hey, at least it’s temporary.
Be in a happy place emotionally and mentally. This last one is most important, in my opinion. Stress doesn’t help anyone, and especially when you’re trying to get pregnant.
DURING YOUR PREGNANCY
Assuming you find out you’re pregnant with a home pregnancy test, make an appointment with your OBGYN to confirm that you’re really pregnant.
Once it’s confirmed, search for a midwife (Hebamme) immediately and don’t stop until you find one. I contacted 96 Hebammes until one responded positively. Your experience might be easier, because I waited until my second trimester to do this. Word-of-mouth is best, but here are some helpful websites that you can use: Berliner-Hebammenvermittlung, Hebammensuche, Ammely. Note that there are different types of Hebammes; some work throughout your pregnancy and after, some only after pregnancy and so on. You’ll need to decide which type is best for you. My hebamme works with clients only after the child is born and that was sufficient for me.
Your OBGYN will (or should) explain what to expect throughout your pregnancy. If they don’t, ask them to explain it to you. Your doctor will also give you a Mutterpass, a booklet that will contain all information pertaining to your pregnancy. Basically, you’ll have a string of monthly appointments and various tests to make sure you and your baby are doing well.
If you’re employed, paid maternity leave (Mutterzeit) in Germany is guaranteed for 6 weeks before and 8 weeks after your delivery date. After the 8 weeks, you’ll want to decide how long you want to take parental leave (Elternzeit) or not, and whether you want to take it in conjunction with your partner or not. The German government offers up to 14 months combined parental leave that you and your partner can share, for up to EUR 1800 a month parental allowance (Elterngeld). You and your partner can also take parental leave up to 3 years after the birth of your baby, but the parental allowance is reduced after the 14 months. Here’s a helpful document from the German Ministry that explains all of this.
If you’re employed or a freelancer, inform your employer or clients that you’re pregnant. Some women choose to wait until week 13 to do this, because chances of a miscarriage are higher in your first trimester. But it is entirely up to you. The important thing is that you inform them that you’re pregnant and how long you want to take maternity / parental leave, and then get a confirmation in writing that they’ve been informed (you’ll need this confirmation later to apply for parental allowance (Elterngeld)).
Inform your health insurance provider that you’re pregnant. They’ll need this information in order to process your maternity leave (Mutterzeit) in conjunction with your employer and disburse your maternity leave allowance (Mutterschaftsgeld).
I recommend that you read up on all tests that are typically recommended during pregnancy. Then read up which of these tests are covered and not covered (or partially covered) by your health insurance. Then speak to your OBGYN to determine which tests you’d like to get done.
Here are the tests that I opted to get done (I’m not recommending them — it’s entirely up to you and your OBGYN). These were all done in my second trimester.
- Amniocentisis (to test for Down’s Syndrome & other birth defects)
- Toxoplasmosis (to test for parasites that result from eating undercooked meats)
- Glucose tolerance test (to test for gestational diabetes or Schwangershaftsdiabetes)
You’ll need to decide where you’d like to deliver your baby: birthing center, hospital or at home. If it’s a birthing center or hospital, call each of them to ask about visiting them (Aufnahmesprechstunde), where they’ll explain everything you’ll need to know for your delivery. Note that these visits are generally allowed only in your third trimester, but some hospitals / birthing centers are exceptions.
If you’re not familiar with the process of child birth, you might want to sign up for a birth preparation class. These are usually covered by health insurance (but please check before signing up!). You can find out about one through word-of-mouth or do a web search to find a birth prep class. I went with Hebammerie, because they offer English language birth prep classes.
Start contacting Kitas (daycare or kindergarten) in your neighborhood to apply for a spot for your child. If you live in Berlin, most likely, you’ll be added to a waiting list. Every Kita is very different in its approach, so you’ll want to read through their website, visit them during their open houses and get to know them.
I didn’t do much of this, but you could sign up for the many Facebook mommy / parent groups based on the city you live in.
AFTER YOU GIVE BIRTH
You’ll need to apply for a Kita-Gutschein (voucher). This is a document from the German government that entitles you to free Kita for your child. Note, many Kitas will charge you around EUR 60 – 80 per month for additional services, so it may not be entirely free. There are plenty of considerations for a Kita-Gutschein, and that link will help you figure it out.
Apply for Parental Allowance (Elterngeld). This official website from the German government explains the documents you need to apply and how to apply.
Apply for monthly child allowance (Kindergeld). This official website from the German government explains what it is and how to apply.
You’ll need to register your child’s birth with your local Standesamt in order to obtain a birth certificate. This must be done within 7 days of the baby’s birth, in person. Check out more info here for the documents you’ll need and the list of Standesamts.
Find a Pediatrician (Kinderarzt). Again, the best way to find one is through word-of-mouth. Ask your friends! Another option is Doctolib, a website that serves as a repository of doctors in Germany.
HELPFUL RESOURCES FOR PREGNANCY
Here are a bunch of resources I found helpful throughout my pregnancy.
- My curated YouTube playlist for pregnancy workouts
- Having a Baby in Germany expat blog
- English guide for families in Berlin
And that’s about it. Good luck, and enjoy the miracle of pregnancy.