Friday, February 24, 2012

Having a Baby In Germany: the Hospital Part

Now, don't get all excited - I'm not saying that we are having another baby! But I have been writing about all baby related things I have come across here in Germany, like the paper work required and how the healthcare of a newborn is arranged. So the two things missing are the pregnancy and the hospital parts.

We moved to Germany about a month before Fräulein was born, so I don't really have much experience about being pregnant in Germany. But she was born here, so I can tell you about choosing the hospital and what is to be expected there. I know that more and more women are giving birth at their own homes or these 'birth homes', which are not medical facilities. But when I was pregnant with Fräulein, I only considered different hospitals, so this post is really only about that choice.

Like all doctor's offices, also the hospitals are private here. In Finland, you must have your baby in the hospital, which happens to be 'your' hospital, based on the city you live in. But here in Germany, you are able to choose the hospital. Because of this, there is a bit of competition between the hospitals, as they want as many customers as possible. And I guess that is partly the cause why especially the smaller hospitals seem to be very cozy and friendly. That is something I'm not sure I could say about Finnish hospitals...

The hospitals have introduction events (Info-Abend) for future parents, usually 1-4 times per month. There you have a short lecture about the hospital and their services and afterwards you can have a look at the delivery rooms and the maternity ward. I think this is great, because then you can meet the staff and really feel the atmosphere of the hospital. Although some of the lectures might be a bit too praising...

When you have chosen your hospital, you should contact them to arrange a meeting, in which their collect your personal data and information about your pregnancy. Hospitals usually recommend to have this meeting about 8-6 before your due date.  You can also go to most of the hospitals without this pre-meeting, but when you have done this beforehand, you don't need to worry about the paper work when you are going to the hospital to have your baby.

When we moved to Wiesbaden, we were a bit in a hurry in choosing the hospital. There are three hospitals with maternity wards in Wiesbaden. One of the hospitals, HSK, is a big one and they also have a ward for sick children. The other two are smaller and cozier, but if there is something wrong with the baby, she/he will be moved to HSK for treatment.

We went to see all of the three hospitals. It was clear for me that, as there wasn't anything exceptional in my pregnancy, I would choose one of the smaller hospitals. A friend of mine had had her baby in Paulinen Klinik and had liked it a lot. So, I called them to make an appointment. Already on the phone I got a bit funny feeling, as the nurse did not speak any English and giggled a lot. I was able to make an appointment, but at the meeting the nurse, who was taking my notes (not the same one as on the phone), giggled in trying to find the right words. So much so that she had to leave the room at one point.

This experience made me think that I wouldn't like the nurses behaving like that while I was in labor. There is nothing wrong in trying to find the right words or being in a good mood, but I really didn't like to face that giggling in the delivery room!

There are a lot of Americans here in Wiesbaden, because the U.S. Army is based here. I thought that maybe these American families would prefer the other smaller hospital, catholic St. Josefs-Hospital. And I was proven right. I was able to make an appointment on a short notice and in the waiting room I talked with an American mother, who had given birth a couple of hours earlier (she was already leaving the hospital!). The nurse I talked with spoke perfect English and they even had many documents translated in English. So, my decision was made: Fräulein was to be born here!

And so she did. I won't go into details of her birth here, but I must say that I was very happy with St. Josephs Hospital. Everyone was nice and professional. On the maternity ward they even arranged so that we were taken care of by the nurse who was the most experienced in speaking English.

Three-days-old Fräulein in her hospital bed.

Before Fräulein was born, I had some questions about the German system. There were also things I didn't even come to think of. I'll list some of them here, in case someone else in wondering the same things. And yes, some of these things might sound completely normal for some of you, but I'm from Finland and used to the ways things are handled there.

  • There are anesthetics available for you while in labor, if you choose to have some. At the pre-meeting I was given a document about all the possible drugs so that I could read it in advance and just sign the consent when needed. Everything went so quickly that I didn't have time to get any drugs, but I wondered afterwards, why they didn't offer me any laughing gas, which is quite popular in Finland. 
  • In Germany, you usually stay in the hospital for three nights, because then your baby can have her U2 check done at the hospital. You can leave the hospital as soon as a couple of hours after birth, if you feel like it, but then the hospital wants to make sure that you have booked the U2 check with the baby's doctor before you leave.
  • Many hospitals have family rooms, but you cannot book one in advance. In our case, there was only one other mother with her baby in the ward when we arrived, so Herr Welle was able to stay with us in the room which was normally equipped for two mothers.

The view from our 'family room'

  • In Germany, the hospital doesn't provide the towels or the clothes for you to wear while you stay there, so you must pack those in your hospital back. They do provide clothing for the baby.

For some reason, all the baby clothes at the hospital
were very big for a newborn (56 or 62cm)

  • If you are not German, you should take your own birth-certificate to the hospital with you. And if you are married, take also your marriage-certificate and the husband's birth-certificate. I can say from experience that it makes things a whole lot easier...
  • In Germany, you must give a name to your baby soon after the birth (in Finland you have two months to do this). They asked for the name as soon as Fräulein was born. We only had one name decided at that point. The two other names we filled in the form, in which all birth details were documented. This had to be filled before we left the hospital.
  • They do not teach how to wash the baby's bottom under running water. I have been told that, in Finland, you cannot leave the hospital before you know how to do that safely. But here you just wipe the bottom with baby-wipes or wet towels.
  • Many German hospitals have a certificate called 'Baby-Friendly Hospital'. The main points of the certificate are that the breastfeeding is encouraged in every way possible and the hospital practices rooming in, so that the baby shares the room with the mother. I would have taken these things as granted, but apparently they are relatively new practices.
  • And something I did wonder a lot, although it now sounds a bit silly: You can go to a catholic hospital even if you are not catholic yourself. The nurses were not dressed as nuns, actually the only 'catholic' thing there were the crucifixes above the doors.


fiona said...

Oh I found that a really interesting post even though I have no intention of having another baby! It sounds quite similar to the UK system where although we have the NHS, you can still choose where you want to have your baby. The only differences I can see is that in the UK you also need to bring everything that you need for your newborn and they also don't teach you how to wash your baby's bottom under running water. You are shown how to do it with a little dish of warm water and cotton wool, but that's it.

Similarly to Finland you don't need to have a name ready for your baby. I think you get at least a month or two to decide and register the name. And you don't need to have your birth certificate/ marriage certificate etc.

Anyway, tell us more about the running your babies bum under the tap!

Frau Welle said...

Thanks for your comment, fiona! It is nice to hear how different the practices are even inside Europe.

I was glad that we were told about the name thing in advance! We were not 100% sure that the baby was a girl, but we had only thought about names for a girl. On our way to the hospital, Herr Welle asked me that what if the baby is a boy after all. We were not able to decide the name during our ten minute drive, so for Fräulein's sake, it was good that she was a girl ;)

I'll tell you more about the bum thing, but I have to consult my friends first, as I do not have any first hand knowledge about the matter.

germangreeneyedmonster said...

very interesting blog :-)
Haven't had a baby so far but laughing gas is not available in Germany anymore apparently due to environmental issues. Don't ask me why but that seems to be the reason. On the other hand a few dentists are now slowly starting to bring laughing gas back...