What do I need to know?
Whether longed for or entirely unplanned, pregnancy and childbirth is a life-changing event. It can throw the mother (and father) off the track for a while. In this chapter, you will find out where to seek help and support during pregnancy, what rights you have, and what issues you need to consider and plan for before childbirth.
What should I know?
If you suspect that you are pregnant, you can buy a pregnancy test kit from a drugstore and pharmacy and take a pregnancy test at home. If the test result is positive and you are pregnant, you should visit a gynaecologist. To find a gynaecologist you can check frauenaerzte-im-netz.de or ask your family doctor ("Hausarzt") for a referral. There are many gynaecologists available in Germany- you can easily find a female gynaecologist if you prefer so.
When making an appointment with the gynaecologist you've chosen, tell them that you are probably pregnant, so you do not have to wait long for an appointment. The gynaecologist will take a blood and urine test to make sure you are pregnant, and you and the unborn child are doing well. If you are pregnant, you will receive a so-called "Mutterpass", i.e. a booklet in which the results of all the check-ups during pregnancy are going to be recorded. You should show this booklet every time you go to your gynaecologist, midwife or hospital. Always take your "Mutterpass" with you when you leave home so that in a case of an emergency, every doctor can quickly access the most crucial information about the health condition of you and your baby and your course of pregnancy.
Please note: In general, every woman, regardless of whether she is pregnant or not, should go to the gynaecologist at least once a year. In Germany, the costs are covered by health insurance companies. If you are still in the asylum procedure, however, the costs will only be covered if you have acute pain or in case you are pregnant.
Every pregnant woman in Germany has a statutory right to medical care. The costs for such care are either taken over by your health insurance or the Social Welfare Office ("Sozialamt").
In the first months of pregnancy, you should visit your gynaecologist every four weeks- and during the last eight weeks, once every two weeks. Your gynaecologist will do a check up to make sure you and your child are healthy. At each appointment, your doctor will check your weigh, measure your blood pressure and test your urine and (sometimes) your blood. Plus, he/she will check the baby’s heartbeat. In the third, sixth and eighth months, an additional ultrasound test is performed to check the fetus's development. It is essential that you do not forget these checkups- checkups are the only way your doctor can recognise risks at an early stage and prevent further difficulties. Check your "Mutterpass" to find out which tests and checkups are necessary and when. "Mutterpass" is the booklet you will be handed at the first checkup when your gynaecologist established that you are pregnant. A full list of regular checkups will be recorded in there.
Please note: In addition to the regular checkups, there are tests designed to detect signs of malformations or developmental disorders in your unborn child. These tests are called prenatal diagnostics ("Pränataldiagnostik"). You are not obliged to do these tests- and if you would like to take them, you usually have to cover the costs personally. The health insurance pays the costs of such tests only if your doctor suspects the fetus may have a malformation or illness. These tests, however, do not always end up in precise results.
Midwife: You can search for a midwife who will look after you during pregnancy and after childbirth. A midwife is a health-care professional who specialises in attending pregnant women and infants. Your health insurance covers the costs for such care. Visit Hebammensuche.de to search for a midwife nearby. You can also ask your gynaecologist for a skilled midwife. Keep in mind that you should start your search as early as possible, as midwives are often in high demand.
"Geburtsklinik" or "Gebursthaus": Find a clinic with obstetrics ward ("Geburtsklinik") or a Birthing Centre ("Gebursthaus") for the childbirth. A Birthing Centre ("Gebursthaus") is an institution (run by midwives) which is more intimate and cosy than a clinic. But keep in mind that in case of a risky pregnancy ("Risikoschwangerschaft"), you are better off in a clinic. In many clinics and Birthing Centres, you can visit, look around in peace and ask questions in advance and then decide.
Birth Preparation Course ("Geburtsvorbereitungskurs"): If you would like to know more about the childbirth process and prepare for it, you can attend a birth preparation course ("Geburtsvorbereitungskurs"), the costs of which are covered by the health insurance. Your doctor or midwife can tell you where to find such a course. Some courses are only for mothers or fathers- but there are also courses you can visit as a couple. In such classes, you often learn breathing exercises and relaxation techniques and can ask all your questions regarding the childbirth process.
Maternity Benefits or “Mutterschaftsgeld”: If you are pregnant and working, you are entitled to "maternity benefits" ("Mutterschaftsgeld")- you need to apply for it at your health insurance seven weeks before the childbirth. To apply, you need a certificate (from your doctor) which specifies the expected date of birth. You need to send this certificate directly to your health insurance. In case you have a mini-job or are privately insured, you will receive reduced maternity benefits. If so, you have to apply for maternity benefits directly at the Federal Insurance Office ("Bundesversicherungsamt"). To do so, fill out the application for maternity benefits online and send it to the Federal Insurance Office along with all the certificates mentioned.
Parental Leave: If the father of the newborn baby wants to go on parental leave after the childbirth, he should inform his boss (at the latest) seven weeks before the delivery. If you want to go on parental leave right after birth, you should inform your boss at the latest one week after delivery. You can read more about parental leave in the section "I would like to take a break from work after the childbirth- is that possible?".
Paternity: If you are not married, the father of the child can declare paternity. Only when the father recognises paternity, the maintenance obligation applies to him and the child, for instance, can claim citizenship through the father. To establish paternity, the child's parents must go to the Youth Welfare Office responsible. You can find the proper Youth Wlfare Office at jugendaemter.de. The paternity recognition process takes place free of charge. The mother has to bring along her "Mutterpass", ID card and birth certificate and the father has to present his ID and birth certificate. Keep in mind that the foreign birth certificates must have been translated by a certified translator to be recognised. To search for certified translator nearby, visit justiz-dolmetscher.de or bdue.de. If you want to go through a paternity recognition process after childbirth, you must also hand in your newborn baby's birth certificate. Without the required documents, paternity recognition is usually not possible. If this is the case, seek advice from a counselling centre or a lawyer in advance. You can find a counselling centre, for instance, on Pro Asyl. To search for a lawyer who specialises in refugees' and asylum seekers' issues, visit www.rechtsberaterkonferenz.de.
You should tell your boss about your pregnancy not later than three months after it is verified; So that he/she has enough time to find a substitute for you. Furthermore, you have exclusive rights in the workplace. Once your superior learns about your pregnancy,
- you must not be assigned heavy or dangerous tasks.
- you must not be exposed to noise, heat, humidity or time pressure.
- you have a right to sufficient breaks.
- you must not work overtime.
- you must not work at nights.
- you must not work on Sundays or official holidays.
Furthermore, you should not work during the last six weeks of your pregnancy - unless you personally decide to continue working. In the first eight weeks after birth, however, you must not work under any circumstances- such regulation is called maternity protection or "Mutterschutz". During this time you will receive "Maternity Benefit" instead of your regular salary. You can read more about maternity benefits in the section "What should I plan for during pregnancy?".
Please note: During a job interview, you usually do not have to say that you are pregnant or would like to become pregnant. Even if asked, you do not have to tell the truth. However, such rule does not apply to the jobs which you cannot practice as a pregnant woman (such as modelling or working as a dancer) and jobs that endanger your health in case of a pregnancy.
As a pregnant woman, you are protected against job dismissal in Germany, which means from the beginning of pregnancy to four months after the childbirth, and during the parental leave, your boss cannot dismiss you. Keep in mind that you must inform your boss about your pregnancy, and It is best to do so by handing in a confirmation letter from your doctor since only a written notice can legally secure your position. If you have been dismissed before informing your boss about your pregnancy, you can submit the certificate mentioned above within two weeks of the dismissal.
Please note: If you have a fixed-term contract and your contract expires during pregnancy, your contract will not be renewed. In this case, you have to find a new job or register yourself as a job seeker.
You must go to the Civil Registry Office (“Standesamt”) at your baby's place of birth (the latest) one week after the delivery and register the birth. There you will be issued a birth certificate for your child. You have to pay about 20€ for your child's birth certificate. To register your newborn at the Civil Registry Office, you must submit the following documents:
- A confirmation from the clinic where your child was born ("Geburtsanzeige")
- Your ID card (as the mother) and the father's ID card (if you are married or in case the father has acknowledged paternity)
- Your birth certificate (as the mother) and the father's birth certificate (if you are married or in case the father has acknowledged paternity)
- Your marriage certificate (if you are married to the child's father)
- Confirmation of paternity recognition (if you are not married to the child's father but the father's name is recorded on the birth certificate)
In principle, the Civil Registry Office will not issue your child a birth certificate if you do not have all the necessary documents, but you still can register your child there. You need to go to the Civil Registry Office and apply for a "statement of birth registration" ("Auszug aus dem Geburtenregister"). Such a statement is an official document which you can use for different types of registration and application (for example, to apply for child benefits).
Please note: Only if your marriage is registered in the Civil Registry Office (i.e. the so-called civil marriage), you and your child's father hold the joint custody of your child. Otherwise, the mother is the sole holder of a child's custody. The parent who holds custody is responsible for the child's upbringing. He or she decides, e.g. which kindergarten or school the child attends, with whom he/she interacts and where he/she lives. If you want to share the custody with the father of the child, you must both submit a so-called "custody declaration"(Sorgerechtserklärung") at the responsible Youth Welfare Office. You can find the proper Youth Welfare Office at jugendaemter.de.
The state provides all the German and (partly) foreign families with child benefit, i.e. the so-called "Kindergeld". For every underage child, the parent will receive about 200 euro child allowance per month. The amount of child allowance you receive depends on the number of your children- whether you have an income and what you earn have no impact on the amount of child benefit you receive.
The following people are not entitled to child benefit:
- Parents with a temporary residence permit or “Aufenthaltsgestattung“. Exception: Turkish citizens who have been in Germany for 6 months; People from Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro given their job is subject to social security contributions.
- Parents with a tolerated stay permit or “Duldung“.Exception: people who have a “Beschäftigungsduldung “; Turkish citizens who have been in Germany for 6 months; People from Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro given their job is subject to social security contributions.
- Parents with residence permits in accordance with Section 23 (1) of the Residence Act due to war in their home country as well as Sections 23a, 24 or Section 25 (3) to 5. Exception: Parents who have been in Germany for over 3 years and work or receive unemployment benefit I (ALG1).
- Parents who have a residence permit according to §16b (students), §16d (professional recognition) or §20 paragraph 2 (job search) of the Residence Act.
The application for child benefit must be submitted in writing to the family fund ("Familienkasse") of the Federal Employment Agency at your place of residence. You can find the appropriate form on the website of the Federal Employment Agency. You will receive (or already have received) the documents required for the application along with your child's birth certificate from the competent Civil Registry Office. You can read more in the section "What should I do after childbirth?".
If you need further financial support, you can contact the Social Welfare Office or the Jobcentre. If you have little or no income, you can apply for financial aid to buy pregnancy clothing, baby equipment, etc. To do so, get in touch with the staff member responsible for your case and show them your "Mutterpass". Furthermore, you can also apply for financial support from the Federal Foundation for Mother and Child ("Bundesstiftung Mutter und Kind"). To apply, you need to go to a counselling centre in your area- you can find one on the website of familienplanung.de.
There are numerous counselling centres for pregnant women in Germany. They can provide you with advice and support concerning all your pregnancy-related questions - you can find one of these centres in your area on the website of familienplanung.de. In addition, you can call the Pregnant in Distress Helpline (“Hilfetelefon Schwngere in Not”) 24 hours a day at 0800 - 40 40 020. The staff speak many languages and can provide you with cost-free and anonymous advice on all relevant topics.
For more information about pregnancy, you can also visit zanzu.de and find more helpful tips on the issue in many different languages.
When you have to leave Germany but do not go voluntarily (learn more on our chapter “Voluntary Return” ), in principle, you may be deported even if you are pregnant. However, the deportation must not take place in the last six weeks before childbirth and the first eight weeks after. During this period, you are, in principle, entitled to a tolerated stay permit or "Duldung". Eight weeks after the childbirth, you will be required to leave or be deported along with your baby. Visit our chapter "Rejected Asylum" to find out more about your possibilities to stay in Germany despite being obliged to leave. If your deportation is imminent, you must immediately seek advice from a counselling centre or lawyer. You can find a counselling centre nearby online, for instance, on the website of Pro Asyl. At www.rechtsberaterkonferenz.de, you can find lawyers who specialise in advising refugees and asylum seekers.
Sometimes, a woman becomes pregnant despite not being ready for pregnancy or raising a child. Here we explain your rights and options regarding abortion and adoption. In addition, you will be reading about the "morning-after pill" ("Pille danach") and contraceptive means in general.
What should I know?
According to §218 of the German Criminal Code, abortion is unlawful and only not punishable when done under certain circumstances:
- If you decide to have an abortion, then you must comply with statutory deadlines and regulations. You can abort the foetus until the 12th week after conception if you have already visited a counselling centre, talked to an expert and have received a consultation certificate, which proves that you as a pregnant woman have received comprehensive advice. You will find counselling centres in your area on familienplanung.de. Their service is free.
- If you become pregnant as a result of rape, you can go through an abortion until the 12th week after conception. In this case, you do not need to go to a counselling centre before abortion. You can, however, seek advice from a counselling centre in your area free of charge.
- If the pregnancy endangers your physical or mental health, you can go through an abortion even after the 12th week- but a doctor must confirm that continuation of the pregnancy will put your health at risk.
Please note: If you are under 18 years of age and want to go through an abortion, your mother or father usually need to agree. If you are over 16, the doctor may decide that you no longer need the consent of your parents; but under the age of 16, you will often need at least one parent’s consent. If you cannot tell your parents about the pregnancy, contact a counselling centre and seek help from the staff. Visit familienplanung.de to find a counselling centre in your area- the service is free of charge.
If you become pregnant through rape, or if your pregnancy endangers your health, your health insurance or the Social Welfare Office will cover the costs of abortion. If you want to end your pregnancy for other reasons, you will have to pay part of the expenses yourself; as your health insurance will only cover the costs of medical consultation and care as well as the medication before and after the procedure. You have to pay for the actual abortion process, which usually costs between 200 to 600 euro. You can find out more about the various abortion methods in many different languages at zanzu.de.
Please note: If you receive benefits from the Social Welfare Office, Jobcentre, BAB or BAföG, or in case you do not earn much, you can apply for the assumption of the costs of abortion (“Übernahme der Kosten für die Abtreibung”) at your health insurance or the Social Welfare Office.
If you are not able to (or do not want to) raise your child, you can put the child up for adoption after birth. The Youth Welfare Office then takes responsibility and looks after your child for the time being. If you ultimately decide that you do not want to raise your child yourself, you can settle for adoption. The Youth Welfare Office will then look for a caring family that can raise your child.
Even if nobody can know about your pregnancy, there is still a possibility to give birth to your child- and you do not have to go through the process on your own either. You can opt for a so-called "confidential delivery" ("vertraulichen Geburt") and safely deliver your child in a hospital. Nobody will know your name except for a female consultant, and she is not allowed to talk to anyone about you- so you remain anonymous. After 16 years and under certain circumstances, your child have the right learn your name. But apart from your child, nobody has such a right.
Furthermore, you do not have to pay the costs of counselling and childbirth. If you want a "confidential delivery", you can contact the counselling centre "Beratung & Geburt vertraulich" 24 hours a day at 0800-4040020 or visit www.geburt-vertraulich.de for online counselling. The service is free and anonymous, and the staff speak many languages. You can also contact a counselling centre in your area familienplanung.de. Alternatively, you can contact any clinic- the staff will know what to do.
If you have had unprotected sex and are worried that you might get pregnant, you can take the so-called "morning-after pill" within 12 hours of having sexual intercourse. The "morning-after pill" can prevent fertilisation of the egg- you can obtain such a pill without a prescription in any pharmacy. It usually costs between 15 to 30 euro. Keep in mind that time is of significance here: waiting for more than 12 hours will reduce the likelihood that the morning-after pill will work. Please note: The morning-after pill is not an abortion pill. It can only prevent pregnancy but not terminate it. If you are already pregnant, it is too late for the morning-after pill.
The most common contraceptives are condoms and the so-called "birth control pills" ("Antibabypille"). You can buy condoms in supermarkets, drugstores and pharmacies, but for obtaining the birth control pill, you need a prescription from your gynaecologist. Birth control pills interfere with your natural hormonal balance and are considered as medicine; therefore, it is only available in the pharmacy and is handed when there is a prescription. These pills usually cost between 10 to 20 euro per month. For girls under 18 who are covered by statutory health insurance, the costs are covered by the insurance. If you are between 18 and 20 years old, you only have to pay 10% of the birth control pill if you are covered by statutory health insurance. In case you are covered by private health insurance, you will have to pay the costs personally, regardless of your age. If you are still in the asylum procedure, you can ask the staff member responsible at the Social Welfare Office if the costs can be covered. If you want to know more about the effects of birth control pills or other contraceptives, consult a gynaecologist or a counselling centre. You can also read more (in many languages) on the zanzu.de.
If you are pregnant and in need of help, call the "Pregnant in Distress Helpline" (“Hilfetelefon Schwngere in Not”). Their multilingual staff are available 24 hours at 0800 40 40 020. At your request, the advice can be provided anonymously.