A Pregnant American in Germany, part 2: The Doctor
Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Soon after getting over the initial shock and roller coaster of emotions connected with finding out we were in fact expecting we were faced with a new challenge: to find an OBGYN, or Frauenarzt as they are called in German.
There are plenty of doctor’s to choose from in Hannover- but how do you choose? We didn’t follow the advice of books like “What To Expect…” and interview doctors about their training, prenatal care routines, or delivery philosophies. We didn’t even think about personality compatibility. No sir. You see, when you are an expat living in a country where you have only basic language skills and practically no medical vocabulary knowledge, and then you find yourself pregnant, your desires in a doctor suddenly become much simpler than all of that. Your “wish list” of items gets tossed out the window and taken over by one sole goal: to find a doctor who speaks (and is willing to speak) English. Anything extra is icing on the cake.
We were super nervous when we started making phone calls, but praise God (!) for his provisions because Drew and I were extremely fortunate to be able to find a doctor relatively quickly and painlessly. Someone at Drew’s work gave us a recommendation for an English-speaking doctor, and she turned out to be just excellent. Her English is very good and she doesn’t seem to be bothered at all by the fact that we are foreigners or that it sometimes takes longer for us to figure things out due to cultural differences related to pregnancy. Fabulous.
After finding our doctor, my next job was to adjust to going to the doctor in Germany. And, there are some definite differences I have noticed regarding the doctor’s office / prenatal care in Germany as compared to the US. Let me share a few of those now:
-The privacy standards when you visit an OBGYN in Germany are not at all the same as when you go in the US. For example, instead of stepping out of the room, giving you a few minutes to undress and providing you with a gown, drape or blanket to cover up with, the doctor stays in the room with you as you undress and you aren’t given even the smallest scrap of fabric to cover yourself. Thus you sit, in “those everything-open-for-the-world-to-see” chairs, in your birthday suit, minus perhaps a pair of socks you just didn’t feel the necessity to remove. The first time I encountered this I was just about mortified, feeling robbed of my privacy, I remember thinking to myself- “I just can’t wait for this to be over- how embarrassing!”, but now, several appointments later I can say that I’ve gotten used to it and it’s no longer a concern.
-My clinic is all-in-one. By this I mean that the exams, ultrasounds and all of the necessary bloodwork are done right in the same office. I find this to be wonderful as it saves a lot of time I would have spent in the waiting rooms of blood drawing labs or ultrasound facilities in the US.
-Ultrasounds are done by the doctor herself and are given at EVERY appointment here! Yes, it’s true- Drew and I get to “see” our little girl each and every time we visit the doctor.
-Our Doctor may perform the ultrasounds but one thing she won’t do is deliver the baby. Yes, you read that correctly! Doctor’s in Germany do not deliver babies, they only do the prenatal care. Our baby will instead be delivered by whoever the midwife on duty is at our hospital when I go into labor. (More on midwifes and hospital practices in another post sometime).
-There seems to be a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy here in Germany. Although our doctor is very happy to sit down and go over any questions we may have, she doesn’t offer up a lot of information without us asking for it. For example- I have never once been consulted on my diet in pregnancy, or the appropriate weight gain in pregnancy for someone my size (I wasn’t even weighed regularly until the 3rd appointment). No one has told me to “try to sleep on the right side” and we didn’t even discuss prenatal vitamins with our doctor until Drew and I directly asked about them. The mentality around here seems to be that if you must be responsible for yourself and if you don’t know something you have to ask. The same goes with getting your results from blood work, urine tests, etc. Unless you specifically ask, the doctor won’t bring them up unless there is a concern. Being the uber-planner and researcher that I am, this do-it-yourself laid-back approach fits me just fine. In fact, I think I even prefer it as it has definitely helped to lessen my stress of doing everything “just right”.
-I’m almost 25 weeks along now and we have not once heard our baby’s heartbeat. Oh she has one alright, we’ve seen it many times flashing on the ultrasound screen, but we’ve not yet experienced the joy of hearing it. When we asked the doctor about this she informed us that it wasn’t common practice in Germany to actually listen to the heartbeat, until much latter in the pregnancy. What is common is that sometime around the 30th week my doctor’s appointments will be getting much longer. This is because, in Germany, it is standard practice to listen to and monitor the baby’s heartbeat and movements for about 30-45 minutes at each appointment after the 30th week. So we will hear it eventually, and it’s something we are definitely looking forward to!
Ok, at just under 1000 words I think I’ve written enough for today. If you’re still here reading my ramblings about pregnancy and the German system- congratulations and thanks for staying with me.
Feel free to ask any questions you have if and when they come up.
More to come.