What Does a Midwife Do – And How Can I Find One?

31 August 2022 | Bevor dein Baby auf die Welt Kommt | By Lisa H

In Germany, every pregnant person is entitled to the support of a midwife (Hebamme in German) during pregnancy, birth and in the post-partum period. Here’s everything you need to know:

What are the different types of midwives?

First off, there are midwives employed by the hospital to attend births, and freelance midwives, who cover pre-natal and post-natal (Wochenbett and beyond) appointments.

As an in-between, there are so called “Beleghebammen”, who are self-employed but affiliated with a specific hospital where they attend the birth with the family. They will be on call for you during the last few weeks of your pregnancy and will attend the birth, giving you 1-on-1 midwife care.

Finally, there are midwives doing home births (Hausgeburtshebammen) and those delivering babies at a birthing center.

Why should I get a midwife?

It is not required to have a midwife during the pre-natal or post-natal period. However, many families find it helpful to have a midwife who may provide a different type of care during pregnancy and will visit you regularly at home in the postpartum period to do check-ups for the mother and baby and offer advice to the new family.

Midwife vs. OBGYN vs. Doula

In the beginning of your pregnancy, you will have appointments roughly every 4 weeks. Starting in week 32, you will have appointments every 2 weeks.

For most of the appointments, it is your decision if you want to take these appointments with your OBGYN or your midwife.

One exception are the three ultrasounds (roughly weeks 9-12, 17-20 and 29-32), which only your OBGYN (Frauenarzt in German) can perform. The same goes for any special appointments such as for fine diagnostics or amniocentesis.

As opposed to midwifes and OBGYNs, a doula is not a medical professional but a certified professional that provides emotional and physical support during the pre- and post-natal period and/or childbirth.

How to decide?

A bit simplified, your OBGYN takes a scientific approach and uses high tech tools to keep track of all the important milestones during pregnancy.

Midwifes care for the mother and baby holistically. Appointments are often more of a conversation that could also address topics such as your mental health, niggles and pains, or tackling any fears surrounding pregnancy and birth. After the birth, they care for both the mother and baby and can answer a multitude of questions around baby sleep, skin issues, breast feeding as well as the mother’s recovery, when and how to start exercising, etc.

Personally, I alternated between midwife and OBGYN appointments. My midwife was my confidant and person of trust both before and after giving birth. My OBGYN was great in providing detailed insights into the baby’s development and clearing certain decisions in late pregnancy.

However you decide, make sure you have the right “team” to support you on this special journey in your life!

How do midwives work?

Self-employed midwives sometimes work on their own or can be part of a midwife practice.

Besides the pre-natal and post-natal care, some midwives also offer classes for the parents (such as for birth preparation, post natal recovery or first aid) and the baby (such as baby massage), etc. They may also be certified to provide acupuncture treatments and similar. You can use the services of several midwives to cover everything you need.

Midwives usually work in a certain radius so they can more easily do home visits postpartum. For your pre-natal appointments, some visit you at home, others will ask you to visit their practice, if they have one.

Midwives usually care for their families until about three months after the baby is born. However, you can use their services up until you stop breastfeeding for such things as taking your first trip with the baby or introducing solids.

Who pays for the midwife?

Your health insurance will cover the pre-natal and post-natal midwife appointments as well as a birth preparation course (check about fees for your partner, however).

If you have a “Beleghebamme”, a home birth midwife or plan to give birth at a birthing center, there will be a Rufbereitschaftspauschale (on-call fee), which currently runs around €800-1200. Many health insurance providers will reimburse a small portion of this fee (usually between €100 and €300 – check with your insurance).

Where do I find a midwife in Berlin?

Unfortunately, it is very hard to find a midwife 😟 You should start contacting midwifes as soon as you know that you are pregnant, do not wait!

It is especially hard to find one around Christmas and the summer holidays, so if you are still planning your pregnancy, keep this in mind. (As a word of encouragement, both of our kids were born in the summer, and we were able to find great midwives both times.)

You can use the following (mostly free) services to find a midwife:

  • https://hebammensuche.de/

    • Provides an overview of available midwives in your area

    • You can filter by the type of services you need as well as languages

    • Based on your due date, a list of midwives with capacities are listed

    • You can contact as many of them as you like via email or phone

    • The platform is only available in German

  • https://www.ammely.de

    • “The largest midwife-platform in Germany, a cooperation with the German Midwives' Association”

    • Provides an overview of available midwives in your area

    • You can send up to 5 requests via the system – if a midwife declines your request, you can send a new one

    • Available in English and German

    • For continuous care as well as one-off appointments, also via video

    • Also for courses

    • You can filter by the type of services you need as well as languages

    • Unfortunately, no details or bio is provided for the midwives

  • https://www.berliner-hebammenvermittlung.de

    • Anonymizes your data and sends it to midwives that match your criteria

    • available only in German

  • Hebammenvermittlung Berlin FB group

    • A Facebook group you can use if you were unable to find a midwife through the above channels

    • State your projected due date (ET) and postal code plus anything else that’s important

      • For example, what type of care are you looking for?

      • Is there anything special about your pregnancy/birth?

      • Languages you speak, etc.

  • Midiaid

    • Shows midwives with potential capacity matching your search criteria

    • You can send one message for free or upgrade to access more features (from €19,95)

    • You can also have your details entered into a search list so midwives can contact you if they have availability

    • Available in German and English

  • Do a Google search for midwifes and midwife practices in your neighborhood

  • Ask your chosen hospital for a list of postpartum (Wochenbett) midwives

If a midwife has availability, you’ll make an appointment to get to know each other. You may click right away, or you may find that it’s not a good fit.

I know it may seem scary to decide to continue looking but do think about whether you feel comfortable with them and whether you can imagine having them in your home in those first vulnerable days and weeks after giving birth.

Or, perhaps you decide not to work with a midwife at all, and that is ok also!

What if I still can't find a midwife or if I don't have German health insurance?

For both of the above mentioned scenarios, you can check out the platform call a midwife, where you can find online support from a qualified midwife in eight different languages. If you have German health insurance, this service is paid for by your insurance. If you don't have German health insurance, you can book a 7-day package for €99.90.

Additionally, some midwife practices, family centers, hospitals and OBGYNs offer a drop-in clinic for those families that do not have a "personal" midwife (just google (see this Google search for "Wochenbettsprechstunde Berlin").

Finally, if you can’t find a midwife and want to alert the authorities about the insufficient number of midwives, you can add your details to this list: https://www.unsere-hebammen.de/aktionen/unterversorgung-melden

We wish you all the best on this special journey and good luck finding a midwife if you choose to do so!

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