What happens if you move to another country while pregnant?

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By: Joe HallCC BY 2.0
My husband and I had THE TALK a couple nights ago, and came to the realization that this year is THE YEAR: we’re going to try this baby-making thing! But is there is a kicker, and it’s not a little one — we have a move to Germany in the works this Fall for his studies.

I’ve Googled the heck out of insurance, birth certificates and the midwife/hospital (since we won’t be military), we’ve been working on language skills, research has been done on what to bring and what to wait to buy, and we have a game plan to tell our parents. But I’m still feeling overwhelmed by the ENTIRE thing.

Anyone have any advice for moving internationally somewhere in the second trimester and giving birth when the native language isn’t your own? — Jenna

Comments on What happens if you move to another country while pregnant?

  1. Where in Europe are you going? I’m British but you could be going anywhere from Greece to Slovakia to Finland – and as you can guess, they are very different places! It’s difficult to give you suggestions without knowing more.

    If you can imagine, it’s like someone asking for advice on moving to ‘the Americas’ – Argentina? Mexico? Canada?

  2. I don’t think there’s a guarantee you will fall pregnant and be 2 trimesters in by the Fall. So, though I have no idea where you’re headed and what will happen – I think it is good advice for you to calm down and take a few deep breaths.

    Having a child is an adjustment that you can never be quite prepared for anyway, and millions of people figure it out and make it work in an endless array of different circumstances. It will be okay!

    I have a friend who is currently living in Egypt, and she found a ton of ex-pats joining activities and playing Rugby, which I’m sure you will be able to find some ex-pats from any other myriad of activities (including birthing classes, if that’s the route you go.)

  3. Hey guys! We’ve emailed Jenna to ask her to come and clarify a bit more about her situation. 🙂

  4. Without knowing many details (i.e. which country you are moving to) the only piece of advice I would give is – Which ever country it is, find an American woman who has lived in that country for a while and is familiar with the customs, systems, health care options. I would start reaching out immediately, put it out on a social network and let the word spread. Also, there must be people who will be in your husbands shoes, i.e. have moved for study / work – tap his network. Also see if someone at the embassy can help you find a ‘friend’ to help you through this – there must be resources out there for you 🙂

  5. Been exactly there. Academic, two pregnancies in two European countries, as other responders mentioned, vastly different experiences between two countries…but it was perfectly fine. Babies didn’t seem to care where they came out into 🙂

    • Honestly, just knowing that other people have done it in a similar situation helps greatly. I googled the HECK out of “academic pregnant abroad” and came up with zilch. Then again, my google-fu might have just been off.

  6. Wherever you go, chances are there will be an english speaking expat group (look around on facebook, or meetup.com or even google).

    It may be located in another part of the country, but there’s likely to be help at hand from others who can give advice on the support you can expect to recieve.

  7. I don’t have any good advice for moving to Europe, but I moved from Europe (Ireland) to the US during my second trimester. Even though there’s a common language, the medical system, especially Obstetrics, is very different between the US and Ireland, so it was definitely something I had to adjust to. I’d imagine, though, that most places you will go will have avenues set up to help you navigate the new terrain. Just ask a lot of questions when you get there and make sure you take advantage of help offered by your consulate, organizations from back home, or organizations where you’re going. Every little bit helps.

    It can be very overwhelming, but I also find that in general, most places you go, people are very willing to take a little extra time to help you out!

  8. I gave birth in Turkey two years after moving there with my husband. Physically everything was great and the medical health care in Turkey is top notch. But I wasn’t prepared for the emotional toil it took on me to not be able to have my parents there when my child was born and had to deal with several cultural norms that were overwhelming – along with getting used to being a new mom, post-natal depression (mostly brought on from feeling isolated and missing my family). Of course I was also married to someone form the country – it can be different if you are just living there as an ex-pat. Also the whole experience varies among women – some international women I’ve met take it all in stride and enjoy the experience, others are really attached to their homes and way of life there. It can also varies if you are in a big city or smal town – so many different things can affect it.

  9. Popping in for a moment on my lunch break. First off, we’ll be heading to Germany, and one of the larger cities. I supposed I should have been just a little more specific when I submitted the question. 😉

    From what I’ve read having insurance cover everything will not be a problem since we’ll have proof that the pregnancy is not the primary reason for moving (one advantage of being married to an academic). So heathcare-wise and birth certificate-wise I’m not too worried. Its more about the “doing it” part.

    One of the main reasons I submitted the question to Offbeat Families is because from my scouring of the net no one seemed to be in a situation similar to what our’s will be. They were either 1) military, or 2) had a stay that was going to be more than our’s (which will be just under a year). We’ve asked around and for his university it is unusual that I’d be going with — most of the other “marrieds” seem to go on their own and have a commuter/skype relationship for a year. Also, no one else seems to be in the family planning arena, or if they are they’re waiting until PhDs are over and done with.

    Hopefully this clears things up a tad.

    Also, Ariel, feel free to add the whole Germany thing to the post 😉

    • Check out the message boards on Toytown Germany. There are tons of expats there; I’m sure there will be many discussions of pregnancy/childbirth/obstetrics abroad. Hope you have a great time there! I spent a year in Berlin as an attache to an academic, as it were, and wish I were still there. I had more culture shock when I followed him to a Midwestern college town than when we were abroad. 🙂

      • Haha, sounds VERY much like what happened when we moved back to the US after a year in Germany LAST time. Walmart/Target/Kroger was totally overwhelming.

      • Also, I don’t know why Toytown didn’t cross my mind! Should have been a “duh” place to look. Thanks!

    • If your insurance is covered by a German insurance company while you’re here, you have the right to get a midwife (Hebamme), whose pay will be covered by the insurance. In bigger towns like Cologne there are midwifes who speak different languages, mostly english and turkish and will be by your side for the whole pregnancy and some for the birth itself and you’ll find a english-speaking gynecologist close to the center of bigger towns.

      And as we’re requiered to learn english as a second language from an early age on, you will find that most of the time basic communication is possible. It is a good idea to hang onto a English-German/German-English-dictionary or a website like dict.cc or dict.leo.org for pregnancy specific words.

      And from what I read on OM and my own experiences… The hospital and birthing house standards in Germany are pretty high. Make sure you chose a clinic beforehand, visit them and look around the net for opinions of that hospital.

      Good luck!

  10. I live in Switzerland and I’ve had one child here with another on the way! There is nothing to be nervous about!!

    I took a private birth course in English, and I made sure to check with my hospital that at least some of the midwives spoke English, and most all doctors in Europe speak English anyway. There was a slight communication barrier with the nurses who come by after the birth when I was recovering, but if I really didn’t understand something they always managed to find someone who spoke English. (They even managed to get me an Asian roommate who also spoke English but that didn’t work out so well for other reasons…)
    I think you’ll find birthing in Europe to be a much more relaxed and pleasant experience compared to what I’ve seen in the US. For example, the hospital stay in Switzerland is generally 5 days with a vaginal birth and 7 days cesarean. I asked to leave after 4 days and I later regretted it. :-/
    And with my health insurance all maternity services are 100% covered as standard procedure. The infant care is also amazing, we have standard hip ultrasounds at birth, which discovered a hip dysplasia in my daughter which was immediately treated and corrected by the time she was 4 months old, and also entirely paid for by the government as a birth defect.
    Also the system encourages natural methods over medical interventions and you are more likely to be instructed to drink teas and receive acupuncture to bring on labor versus induction.

    I have been VERY pleased with my medical care and have had nothing but good experiences with my doctors and the hospital.

    One warning though, if your healthcare is a basic coverage (and its anything like Switzerland, then you will have to choose your level of coverage) then you may not have the option of your doctor being present at the birth. That is a higher coverage level. My birth was attended by the doctor on duty and I have no complaints. The doctor just catches the baby, the midwives do all the work and they were amazing. 🙂 But that can be jarring for Americans.

    There are lots of places like Yahoo Groups and Meetup and The American Women’s Club and I joined all of them. It took me a lot longer to integrate however, so that’s a risk you take. I guess it depends in how long you think you’ll stay.

    Good luck!

  11. I went to India to have my baby, with a German midwife who has a natural birth centre there (I’m American/British, currently based in London though I’d been backpacking when I fell pregnant). My understanding is that in Germany the midwife is the primary caregiver during a pregnancy & birth while doctors step in during emergencies. However, I have not actually had the experience in Germany. Many Germans, particularly in large cities are fluent in English, so I’d imagine you can find a practitioner to help you through.
    You seem to have cleared up your admin questions (insurance, birth certs) so I’m not sure what you’re wondering about now. But as another poster said, there’s probably an American/expat women’s group if you are asking about what the pregnancy/birth procedures are in general. Try googling American mothers group in X city.
    As far as being abroad for a birth & returning after, well, I did that & I would suggest getting some family or someone supportive & close to come over & be with you to help you through the early baby days – don’t know what we would’ve done without my mom then my husband’s mom who came over in the weeks after the birth since we really hadn’t become close to many people where we were. We had lovely visitors but no one to help hold the babe when we were exhausted. Also, there are cultural differences in childcare of course so you might find attitudes surprising, in good & less good ways 🙂
    Finally, presumably you know there’s a cut off date for flying pregnant? Its about 7 months but depends on the airline – you have to check each one.
    Good luck with your move – it’ll be a fun adventure!

  12. I don’t really have any advice, except that I am basically in the situation you are describing. We’re moving to Denmark in the fall and I’ll be starting my third trimester then. I’m not really freaking out about it. I think people make a bigger deal out of birth than maybe they should. People have been doing it for years after all. The infant mortality rate is lower in Europe than in the United States, so I’m trusting I will be safe in their hands. In many European countries- certainly Denmark and I’m assuming Germany- most people’s English skills will put whatever you know of their language to absolute shame. So I really wouldn’t worry about the language barrier that much. Personally, I’d be much more afraid to move to the US while pregnant given our horrible health care system and how much you can get charged (even with insurance).

  13. I got pregnant with my daughter when my husband and I were living in Berlin , Germany. Some back story ( or forward story really!) is that I have since been back to Berlin , lived for 3 months with our daughter when she was age 9-12mnths and LOVED IT. If we could get residency we would live there. Its truly an amazing city. But being pregnant with my first baby was scary enough without being in a totally new , non English speaking country. We had 1 year work permits , but I came home after being there for 6 months ( flying home 20 weeks pregnant sucked!!) My husband stayed on and worked , then came home a few months before our daughter was born. I wouldn’t recommend it for your first baby. Would I do it now though for baby number 2 , hell yeah!

    • Just curious why you wouldn’t recommend it for Baby No 1? Or is is just mainly lack of family round to help?

  14. And regarding insurance.. English speaking drs are easy to find yes , but insurance that will cover you may be harder and its really expensive. It was going to be 1000 euro a month for cover for me and baby. Or we could self pay , and each drs appt was going to around 100 euro , and scans were about 1000euro. The birth was 25000 euro if we self paid! Hence why I came home early as here in NZ we have free health care.

  15. I have nothing to offer on this in regards to giving birth over there but I do have this to offer:

    Do not assume wherever you’re relocating to (unless it’s Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Koln, or Frankfurt) that there is a large English-speaking base. My sister and her husband (who is German) lived in Germany for about 2 years in what is considered to be a large city (a university and tourist city)…and barely anyone spoke English. His parents were surprised that most people do not know German when they visited us for their wedding!

    • We are actually moving to one of the mentioned cities, and have actually lived in one before a couple years ago (leaving names out to stay somewhat annonymous).

  16. Someone mentioned flying restrictions above. I actually did a lot of research when I was pregnant because I was considering spending a month abroad, though I did not end up going (for reasons unrelated to pregnancy). Each airline has different rules for pregnant women flying. Some require a doctor’s signature saying you’re ok to fly. Some have cut-offs for how many weeks you can be. Some just have rules that you can’t be in labor. Look around before you choose an airline if you are super-pregnant. As for the safety of flying when pregnant, it’s perfectly safe to fly at any point, so long as you aren’t in labor. If you are at risk for preterm delivery for whatever reason, your doctor may put restrictions on flying just to avoid you delivering on an airplane. But medically speaking, there’s nothing wrong with flying. Just be sure to move around lots on the plane to avoid blood clots in your legs (pregnant ladies are more prone than the general population). Did I mention that I’m a doctor? I’m not your doctor of course, so your situation may be different.

  17. Not Europe-specific or about a short-term stay, but… this might be relevant for someone out there? I got pregnant and had my baby a few years after moving from the US to Australia for work (and a few weeks after moving to a new city). The three things that made it a fantastic experience:

    (1) As soon as you have an application pending for permanent residency, you’re eligible for a “bridging visa” and Medicare. Medicare covered 100% of prenatal visits and actual babyhaving costs, and it was GREAT.

    (2) Coming from the US, I was surprised and delighted with the generous maternity leave policies here; took 7 months “off” (working on research when possible), and that was also great.

    (3) We had saved up enough money and air miles to bring over both sets of newly-minted grandparents, one after the other (not at the same time, NEVER at the same time), which gave us more than we even needed in terms of help cooking, cleaning, and holding the baby when we were exhausted, brittle, barf-covered husks of human beings who desperately wanted sleep. I think we ended up having a better first month than some new parents who live closer to their families; if you can fit houseguests into your apartment, I absolutely recommend importing one or more parents/in-laws for a couple weeks.

    Anyhows, good luck! I bet you’re going to have a wonderful time, or at least an incredible adventure.

  18. I moved from the US to the UK at 33 weeks, 5 days (just before my md’s flying cutoff) because of my husband’s job in academia. I wasn’t dealing with a language barrier, but there were still many cultural differences and, of course, I’ve been oh so homesick.
    It’s even harder when it’s not a permanent move and there’s a hesitancy to set up roots that are too deep – we have that too.

    Here are some tips I can share with you:
    – if at all possible, have the non-pregnant partner do advance work to find a place to live, set up a bank account, figure out the medical system, etc
    – choose your neighborhood carefully – you won’t be very mobile when you first give birth and a high concentration of babies and baby resources is key – we chose our neighborhood in part because of the proximity to the yoga studio with pre & post natal classes. Let the hubs commute to work, you need to have a good network nearby
    – your friends probably know some people in the city where you’ll be living – ask for intros
    – try to find folks who share your other, non-baby interests – while making new mum friends is great, it’s the women with ten year olds who can actually help you out when you need it – and it’s the women with 30 year olds who will want to surrogate parent/grandparent. We found this through synagogue, but you might find this through an English language book club, your husband’s department, Democrats Abroad (if you’re into that), etc
    – when our parents came out for the birth, we used airbnb to find them nearby, affordable accommodations

    And here is one really hard truth – if you do find yourself in Europe with a baby and are lucky enough to have made other new mum friends, it is most likely that they will be on proper maternity leave and collecting maternity pay, while you as an American, will probably have none of that. But, it’s still worth it to meet them at the coffeeshop or pub and go out with new friends.

    We now have a 3 week old and I’m happy to report that while walking around the neighborhood and going to baby clinic, I have run into women from my pre-natal yoga class and even have some mum coffee dates set up.

    • Maternity leave/balancing work is actually another factor in thinking that we should get the ball rolling on this. My company is going to let me telecommute from Germany, so while I’m not sure just how much time I will work, we figured it will be easier to balance there verses in the US (I currently commute 3 hours round trip to my office).

  19. I am in Denmark. Moved here with American husband for his job. We had our daughter here. There are many online resources, for example Facebook groups, for finding expats. One suggestion and one that was good here, is to look into a doula who will work with you and explain the hospital/birth system. Something that I looked into here and it as very helpful.

  20. Hi Jenna,
    My husband and I have been living abroad 10 years for my job in the UK, Germany (Nuremberg) and currently the Netherlands. I had my son 2 years ago hear in Amsterdam and had a fantastic experience. While living in Germany, my good friend, also American, had her first child and blogged about it. You can read those postings here. I think they give a lot of good pratical advice. http://theblythespirit.blogspot.nl/search/label/Having%20a%20Baby%20in%20Germany
    My experience having my first child abroad was missing my family during that first year, so we made 2 trips back and some family members also came to visit.
    One thing I will say, is once my husband I had that big talk, and decided to start trying, it took a year for it to actually happen. Be prepared for that too. After spending many years trying NOT to get pregnant by accident, it can be surprisingly challenging for some to get pregnant on purpose.
    Good luck with you relocation!

  21. We are Americans and delivered our first child in Italy. It was a scary thing at first, but what we quickly realized was that although we didn’t speak the language fluently, many of the Italians would try to speak a little English and we would try to speak a little Italian and before we knew it, we were communicating – that, and also, you can’t underestimate the “human language”. People can communicate even if not a single word of language is actually shared between the two. And with birth, it will be you who is leading it. You direct the way your birth goes. I think in Europe, it is much more common for midwives to attend births, so that will make the experience of being in a different country even better. Midwives are usually pretty hands off and let the mama and baby work together to go through the birth.
    As far as insurance and citizenship go, we had to apply for a (free) card that allowed us to take advantage of the social medical system. With that card, we were allowed to have blood drawn, ultrasounds done, doctor check ups, etc.
    Citizenship, we had to get multiple documents from the hospital and other city buildings and then go to the US embassy and apply for citizenship for our son. Each country has different laws, though, so you’ll need to check on Germany’s laws regarding this type of situation.
    All in all, don’t worry too much about it, it can be done!

  22. These responses have been really helpful for me since my husband and I will be moving internationally in the next year, and we’re also at the point where we’d like to start trying to conceive. The biggest concern I have is about moving while pregnant–particularly switching prenatal care mid-pregnancy. While I speak the language of the country we’d be moving to (also in Europe), I wouldn’t assume most doctors there would speak English. Is that a problem in reviewing your medical records and what treatment you’ve received so far? Do doctors need your medical history to start giving prenatal care mid-pregnancy? If anyone has had the experience of moving while pregnant, I’d love to hear more about your experiences with prenatal care. Thanks!

    • When I got o the UK at 34 weeks, I did have a paper copy of my basic records ( but not any of my ultrasounds) from the states which the doctor nd then the midwife looked at during my initial appts with them. While these were nice to have, I have no doubt that they would have started care without them – it just might have called for some tests being redone.

  23. I’ve been searching for several months for similar information, but geared more toward the “global south”. My husband and i are considering pregnancy as well as a move to South America/SE Asia/Africa (from the US). We speak Spanish, but no other languages at the moment. Do any of you have experience in places that may have significantly different birthing customs or health care systems?

  24. Thanks for this thread! My husband and I are moving to Berlin for a year, also for his academic work. I’m giving birth here, but we’ll have a 4 to 6 week old when we move. In our case, the lab he’ll be working in has several other parents of young babies, so I’m planning on relying on them for advice on pediatricians and where to get baby gear. For the most part, I’m figuring that people there have babies, and we’ll just do things the way the German’s do. However, lately I have been wondering whether there are some things–cloth diapers specifically–that might be more available here in the States.

  25. I am an American and gave birth in Brazil. I speak conversational Portuguese, but at the time of my son’s birth I wasn’t anywhere near fluent. There were some doctors who spoke English, but none of the nurses or other staff. It was intimidating at first, but everyone was very helpful. I recommend finding at least a doula who is bilingual who can act as your translator (both language and medical) if needed (or you might just be able to find a doctor/midwife who speaks English!). I highly recommend inviting a family member or friend to stay with you all and help out after the baby is born. It really helped us to have my husband’s mom around!

    We are part of the nomadic expat community and I know quite a few women who have given birth in Germany and had great experiences. The expat community (and particularly the American part) is pretty big in Germany. I think you will be able to easily loop into some sort of support system, but it is important to do your homework. Maybe look for groups on Facebook or Yahoo/Google groups.

    I don’t know the particulars about insurance since our situation is different (my husband is a diplomat), but I’m sure you will be able to work something out. That something might be more (or less!) expensive than US options, but I think you will like giving birth in Germany. One thing I do know is that you should contact the closest US Embassy or Consulate to get all documents in order to not only register your baby as a US citizen, but also to apply for SS number and passport. Best of luck in your journey!

    • I was just popping back o this thread because we went to the Embassy yesterday to get our baby citizenship & a passport. I definitely recommend getting your papers together before you leave the States. We were missing a “required” document which was in storage in the states, but was fortunately not totally required in our case. But, it’s still easier o collect these things before you move.

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