Birth Customs Around the World


As in Holland, in Germany women see midwives for their prenatal care. In fact, midwives are so respected that by law a midwife must be present at every birth, and a doctor is optional.

Malin Haugwitz, a Berlin resident who is originally from Bethesda, Maryland, says that German women focus on the event of giving birth almost more than the outcome. Following her second c-section, she heard many words of pity from friends and even from her midwife, who asked, "Do you see it as a failure?"

German women who hold full-time jobs can feel secure knowing their position will be waiting for them when and if they decide to return to work. As soon as a woman tells an employer she's pregnant, she cannot be fired. Thus, during economic downturns, being pregnant can essentially save your job. Women may stop working six weeks before their due date and are forbidden from working for eight weeks after giving birth, all with full pay. Mothers may even take up to three years of unpaid leave, the third being a floating year that can be taken at any time and by either parent.

Local custom: Another practice that Haugwitz recounts is that government offices keep a list of "accepted names" that parents must adhere to when registering the name of their child. In the case of an unusual name, they must give a compelling reason why an exception should be made. The government policy is intended to act in the best interest of the child, in an effort to thwart potential ridicule of a child with a name that's too different.

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