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Health & Insurance

Women’s Health in Germany

Just like with most hospitals, physicians and specialists in Germany, the quality of medical care is very high when it comes to gynecologists in Germany. As an expat woman, you won’t have a hard time finding a trustworthy gynecologist (Frauenarzt) in Germany to advise you on female health issues.

However, it is important to note that ob/gyn care in Germany distinguishes clearly between gynecologists and obstetricians (Geburtshelfer). In case you are going to have a baby, you will have your pre-natal checkups at your usual gynecologist in Germany; but they will only be present during the birth if they happen to work as an obstetrician at your hospital of choice as well. All other exams and minor surgeries with regard to women’s health are the responsibilities of any normal gynecologist in Germany. They are the person to see for cancer screening, reproductive health, urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases, etc.

Cancer Screenings

For every woman over the age of 20, both state-funded and private health insurance in Germany covers an annual exam at her gynecologist to check for early symptoms of cervical cancer, ovary cancer, breast cancer, and similar cancers of the reproductive organs (Krebsvorsorge). Just tell your gynecologist in Germany that you are here for your yearly checkup, and they will know exactly what to do. Cancer screening at a German gynecologist includes the following:

As mentioned above, any German health insurance provider should pay for this yearly examination since it is part and parcel of basic medical care in Germany.

Reproductive Health

Your gynecologist can also advise you when you have any questions on contraception (Empfängnisverhütung) and reproduction or when you are unexpectedly dealing with an unplanned pregnancy and may be considering a termination of pregnancy (Schwangerschaftsabbruch).

Contraception

All usual methods of contraception (Verhütungsmittel) are easily available in Germany. You can buy condoms at every drugstore or pharmacy. However, hormonal contraceptives (the birth control pill, implants, injections), IUDs (intra-uterine devices such as the spiral), and diaphragms are prescribed by a gynecologist.

Your doctor can also offer you counseling and advice on sexual issues and contraception, but your health insurance will not cover the costs for the contraceptives themselves. You have to pay for these from your own pocket. There are certain exceptions for birth control pills, but these are indeed the proverbial exception to the rule.

Abortion

As in lots of other countries, abortion (Abtreibung) is a controversial topic in Germany. German law – or, to be more precise, § 218 of the German penal code – has come up with an odd compromise, which defines the status of abortion under certain circumstances as “illegal, but without threat of punishment”. In practice, this means that both the patient and her ob/gyn may decide upon an abortion together in one of the following three cases:

However, most abortions in Germany (97% in 2009) are abortions on demand. A woman may terminate her pregnancy within 12 weeks after conception. For this purpose, she first needs to have the pregnancy officially confirmed before obtaining a certificate (Beratungsschein) from a licensed counseling center, such as ProFamilia. After a waiting period of three days after the counseling session, a doctor is then allowed to perform an abortion. The patient has to pay for the procedure herself, but some low-income women may be eligible for financial support.

If you should find yourself in a difficult situation when you consider terminating a pregnancy, try to find out what your ob/gyn’s views on the topic are. For example, there have been (rather rare) cases when an anti-abortion gynecologist issued misleading information on abortion methods or when doctors tried to manipulate patients into aborting a fetus with a high risk of disabilities. Moreover, church-funded hospitals are often opposed to abortions. Catholic hospitals usually won’t administer the so-called abortion pill (not identical with the morning-after pill), although it is actually legal in Germany for the first 63 days of a pregnancy.

In any case, a good gynecologist will always try to tell you as much as possible about the legal and medical situation, the procedure itself and any potential complications, counseling clinics and support groups (especially if your fetus has been diagnosed with specific disabilities). They should help you make an informed and responsible decision.

 

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

InterNations Expat Magazine