Pregnancy: Stateside and abroad

pregnancyMy little man Elliott was unintentionally born in the U.S. nearly 2 years ago. *pause for mom tears* When we found out I was pregnant with him, we planned for a delivery here in Vienna. But as many of you readers may recall, we flew stateside to wait for our visas which didn’t get approved until after I was too fat pregnant to fly. At first we were disappointed our plans had fallen through, but in the long run, it worked out beautifully. And, had I not had Elliott in the States, I wouldn’t be able to bring you this post.

Since being pregnant with Lucy, I’ve received a good amount of questions about the differences between being pregnant in the U.S. and being pregnant in Vienna. I’ve condensed the questions down to 5 for this particular post, but if you have others, lemme know.

How do you say “I’m having a baby?”

In the German language, you don’t say “I’m having a baby”, but instead, “I’m receiving a baby” (Ich bekomme ein Baby) or “I’m getting a baby” (Ich kriege ein Baby). It felt weird at first but I’ve caught on.

How do your doctor appointments work?

These are very similar to the ones I had in the States – weigh in, blood pressure check, “how’s it going” talk with the OB – with one huge exception: ultrasounds. I was pregnant with Elliott for 21 weeks before we left Vienna for the States, and by that time I had already had several ultrasounds. Since this had become routine for me, I assumed I would receive an ultrasound at every appointment in the States as well, but instead was shocked and disappointed to find out the opposite. I think the next time I saw him before his birth was 10-13 weeks after we arrived in the U.S.

In my experience in Vienna, I’ve had an ultrasound at every single appointment, both at my OB’s office and the hospital at which I’m registered to deliver. While I don’t always get take-home pictures, I do get to see Lucy and hear her heartbeat. So far, counting up to 33 weeks, I’ve had around 10 ultrasounds with at least 3 more to go.

What’s the hospital situation like?

In Vienna, a woman can choose to go to either a public or private hospital, usually depending on their insurance. In my case, based on our insurance, we chose to go the public route. Because so many women are able to choose this option, it was important for me to register as soon as humanly possible or else I’d risk not getting a bed at my hospital of choice. Even at 7 weeks pregnant it was a close call, but I was able to get in. Once I registered, I was given a little yellow appointment card that I take with me to every appointment. My first appointment was my “registration appointment” at which they did blood work and a very lengthy ultrasound. Since then, I’ve had 3 other mandatory visits for different reasons – to check the baby’s weight, to check the positioning, to check her organs.

A huge difference here is while I’ve been to my hospital multiple times for check-ups, I haven’t actually seen much of the department aside from the waiting room and ultrasound room. When I registered at my hospital in Oklahoma, Will and I, along with several other couples, were taken on a tour of the birth unit. We saw the delivery rooms, the C-section rooms, the post-delivery rooms… I had a very clear vision of what to do and where to go when it came time for the baby. This time around however, I’ve felt a little lost, though not worried. Vienna takes great care of its people, so I guess this whole time I’ve simply held onto that thought to calm me down when I do have moments of “Why was there no tour?!” Plus, a friend came over to walk me through the system and answer all 100 of my questions. She had all 3 of her kids at the same hospital I’ll be at, and she did it without a tour! She did say that, for an American such as myself, I should expect to get fairly uncomfortable at the hospital because there is no air-conditioning and it will be August. Bleh. But! At the hospital today, there was a huge stand-alone AC in my ultrasound room. So maybe there’s still hope?? And if not, I’m getting myself one of those spray bottle fans to survive the hospital heat.

The hospital is around the corner from my house. If I go into labor and it’s how the textbooks describe it, we’ll take a friend’s car to the hospital. If my water breaks like last time, then we’ll call for an ambulance, which is the norm.

How are you prepped for parenthood?

While there are classes just like the ones in the U.S. that you can take to prepare for labor, delivery and postpartum, it’s been my observation that Vienna does a spectacular job going the extra mile for you and your baby. The public hospitals (I can’t speak to the private ones) offer many different classes and seminars, all of no cost to you, on babies and parenting. It’s also possible that your OB will gift you with a large bag of baby goodies at your “yay we’re having a baby!” appointment.

Then there’s the Baby-Youth-Parent magistrate. In Vienna, there are government magistrates to represent different needs of the people. For example, every time Will and I need to do something visa related, we go to the MA35. When we registered Elliott for Kindergarten, we worked with the MA10. Now that we’re expecting a second child, we can expect to see the MA11 pop up here and there.

Through the MA11, a mom can go to one of Vienna’s many Eltern-Kind-Zentren (parent/child center) to receive an abundance of information on anything and everything parent/child related. On top of that, the city of Vienna gifts expecting parents with a well-made, sturdy book bag (Wickelrucksack) filled with goodies and even more information. I picked up Lucy’s bag today and felt very warmly welcomed by the center’s employees, who made it a point to let me know over and over again that if I ever need anything, I could come to them.

Not from Stadt Wien

This book bag contains:

1 book bag – 1 large zipper pocket with pockets inside, 1 smaller insulated zipper pocket, pockets on each side
1 small duffle bag
1 plush teddy bear – His name is “Fred the Exbärte” which is a play on the German word for expert, “Experte” and the word for bear, “Bär”, and I may have laughed too long for what’s appropriate for such jokes
1 baby blanket
1 bottle
1 full pack of MyLove wipes
Hipp baby oil & wipes
1 disposable bib
Weleda shampoo & body wash
Weleda body lotion
1 Jause box – a “jause” is a snack
1 Stadt Wien onesie
1 measuring chart (paper) to put on the wall to track your kid’s height
Vienna Document Binder – contains coupons for big and small-name companies (Baby-One, Wien Energie, XXXLutz, etc.), information on: nursing, maternity/paternity leave, MA11, family finances, pregnancy/birth, baby registration, child care, kindergartens, health/insurance
Further information on:
-Living in Vienna
-Baby Club cards
-How to interest your baby in reading
-Baby friendly vacation spots + discounts
Free classes + locations for:
-Raising siblings
-How-tos for first time moms
-Child care
-Baby meet-ups
-Parent meet-ups

What has been the biggest challenge between a stateside pregnancy and a pregnant abroad?

Oh, easy. Language, of course. From the beginning of this pregnancy, it has been a goal of mine to do most if not all appointments of any kind in German. I would say my success rate… varies. My OB doesn’t speak much English, so our time together forces me to step up my German game and pay close attention to what she’s saying. Most of the time, given the context, I can walk out of her office knowing what we talked about and what I need to do before next time. Other times, like my last appointment, I walk out knowing very little. In my last one, I understood, for sure, that Lucy was healthy, the correct weight, and that I need to drink more green tea. But… I was also given 3 different prescriptions, and I didn’t know why or what they were for until I went to the pharmacy. So, sometimes doing life in German is confusing and surprising, especially when it’s health related.

Those are the main questions I’ve received so far. Any others?

For a more in-depth look at pregnancy and birth in Vienna, go to


  1. I also had my son in the US 2 years ago and recently gave birth to another son at Döbling. Interesting to read about your hospital situation, because mine was reversed. There was no tour in my NYC hospital because there were too many people and it disrupts the small maternity ward, so we only had a powerpoint presentation by the nurses in a huge auditorium (there were at least 200 people there). At Döbling (private hospital), we had an intimate presentation with refreshments (about 25 people), and then a tour of the maternity ward and rooms, so I knew what to expect. Yes, no AC in the hospital, but it was super hot in NYC as well and the room was much smaller. The care in Vienna was overall much better than it was in NYC! Thanks for sharing your experiences and best wishes for the weeks ahead!

    1. Author

      We had hoped to have our son in Döbling before we got sent back, specifically in Rudolfinerhaus. That’s so interesting about your reverse experience! We did get a 1-on-1 tour at RFH, so I figured perhaps that was another big difference between Vienna’s private and public hospitals. When I registered at the public one here, it was like “Cool, thanks. You have a bed, see you at your next ultrasound” whereas Döbling’s felt very fancy and personal. But nonetheless, I do think I’ll be well taken care of no matter what. Thanks for sharing your experience too and passing along encouragement! And congratulations on your newest addition!

  2. I also had one kid in The US and one in Vienna. I was very surprised at how similar the experiences were –I didn’t get an ultrasound after 20 weeks in either place. I think the biggest difference was that there was no air conditioning at the Hospital in Vienna (St Joseph).

  3. Hi Holly, I have no experience in US but gave a birth to our beautiful daughter here in Vienna. We went to public hospital as well and they took amazing care about both of us (ok, except of the hospital food :). But I had prepared the bag with all things I read I should have with me and didn’t need almost any of that as the hospital supplied us with everything we needed with no additional cost (from nightgown till diapers and clothes for Emma). Everyone was very helpful and when my German wasn’t enough they tried in English too. And I was so lucky, that I was alone in the room which was luxury I didn’t expect. So don’t worry, I believe everything is gonna be ok with you and your little one!
    Just maybe one tip, not sure if you heard about Vienna babies club, it is a great club for Expat mums (or dads) and their babies.

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