How to be pregnant in Vienna
Your guide to being pregnant in Vienna, Austria – a great place to have a baby, but make sure you have your “MuKi”
Having a child is one of life’s richest experiences. But for expectant mothers (and fathers) pregnancy can also be a confusing and daunting time – one made even more challenging if you’re an expat planning to give birth abroad. While staying focused on your health and building a cozy nest for your Schatziputzi, you also have to cope with bureaucracy, insurance and workplace protocols and finding suitable doctors and a midwife.
Expats in Vienna planning a pregnancy – or those already with a “bun in the oven” – can count themselves fortunate. Austria (and specifically Vienna) is an ideal place to have and raise children. Austrian law is relatively generous to expecting parents: It mandates time off, provides financial support and protects your employment. And there are excellent resources, even if the only German word you know is schwanger (pregnant).
To prepare, it is a good idea to review your insurance. Austrian residents are legally required to carry national health insurance (via your employer, your spouse or parent or for the self-employed). Supplemental private insurance, however, will give you more flexibility, allowing you to choose from a wider pool of doctors, clinics and hospitals, and pay for perks like a private hospital room. Not surprisingly, it is a lot cheaper to buy private insurance before you become pregnant. If possible, talk with your employer or an insurance broker about available options.
As soon as you become pregnant, you’ll want to go to a gynecologist or an obstetrician as soon as possible, but you must go before the 14th week of pregnancy to be eligible for all the benefits and protections offered by the health insurance and the state. Finding a doctor who suits your needs and is fully covered by your insurance can be tricky: Ask your primary care doctor or browse the online database of the Vienna Medical Association (Österreichische Ärztekammer). Don’t hesitate to use your own social network – or join an organization like the Vienna Babies Club – to get some referrals.
Behold, the “MuKi”
Your doctor will give you a Mutter-Kind-Pass (Mother-Child Booklet) and an initial confirmation of the expected due date (Schwangerschaftsbestätigung). Austrian law requires you to provide this to your employer, however, most women usually wait until their 12th week.
The yellow “MuKi” Pass – a “passport” to all the procedures required under the Austrian health-care system – is the most important official document to have, covering your pregnancy and the first five years of your child’s life in Austria. You’ll bring it to every prenatal and postnatal doctor’s appointment. If you don’t strictly follow the booklet’s regimen, you may not be eligible for all the statutory benefits you are due, including the child care allowance (Kinderbetreuungsgeld).
Your doctor will provide you a confirmation (Ärztliche Bescheinigung), which you will submit to your employer and, along with confirmation of your earnings (Arbeits- und Entgeltbestätigung), to your insurer. This will determine when you start Mutterschutz (the period of compulsory leave beginning 8 weeks prior to term and 8 to 12 weeks following childbirth) and how much Wochengeld (weekly maternity pay in lieu of lost work income) you will receive. Note: Mutterschutz is not to be confused with the parental leave (Karenz) that either parent is eligible for up to three years after Mutterschutz ends.
Choosing a hospital
As early as possible during your pregnancy, you should begin the process of selecting a hospital for the birth of your child (or home birth alternatives). Beyond choosing one nearby, because your gynecologist works there or because it accepts your insurance, there are many subjective factors: Ask your doctor, colleagues and friends for tips, tour the facilities (several have ongoing info evenings), and trust your own gut instinct. Be sure to ask about the rate of cesarean sections (Kaiserschnitt) at each facility, if this is an important factor for your birth plan.
Whether you opt for birth in a hospital or at home, your labor will likely be assisted by a Hebamme (a midwife). Hospitals have them on staff but you can also try to arrange for a private one (who speaks your preferred language). Writing a birth plan and filing it with the hospital will help everyone involved understand what your ideal birthing scenario is: whether or not you would like to receive pain medication during labor, for example.
So, that’s it, except for: attending birthing and prenatal exercise classes, finding a pediatrician; looking into day care options, childproofing your home; shopping for a pram, furnishing your nursery; gathering the paperwork needed to apply for a birth certificate and double citizenship; figuring out how you’re going to get to the hospital; packing your suitcase; choosing a name … well, we’ve lost count. You’ll be thanking God (or at least the Austrian state) for that Mutterschutz leave.
*This article was written in cooperation with the Vienna Babies Club (soon to be renamed Vienna Family Network). A community supporting expat mothers since the ’90s, it formed an official Verein (association) in 2009 and has continually evolved and broadened its scope of activities and services. Its website covers up-to-date and comprehensive information in English.
The Motherhood Files
Information on having kids in Austria
In addition to the Vienna Babies Club, the Austrian Government’s HELP-Service for foreign citizens provides detailed information in English about pregnancy, childbirth and raising children in Austria.
Database of Doctors
The Austrian Medical -Association (Österreichische Ärztekammer) has an online database of medical practitioners, with a language filter.
Austrian Midwifery Committee
Austrian midwives not only assist the birth itself, but also offer pre and post-natal consultation, including birthing classes. One hour between the 18th and the 22nd week of pregnancy is provided free of charge. More information (in German): Austrian Midwifery Committee (Österreichisches Hebammen-Gremium).
City of Vienna Municipal Department 11 (MAG Elf) runs Parent-Child Centers (Eltern-Kind Zentren) across town and provides excellent services for -parents. Here you can, for example, receive for free a useful “starter set” (Wickelrucksack) by presenting your -Mother-Child Booklet.
Pregnancy & Employment
The Chamber of Labor (Arbeiterkammer) provides information on employment-related issues surrounding pregnancy.
Consultation and Courses
Nanaya is a private center in Vienna offering consultation and courses for mothers before and after childbirth.
The Ministry of Women‘s Health offers an online database of nationwide hospitals and birth clinics