Gabriele Meyer
Alexandra Beier  /  Reuters
Gabriele Meyer of Munich, Germany, was due to deliver twins Jan. 22, but her doctor ordered a Caesarean section Dec. 29. She said it meant the loss of more than $26,000.
updated 1/2/2007 1:33:05 PM ET 2007-01-02T18:33:05

German hospitals have seen a surge in the number of planned births this week after a generous government aid program for parents of newborns took effect.

The government, worried about a shrinking population, introduced benefits worth up to $33,470 to encourage working couples to have children. But only babies born from Jan. 1 on qualify.

“A lot of women who were scheduled for planned deliveries last month asked to postpone till this week,” said Klaus Vetter, chief doctor at Vivantes hospital in Berlin’s Neukoelln district.

“For some, there’s a lot of money at stake and they quite reasonably ask: ‘If it won’t hurt the baby, why not wait?’ ” he said Tuesday after performing a Caesarean section. He advised the mother to have the operation a week ago in her 38th week.

“But she wanted to wait. There was a small risk, but everything worked out OK. It was a healthy boy.”

German media have been full of tips on how women could hold off giving birth until Jan. 1 — from avoiding physical and sexual activity to taking magnesium and homeopathic medicines.

But medical experts urged pregnant women against medical intervention to delay births, warning of complications and saying it would have only a minimal impact on the timing.

A parent who takes time off from work to care for a newborn can receive two-thirds of their net monthly salary, up to a maximum of about $2,392, for 12 months. If the other parent takes a further two months off, the benefit is extended to 14 months.

Germany has a population of 82 million, but low birth rates mean average ages are creeping up and seen as one of the factors hampering the development of Europe’s largest economy.

“I was thinking, ‘Hold on, hold on, hold on,’ ” said Julia Gotschlich. Her baby, Inka Angelina, was born at 1 a.m. on Jan 1.

But Jessica Koch, whose baby Nicolas came on Dec 30. well ahead of schedule, was disappointed she just missed out on the “Elterngeld” (parent money) even though she was relieved her baby was healthy.

“He came five weeks early,” Koch told Sat-1 television. She calculated she lost out on 900 euros, or about $1,196, per month. “I’m sure there will be days I’ll think, ‘Darn, the 900 euros would be handy.’ ”

One Munich woman was due to deliver twins Jan. 22, but her doctor ordered a Caesarean section on Dec. 29 — because one of the 41-year-old mother’s twin fetuses was having problems.

Gabriele Meyer said it meant the loss of more than $26,000. She would have got $2,392 per month for a child plus about $400 for the second child.

Her husband, Jens Meyer, plans to appeal directly to Family Minister Ursula von der Leyen — citing a medical emergency. He says he has not ruled out a lawsuit.

The government has ruled out making any exceptions and rejected direct appeals for flexibility from the Protestant church.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.


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