For the last few decades, Germans have been worried about declining birth rates and increasing life expectancy and the obvious demographical problems caused by these two trends. For that reason, they’ve instituted a raft of generous programs to encourage couples to go forth and multiply, some of which you can participate in, even if you’re not a citizen or permanent resident.
In addition to excellent care, pregnant women and new mothers receive additional benefits related to health care, including prenatal and nursery care. One of the most outstanding benefits is 14 weeks of paid maternity leave - six weeks before the expected birth and eight after.
The government also provides a number of other benefits to new parents, including the possibility of taking a 36-month postnatal leave. During these three years, the parent who stays home with the child can receive a small monthly allowance from the government. More importantly, the stay-at-home parent is protected from dismissal from his or her job throughout this entire period. In addition, the government provides monthly allowances for each child, based on the couple’s income and the number of children they have.
Should you have a new member of your family while living in Germany, you'll need to register your baby with two countries. First of all, the birth must be registered with German authorities. It's not as if you don't have enough things on your mind when you're heading off to the hospital for that all-important event, but German authorities do ask you to pack a few other things so that the hospital can register the birth. They advise that you bring the passports of both parents as well as your marriage certificate - if there is one.
The hospital will then take care of registering the birth. However, you'll have to ask where the birth was registered, then go there to pick up the birth certificate (Geburtsurkunde).
One interesting quirk about registering your new baby is that there are certain restrictions on what a child's first name can be. German law requires that the first name be clearly distinguishable as either male or female. This means that unisex names are out, so that charmingly original name you've been planning on for so long may have to be slotted in as a middle name. If you really have your heart set on an unusual name, German authorities may require you to prove that the name is common in your home country.
After you've registered the birth with the German authorities, you'll almost certainly want to register your new child with your own consulate or embassy. You'll need the German birth certificate when doing so. It's essential to note that there are a number of forms contained in the birth certificate, and you should bring along the one designated Abstammungsurkunde with an "EC" in the upper right hand corner. You'll also need your passport (of both parents if you're both citizens of the country for which you're seeking citizenship for the child) and your marriage certificate. These procedures are fairly standard for most countries, though details can differ. For instance, the US Consulate insists that you appear in person with the new baby, as the authorities are required to actually see the child and parents. For this reason, American parents should definitely call the consulate beforehand to make an appointment: otherwise, you're very likely to be turned away with the explanation that the Consul General is entirely booked up for the day. Finally, you'll have to drop in at the Registry office again and register your new bundle of joy as a new resident at your address.
Just because your child is born in Germany doesn't mean that the child will automatically acquire German citizenship. The laws pertaining to citizenship are complex, but generally speaking, a child will acquire German nationality if one of the parents is a German national. If neither parent is German, it is still possible for the child to acquire German citizenship at birth if at least one parent has legally lived in Germany for more than eight years and also has a permanent residency permit.