Having a baby in Switzerland
Our guide to Swiss prenatal care, delivery, aftercare, and maternity leave in Switzerland.
In Switzerland pregnant women have a great deal of choice both for prenatal care and later when giving birth. Women can choose to use midwives, obstetricians or GPs for pre-natal checks and basic health insurance facilitates the choice of having a baby at home, in hospital or in a birth house.
Prenatal care in Switzerland
The first thing to do is to confirm that you are pregnant, which you can either do at home with a test from the pharmacy or with a doctor at your local clinic or alternatively at the Family Planning centre in your area.
In Switzerland you have a choice when it comes to getting your antenatal checks done. You can use a midwife, who will visit you at home or you can go to her practice or birth house. Alternatively you can visit an obstetrician in a private practice or in a hospital. Another option is to use a GP or you can even combine a midwife and a doctor.
Midwives are either employed by hospitals or else they work independently in a practice or birth house. Independent midwives tend to offer a wider range of services including:
- Birth preparation classes
- Antenatal care
- Care during a home birth
- Postnatal care
- Postnatal checks
- Advice on breastfeeding
Your first antenatal check should be done in the second or third month of pregnancy with additional appointments every four to six weeks. Healthcare professionals do not always speak English so it is sensible to bring someone with you who speaks the same language. However, in some cases an interpreter may be available.
At your first antenatal check-up you will have a physical examination and will be asked questions about your health and that of your family, illnesses, operations and details of previous pregnancies and births. You will also be given details of the tests and screenings that will be done and can choose not to have specific tests conducted.
All test results will be recorded in your Maternity Notes and these record the progress of your pregnancy. The Notes are very important as they will provide information to the medical professionals taking care of you later during the birth. Therefore you must keep it safe and bring it with you to all appointments and also when you are giving birth.
The basic, compulsory insurance covers six antenatal check-ups by a midwife or seven by a doctor. It also covers ultrasound scans and blood tests and a proportion of the costs of pre-natal classes. Additionally, the full cost of the birth in a public ward of a hospital is covered, or the costs of a midwife if the baby is delivered at home or in a birth house.
If you choose to have your baby in a hospital you will spend the first few days after the birth in the maternity unit with your baby. You will be cared for by the nurses, who will help you with advice and practical support. Baby clothes are also provided. Once you have returned home you can have a hospital midwife provide care at your home for a few days. You can also opt for an early release from hospital, which means that you will be able to avail of an independent midwife, who will visit every day for up to 10 days after the birth. The independent midwife helps to care for you and will provide support with breastfeeding or answer any questions you may have.
Women who choose to give birth at home will have the services of a midwife who will care for them during the pregnancy, birth and for a period afterwards. However, it should be borne in mind that birth at home is limited to cases where there have been no complications during the pregnancy and the baby is born around the due date.
Pregnant women in Switzerland can also choose to use the services of birth houses. These are centres specifically for expectant parents where several midwives care for women during the labour and birth. Generally women stay there for a few days after the birth.
There are some documents you will need to bring with you when giving birth:
- Maternity Notes.
- Blood group card.
- Passport, permanent residence permit or temporary residence permit.
- Family book or marriage certificate.
- Confirmation from the health insurance company that the costs will be covered.
Aftercare in Switzerland
Once your child is born you must register the birth in your place of residence. If you give birth in a hospital or clinic this will be done on your behalf, but if you give birth at home then you, the baby’s father or the midwife, will need to register the birth yourself at the civil register office. In Switzerland a child must also be registered with a medical insurer by the age of three months at the very latest. However you can organise health insurance before the baby is born.
The compulsory basic insurance will cover a check-up and part of the cost of breastfeeding counseling. The Health Insurance Benefits Ordinance details the services that are covered and more information can be obtained from the Federal Office of Public Health on what maternity costs are covered by medical insurance.
You should arrange an appointment for a postnatal check with your doctor four weeks after the birth. There the baby will be checked to make sure all is well.
Every working woman in Switzerland is entitled to 14 weeks maternity leave, during which she will receive 80 percent of her earnings.
And in case you were wondering, two of the most popular names in Switzerland last year were Noah and Emma.
- Federal Office of Public Health: www.bag.admin.ch
- Swiss Federation of Midwives: www.hebamme.ch
- Swiss Association of Breastfeeding Counselors: www.stillen.ch
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