If you’re having a baby in Switzerland, here’s a useful guide to Swiss prenatal care, delivery, aftercare, maternity and paternity leave and registering your newborn in Switzerland.
In Switzerland, pregnant women have a great deal of choice both for prenatal care and later when giving birth due to the high quality of the Swiss healthcare system. Women can choose to use midwives, obstetricians or GPs for pre-natal checks and basic Swiss health insurance allows the choice of having a baby at home, in hospital or in a birth house.
Prenatal care in Switzerland
To confirm you are pregnant, you can do a home test from the pharmacy or visit a doctor at your local clinic or alternatively at the family planning centre in your area.
Prenatal courses are offered around Switzerland that help familiarise you with Swiss approach and healthcare options for pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. While most courses require a fee, they help guide new soon-to-be parents through the ins and outs of pregnancy and also offer some classes in English, and sometimes part of the fee may be covered by your Swiss health insurance (although check first with your health insurer).
Some examples of prenatal classes available in Switzerland include:
- Arcade Sages-femmes
- Basel Children’s Trust
- Clinique des Grangettes
- Maison des Parents
- The New Stork Times
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 in Switzerland. 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.
For any emergencies, make sure you save a list of Swiss emergency numbers and helplines.
The delivery: Giving birth in Switzerland
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 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
Post-natal 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 counselling. 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; see more details below.
Is my child eligible for Swiss citizenship?
Swiss citizenship is automatically granted to a natural or adopted child of a married couple where one parent is a Swiss national. Children of unmarried Swiss mothers also receive Swiss citizenship. Babies born to foreign nationals in Switzerland, however, are not automatically granted this designation. Read our guide for more information on how to get Swiss citizenship.
Registering your baby’s birth in Switzerland
Any child born in Switzerland needs to be registered within three days of birth at the civil register office of the district where the child was born. The hospital usually register newly born children but if the birth occurred in another canton or was a home birth, registration can be done by the mother, father or a third party present during the birth, such as a midwife (provided they have a letter addressed to the civil registrar confirming their identity). If the father is not married to the child’s mother, he can only register the birth if he has officially recognised the child before the birth or if he does so at the time of registration.
To register your baby, you must bring the following documents to the civil registrar office or Zivilstandsamt:
- family record book or marriage certificate
- proof of address
- piece of identification
- passport of both parents
- residence permits (if not Swiss citizens)
- birth announcement
- complete registration form and fee.
Health insurance for newborns in Switzerland
Babies must be insured by his/her legal guardian from health risks from birth. A basic Swiss health insurance must be taken out for them within three months of delivery. Canton or commune authorities will typically inform you before the three-month period is over. You are free to choose whichever authorised health insurer you want, even if it is different from your own.
Health insurance companies must accept anyone who applies for basic health insurance but babies who might need to apply for supplementary health insurance (specifically due to medical conditions from birth) might be denied add-on insurance. In some cases, you can take out supplementary insurance before a baby is born to avoid this potential situation.
Maternity and paternity leave in Switzerland
Maternity leave in Switzerland lasts 14 weeks (or 98 days) and begins when the child is born. Full-time and part-time employees are entitled to maternity leave and are prohibited from working for the first eight weeks after birth.
Mothers are paid 80 percent of their wages through a daily allowance of no more than CHF 196. Cantonal provisions, staff rules and collective labour agreements may provide additional financial support. If a mother returns to work early, compensation will stop.
To receive the daily allowance, employees must have been insured under the Swiss pension scheme or AHV for at least nine months prior to the birth. They must also have worked at least five months during pregnancy and be employed, self-employed or working for their partner’s company and earning a wage at the time of birth.
Employed mothers can stay home with their child up to a maximum of 16 weeks post-birth without being obliged to work. The two extra weeks, however, may not be paid. Employees cannot be dismissed during their maternity leave.
There is currently no law entitling fathers to paternity leave in Switzerland although it is under consideration (check what applies in your canton). While public and private organisations are increasingly offering paternity leave, most expectant fathers will need to ask their employers for days off or check their contract if time off is specified for birth or other family events.
Popular baby names in Switzerland
With regards to baby names, the most popular names in Switzerland show a general trend of favouring tradition, despite an interesting collection of names seen in some top Swiss sport stars, such as Martina, Xherdan or Sepp.
The most popular baby names last year were (respectively):
- Noah, Liam and Luca; Noah has been the most common name since 2011, except in 2012 when Luca ranked first.
- Mia (retaking the crown from 2013), Emma (also the top name in 2011, 2012 and 2014), and Lara; in the top 20 girls names only two (Leonie at 18 and Sophie at 20) didn’t end with the letter ‘a’.
Differences appeared in the top baby names, however, when analysing Switzerland’s four language regions:
- German-speaking part – Leon and Mia
- French-speaking part – Gabriel and Emma
- Italian-speaking canton (Ticino) – Leonardo and Sofia
- Romansh-speaking canton (Graubünden) – Laurin and Alessia.
In terms of the most common Swiss names in general, the results reflected that some two-thirds of the country live in German-speaking regions:
- Daniel, Peter, Hans, Thomas and Christian.
- Maria, Anna, Ruth, Ursula and Elisabeth.
Helpful pregnancy-related terms in Switzerland
- Baby: das Baby/der Säugling
- Breastfeed: stillen
- Epidural: die Epiduralanästhesie
- Maternity leave: der Mutterschaftsurlaub
- Midwife: die Hebamme
- Pregnancy: die Schwangerschaft
- To give birth: gebären
- Vaccine: der Impfstoff
- Baby: le bébé
- Breastfeed: allaiter
- Epidural: péridurale
- Maternity leave: congé maternité
- Midwife: la sage-femme
- Pregnancy: la grossesse
- To give birth: mise au monde
- Vaccine: le vaccin
- Baby: il bambino
- Breastfeed: allatare al seno
- Epidural: l’epidurale
- Maternity leave: congedo di maternità
- Midwife: la osterica/la levatrice
- Pregnancy: la gravidanza
- To give birth: partotire
- Vaccine: il vaccino
- Baby: il pop
- Midwife: spendrera/dunna da part
- Pregnancy: gravidanza
- To give birth: naschientscha
- Federal Office of Public Health: www.bag.admin.ch
- Swiss Federation of Midwives: www.hebamme.ch
- Swiss Association of Breastfeeding Counselors: www.stillen.ch