Our guide to having a baby in Switzerland explains the niggly details about prenatal care, maternity insurance, delivery, aftercare, and more.
YThe high-quality of the Swiss healthcare system and the country’s warm hospitality makes it a wonderful place to give birth, for residents and tourists alike. Pregnant women have a great deal of choice both for prenatal care and later when having their baby in Switzerland. Women can choose to use midwives, obstetricians or GPs for pre-natal checks and basic Swiss health insurance allows the choice of delivery at home, in hospital or in a birth house.
This guide presents a detailed look at the facilities available to expecting and new mothers, as well as the associated medical and legal procedures.
- Having a baby in Switzerland: an overview
- Maternity health insurance in Switzerland
- Accessing maternity services in Switzerland
- Abortion in Switzerland
- Prenatal care in Switzerland
- The delivery: Giving birth in Switzerland
- Post-natal aftercare in Switzerland
- Registering your baby in Switzerland
- Health insurance for newborns in Switzerland
- Tourists and foreigners having a baby in Switzerland
- Maternity and paternity leave in Switzerland
- Popular baby names in Switzerland
- Helpful pregnancy-related terms in Switzerland”
- Useful links
Cigna Global provides comprehensive health insurance to over 86 million customers in over 200 countries. They have a wide access to trusted hospitals, clinics and doctors and provide expats with help on tailoring a plan to suit your individual healthcare needs.
Having a baby in Switzerland: an overview
Just over 87,500 new babies were born in Switzerland in 2018, according to official data. Foreign nationals account for 25.1 per cent of the 8.5 million people living in the Alpine country, or about 2.1 million expats in total.
The average birth rate clocks in at 1.5 children per woman, foreigners and nationals alike, and the average age for giving birth is 30.8 years. Three-quarters of births still occur within marriage, the statistics showed.
Women may choose to give birth in a hospital, either as an inpatient (Spitalgeburt) or an outpatient (Ambulante Geburt), in an independent birthing center (Geburtshaus), or at home (Hasugeburt). Within these options, a water birth (Wassergeburt) is usually easy to obtain but talk to your midwife about other options.
Giving birth in Switzerland isn’t cheap, with an average cost of $7,751 and a C-section average of about $9,965. While expat residents are generally covered by their health insurance programs, tourists and non-residents will also need to be prepared for additional costs, such as hotels, visas (a medical visa is available) and living expenses.
Most of these options are covered by health insurance, which picks up costs from the 12th week of pregnancy onwards. Tests and check-ups, ante-natal classes, delivery and breast-feeding consultations are all covered. Private maternity options are also available for foreigners who want a risk-free delivery, with Switzerland considered a well-established medical tourism destination. Foreign babies do not get citizenship rights automatically, but can acquire Swiss nationality if they meet certain conditions.
Before you give birth, you’ll need to stop at the Civil Register along with the father. You’ll be asked for several documents, including a marriage certificate. If you’re unmarried, you’ll need a Certificate of Civil Status (Heimatschein) from your embassy.
If you’re also working in the Alpine country, you will be eligible to claim maternity leave or paternity leave. There are also other benefits available once you have a baby in Switzerland, such as child benefits and childcare allowances. The insurer Sanitas estimates that it costs CHF900 per month to raise a child (as of 2019).
Maternity health insurance in Switzerland
Everyone living in Switzerland needs to take out a health insurance policy within three months of moving to the country and there are a range of public, subsidised private and fully private health insurance options to consider.
Healthcare in Switzerland isn’t charged via Swiss social security but is administered by local health authorities in each canton. To access Swiss health services, you’ll need to pay monthly health insurance premiums and pay part of the cost of your medical treatment in Switzerland. Foreigners living in Switzerland can claim reimbursements for Swiss healthcare services once they are registered for Swiss health insurance.
Maternity services are covered by insurers after the 12th week of pregnancy through to delivery. Tests and check-ups, pre-natal classes up to a value of CHF150, delivery and breastfeeding consultations are all reimbursed. At the time of birth, you’ll typically be covered for a multi-bed room in the general ward of a hospital in your canton of residence, and your baby will have full cover if its healthy and remains with you in the hospital. However, baby needs his or her own insurance from the time of birth, so plan accordingly! Post-birth cover includes three breastfeeding advice sessions conducted by a midwife or a specially trained nursing professional, and one check-up between the sixth and eighth week after the birth.
However, those looking for more privacy – or better facilities – might want to consider private add-ons. There are several different health insurers in Switzerland, including:
Accessing maternity services in Switzerland
Most insurance companies offer women an annual or biannual consultation with a gynecologist. If you’re already registered with a gynecologist, you can book a consultation as soon as you suspect you’re pregnant or see a doctor about recommending one if you’re looking to have your baby in Switzerland. You could also visit a Family Planning Center.
Depending on where you choose to give birth, you may be attended by a doctor or a midwife. Midwives handle home births, while obstetricians attend hospital deliveries. Your ability to choose your gynecologist depends on your insurance policy. Read Expatica’s guide to finding a doctor.
If you think you could be pregnant, it’s easy enough to purchase a standard urine test (Schwangerschaftstest) from a supermarket or pharmacy (Apotheke) for about CHF15. Such tests have an accuracy rate of about 98% and are largely accurate from the first day your period is due. There are also tests you can use earlier – ask the pharmacist which works for you.
Your gynecologist will also be able to carry out a more comprehensive blood test. Like urine tests, these look for the beta HCG hormone, which is produced by the placenta, but blood tests usually detect the hormone earlier. In most cases, your doctor will need to prescribe the lab work for insurance to cover it.
Abortion in Switzerland
Abortion has been legal in Switzerland since 2002 and the country has the lowest abortion rate in Europe. Women are now able to opt for an abortion up to 12 weeks into their pregnancy, provided they file a written request. They must undergo counselling, and doctors will advise patients of their options, including medical risks, as well as about any suitable information and services. She will also be informed about the possibility to give up her baby at birth.
After 12 weeks, a woman may have an abortion if she believes her ‘physical integrity’ is under threat or she faces ‘profound distress’ if she carries the baby to term. No mandatory waiting period is necessary.
Health insurance covers the costs of the lawful termination, under the same terms as illness.
Illegal abortions are a crime, with prosecution resulting in a fine or up to five years in prison.
Prenatal care in Switzerland
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.
Vaccines during pregnancy
Maternal immunization during pregnancy lets mothers-to-be transfer antibodies to their fetuses and confer passive immunity until the first infant immunizations. Swiss authorities generally recommend two vaccines to pregnant women, to reduce the chances of neonatal and infant mortality: seasonal influenza vaccines, at any point over the pregnancy, and pertussis (whooping cough, combined with diphtheria and tetanus) vaccines after the first trimester.
Both vaccines need to be administered at least 14 days before delivery but are encouraged much earlier. Speak to your doctor about your concerns if any.
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 to women having a baby in Switzerland include:
- Arcade Sages-femmes
- Basel Children’s Trust
- Clinique des Grangettes
- Maison des Parents
- The New Stork Times
Caregivers or non-medical birth companions called doulas have increasingly been called in to provide continuous emotional support to mothers-to-be and their partners during pregnancy, labor and after birth, and often, to communicate a couple’s wishes to medical professionals. The Doula CH organization puts couples in contact with doulas who speak their language within their region. Doulas booked through the association charge CHF800 upwards. Except for some post-natal care, these fees are not usually covered by insurance, so it’s advisable to check with your insurer.
The delivery: Giving birth in Switzerland
Pregnant women have a range of possible birth venues to choose from, and expat mums in Switzerland recommend visiting your own shortlisted venues well in advance. Many hospitals and birth houses organise tours and events where you can meet the staff, so take advantage of these.
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.
Giving birth at home
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.
Cesarean sections (Kaiserschnitt) are available if required. Be aware that non-standard birthing options may not be covered by the insurance.
Need to know: Labor, when to go to the hospital and birth
Before labor, moms-to-be have usually come up with an ideal birthing plan and perhaps also have a few backups. What is your take on pain medication? On skin to skin, or any post-placenta wishes? Birth plans are great to help get your team of supporters, midwives and gynecologist on the same page of your needs while in labor. And if possible see if you can get your plan translated into German, French and/or Italian depending on your region in Switzerland, although English should be fine.
When it comes to labor, modern advice recommends staying at home once you go into labor until the time your contractions are regular and strong, and are coming every four or five minutes or so. At this point, you should call your doula or the delivery ward at your hospital. The nurse will take you through a series of questions and recommend a course of action.
Head to hospital immediately if you’re bleeding, your waters have broken and the fluid is green, brown or yellow, if you’re in unbearable pain or are vomiting or the baby isn’t moving. Call 112 and ask for an ambulance. Phone ahead before arrival to ensure the hospital is ready and that your birth plan – such as a tub for a water birth – will be carried out. Maternity doors may be closed after 10pm, but there’s usually a bell to press when you arrive.
Documents to take to hospital
When you arrive at the hospital, there are some documents you will need to have with you:
- 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
Bring your own towels, pajamas and comfortable clothing, slippers, disposable undergarments and breast pads, toiletries and tools for relaxation.
Midwives handle standard procedures and monitoring, and their initial questions about you contractions and water break will help them determine in how far into labor you are. You may need a vaginal examination to see how dilated your cervix is and see your baby’s position. They will check your vitals, lightly push and use a Doppler monitor to determine your baby’s heart rate.
Post-natal aftercare in Switzerland
Following the birth in Switzerland, the baby receives a comprehensive review including being weighed, measured and checked for possible defects. The healthiness of the baby is assessed against the Apgar scale, which checks heart rate, breathing, muscle tone and responsiveness to stimulation. The measurements and Apgar score are then noted on the first page of the health record. The score ranges from 0 to 10, with 10 meaning the baby is in the best possible health. As a rule of thumb, a score of 7 or more is considered to reflect a healthy baby. A lower score need not be a cause for concern, however, as some babies simply take longer to adjust to life outside of the womb. The doctor and midwife will make a full scale assessment and inform you of any concerns they may have.
What insurance covers
Costs up to eight weeks after birth are generally covered by insurance. The services of midwives are also covered, including post-natal checks. For postpartum care at home during the first 56 days after birth, midwives may conduct up to 10 home visits for normal births and up to 16 home visits depending on whether the baby was born prematurely, by cesarean section or in certain other cases. After the stipulated period, additional home visits are only possible if medically prescribed.
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.
There are a wide range of post-natal classes for women who want to rebuild their pelvic floor, improve core strength and generally get back into shape. Depending on the type of insurance policy you have, some classes may be covered. In general, classes up to CHF150 are covered.
A short list of providers is below, but it’s always advisable to check reviews from friends and family or other clients before booking yourself in.
- Zurich: Birthlight Yoga, Family Yoga, QiYoga, Pilates Zurich, Well Mama
- Geneva: Innercityoga, L’Essence Ayurvedic Center, Grangettes Physiotherapy
- Basel: Basler Hebamme, Die Stadt Hebammen, Pilates Athletica
- Other areas: Nanea Pilates (St Moritz), Post-natal Zermatt (Zermatt), Enmouvement (Lausanne), Kristina Hart (Lucerne)
Registering your baby 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)
- embassy-issued dertificate of civil status if unmarried
- birth announcement
- complete registration form and fee.
Health insurance for newborns in Switzerland
A baby in Switzerland must be insured by their legal guardian from health risks from birth. A basic Swiss health insurance must be taken out for them within three months of delivery for the insurance to retroactively cover the child’s life, and any existing illnesses. 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. Some expat-friendly insurance companies which provide health coverage in Switzerland are:
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.
In all cases, a child’s health insurance can be taken out before birth.
Vaccinations for children in Switzerland
Switzerland recently enacted a national vaccination strategy to improve public health. Although children are not required by law to be vaccinated, except in case of an epidemic, vaccination rates remain high in Switzerland. Unvaccinated children are allowed into primary schools by law. In practice, most daycares and schools will ask for certificates of vaccinations against measles and other illnesses, reserving the right to refuse admission.
New parents are offered vaccines for their children in five rounds up to the age of two years, covering polio, MMR, Hemophilus influenza, pneumococcal bacteria and meningococcal disease. Two more rounds are administered by pediatricians between four and seven years, and again, 11 to 15 years.
Switzerland maintains an electronic vaccination record for all its residents, doing away with fiddly books and paper evidence.
Tourists and foreigners having a baby in Switzerland
Switzerland’s excellent healthcare reputation often attracts women who want to have their babies in minimal-risk surroundings. If you’re not a national of one of the Schengen-area countries or of a country with which Switzerland has reciprocal health arrangements, you’ll need to apply for a medical visa. Besides the standard documents such as bank statements, you will need to provide a local medical report, medical attestation from the hospital or doctor in Switzerland, confirming the date of your appointment as well as your medical situation, and any payment receipts as required. More visa information is available at the Swiss embassy in your country.
Visitors to Switzerland need to obtain travel insurance before visiting the country. While EU citizens are covered by reciprocal rules and their European Health Insurance Card is usually enough, non-resident tourists and visitors must have insurance – or pay privately for maternity costs.
Typically, travel insurance covers you for complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth, not for routine treatments or a normal birth – but it’s best to check with your insurer before leaving, or to take out a private insurance policy that specifically covers delivery.
The average pregnancy costs $7,751, but rates vary depending on the facility chosen and the doctor’s fees and other factors around having a baby in Switzerland.
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, but can acquire Swiss nationality if they meet certain conditions. Read our guide for more information on how to get Swiss citizenship.
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 receive 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.
Child benefits in Switzerland
Switzerland pays benefits to parents of children up to the age of 16 years. In case of children with chronic illnesses or disabilities, the limit is 20 years. For employees and self-employed persons who earn at least CHF592 per month, this child benefit is fixed at CHF200 per month as of 2019. For children aged between 16 and 25 who are still studying or in vocational training, you are entitled to an education allowance of at least CHF250 a month for each child. Parents who do not work are also entitled to child benefits unless their monthly incomes exceed CHF42,660.
Allowances vary by canton, but only one allowance is paid out, typically to the preferred parent (as regulated by law). Any difference, such as from another canton, is legally payable by law.
More information is available at the Swiss authorities’ website.
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
- The Swiss Authorities Online: www.ch.ch
- Federal Office of Public Health: www.bag.admin.ch
- Swiss Federation of Midwives: www.hebamme.ch
- Swiss Association of Breastfeeding Counselors: www.stillen.ch