I had mixed feelings about publishing this blogpost and even though many of you guys asked me pregnancy- related questions I felt like this topic was for me somehow too difficult to talk about, as becoming a mom was and is a very personal journey and as honestly speaking – I don’t feel I am an expert… so I wasn’t sure if I should write about it on the blog.
I also said before that I won’t turn Girl in Basel into Mom in Basel and that I’ll keep posting my usual content, just with the baby on my side, but somehow your messages made me realize, that being pregnant, giving birth and also becoming a parent here in Switzerland is a very important part of the expat journey, so I decided to share the most important things I am aware of and some of my personal experiences (including the things I would do differently next time).
The thing with becoming a parent is that you are never ready. Even if you think you are super ready, have a plan, read all the booklets, books and talk to your friends who already have children (my case!), at some point you’ll realize that often things don’t go as you planned, you get overwhelmed with all the admin stuff and encounter things you were not prepared for. And the thing with becoming a parent abroad is that as far as it’s a thrilling and joyful experience – it can get overwhelming – the language barrier, different rules/law than the ones you know, often no support system as the family lives hundreds of kilometers away.
I feel you – I was the first one to become a mom from my closest friends (and my only mom-friend lives in a different canton, so I couldn’t relate in many aspects) and sometimes it was just hard to find the necessary information. So I will share the things you need to know and things you have to consider if you plan to have a baby in Switzerland, or if you’re already expecting (congratulations!). I divided them in two groups: Healthcare – being the most important in my opinion and admin stuff – including the other things you should think of. Since this blogpost is already very complex – I will also write another one – “Mom-to-be guide to Basel”, about the places to shop for your baby, yoga and other classes for pregnant women, children friendly coffee spots etc. So here we go with the first part, what to expect when you are expecting.
Health insurance is mandatory for all the people living in Switzerland and everyone needs to take out a policy within three months of living here. There are a range of public, half- private and private health insurance options to consider, but all of the insurers cover maternity services after the 12th week of pregnancy up and until the delivery. Before the 12th week the pregnancy is rather considered a “medical condition” rather than “maternity” (from the health insurance standpoint). If you lose your baby before the 12th week, the insurer will most likely not pay any related costs. This in itself, is quite a controversial issue here in Switzerland.
What is covered after the 12th weeks? (covered means that there is no deductible, retention fee or hospital fee):
– Doctor check-ups every 4 to 6 weeks
– Tests (two ultrasound scans for a normal pregnancy as well as first trimester screening to test for the risk of trisomies 21,18 and 13),
– Prenatal classes up to 150 CHF
– Delivery (in the hospital, at a birthing centre or at home),
– Breastfeeding consultations and also a post-natal care (including a check up a few weeks after delivery),
– A multi-bed room at the hospital and full coverage for your baby if it’s healthy and stays with you at the hospital.
How it worked for me: I am insured with Sanitas and have a basic package with some premiums. All the costs were covered, except for the hospital room we chose (on that later). My pregnancy was really easy and I didn’t need any additional tests or checkups, except for an iron infusion due to me having pregnancy-related anemia. What I find amazing is, that other costs of the healthcare are covered during the pregnancy too – for example if you need the iron infusion (like I did) or if you have to go to a physiotherapist because of your back pain – basic insurance covers these expenses too.
A midwife will support you through the entire journey of pregnancy to birth and baby care afterwards. In Switzerland, what I sadly learned too late, is that it’s important to search for a midwife as early as possible once you discover you are pregnant, so you’re able to find the one that suits you and your needs best, and whom will be present at the birth.
Your midwife can do your pregnancy check-ups (I had them done by my gynecologist), provide you with information about labor (and can help you compose your birth plan too). She is also present at the birth and takes care of you in the hospital afterwards, teaches you how to take care of yourself and your baby and also provides you with nursing advice. Once you are released from the hospital (if you choose a hospital birth of course – on the options available below), she will visit you at home and make sure that you are recovering well and that your baby is fine. There are a lot of excellent midwives in Basel, some speak English and other languages too and often offer other services like acupressure or prenatal yoga.
Why is it good to have a midwife: it’s a person that knows your health history and also knows everything about your birth plan and your preferences in general. I think this institution is very useful, especially for first time parents – she literally guides you through your pregnancy and she’s your contact person if you have any questions or doubts.
Below I am linking a website where you can find more info about the midwives in Basel Stadt and Basel Land and also find one if you’re searching.
Basler Hebamme Website
My experiences: I was told by my gynecologist about the possibility of having a midwife when I was 3/4 months pregnant. We started searching around my 5th month of pregnancy (as I thought “we had time”) and most of the ones I called were already fully booked or didn’t have time to be there for me on my delivery date. Then I finally found one, she accepted us, we met once to get to know each other and discuss my birth plan, afterwards she kept cancelling our appointments and eventually dumped us when I was already 7 months pregnant so it was surely too late to find a new one. So if I could do something differently now, I would just start searching for a midwife in the time I discovered I was pregnant. We went with the hospital birth and got assistance of midwives that were on the shift at the time we were there and it was just perfect. About the postnatal care: a midwife was assigned to me on the last checkup at the hospital before going home. My only wish was to have an English speaking one since I didn’t feel comfortable enough discussing my medical needs in German – it was a very lovely woman and came to visit us at our house, to check if our family if off on the good start.
In Switzerland you have four options:
– Home Birth – natural birth with support from a midwife you trust. It requires good preparation and a healthy, stable pregnancy. In case of unexpected risks arising, you will receive medical help of doctors at the nearest hospitals provided:
– Birthing Centre birth – it’s similar to a home birth – you are surrounded by experienced midwives and in case of complications the collaboration with doctors is guaranteed. They also provide postpartum support afterwards,
– Independent birth at the hospital – the hospital birth with the midwife of your choice – she oversees the birth and is with you throughout the whole delivery and is in constant contact with the medical team and can – if necessary – involve a doctor at any time,
– Hospital birth – in Basel Stadt you have two hospitals where you can deliver your baby: Basel University Hospital and Bethesda Hospital. In Basel Land it’s the Baselland Canton Hospital (BLKS). In each you get supervised by a midwife on shift and you are offered many birthing possibilities and positions – natural birth, with epidural, on a ball, in water etc. (it’s important to get informed in advance about all the possibilities and make a birth plan).
You can find more info including links to the birthing center in Basel Stadt and Basel Land here.
How it was for us: Initially we planned the independent birth at the Bethesda Hospital with the midwife I chose earlier, but since she “dumped us”, we decided to go with the classic hospital birth.
We chose the Bethesda Hospital – as far as I heard only positive things about both hospitals, I also heard that at Bethesda, you are getting a more “personal” treatment (and it’s a semi-private hospital, which means standards are a bit higher). You can choose the hospital from the 20th week of your pregnancy by contacting its registration office. In case of Bethesda, my gynecologists did it for me and a few days after I received documents from the hospital to fill in regarding my: personal details, the room choice, the birth plan etc.
Both Basler hospitals offer information events – at Bethesda they are also in English (linking it HERE). It can be very helpful and I suggest signing up for it, especially for the first time parents.
We were very happy with the choice of the hospital. I chose to have a private room that I shared with my baby (you can choose shared, half-private, private or family room – in the last one you can have your partner overnight with you). All the personnel (especially the midwives, I just can’t praise them enough) and doctors at the Bethesda Hospital were incredibly warm, kind and supportive throughout the experience.
HERE I am linking a brochure I found to be very useful (from the University Hospital) with all the info on becoming a parent – on pages 12 and 13 you can see the timeline of all the pregnancy events – from doctor check ups to hospital registration.
HERE you can find information from parents about antenatal period, birth and the first few weeks afterwards (from the Health department of the canton Basel Land).
Another thing to think of before the baby is born – the insurance. The sooner the better.
For two reasons: first, you have time to organize everything before the little one arrives and second, health insurance companies are able to refuse offering supplementary insurance to baby’s with a medical condition from birth. So it’s the sooner the better. The baby must be insured by his/her legal representative. In case you don’t do it before the baby is born, to ensure that the cover applies from the birth, you have to take out health insurance for your baby within three months of his or her birth.
Mothers employed in Switzerland are entitled to 14 weeks of statutory maternity leave at 80% of pay, beginning at the birth of the child. Many employers voluntarily offer more generous terms.
Linking the AHV brochure about the maternity leave HERE.
In Switzerland, parents must register the child within three days of birth at the local civil register office. If you give birth to your baby at the hospital – they will usually do it for you there. If you give birth at home or at the birthing centre, it can be done at the office by the mother, father or third party present during the birth (such as midwife).
To register your baby, you need the following documents:
- family record book or marriage certificate
- proof of address
- piece of identification
- passport of both parents
- residence permits (if not Swiss citizens)
- embassy-issued certificate of civil status if unmarried
- birth announcement
- completed registration form and fee
If you are married when you give birth, the husband is automatically presumed to be the father of your child. But if you are not, the man who is understood to be the biological father must explicitly recognize the child. And he can do it before or after birth.
Linking more detailed info HERE.
Info on the child’s surname HERE.
I hope you guys found the information useful and that it will help you navigate your way through your first pregnancy in Switzerland. Will come back with the Basler Mom guide soon 🙂
3 thoughts on “What to expect when you’re expecting in Switzerland”
Hey! Thanks for this post, very useful! I am Polish, living currently in Muc, but moving to Basel to my hubby in Feb/March after I give birth to our first baby in the beg of Feb. can’t wait for the second post with the Tipps on places to go with baby, etc since Basel is going to be all new to me. Hugs, Iwona
This was a great post, thank you! My husband and I are expecting our first and I’ve been a bit overwhelmed about finding information that I could relate to. Looking forward to exploring the links you provided.