The first thing you need to know after you've found out you're pregnant is that all your medical check-ups and birth costs, whether natural birth or C section, are fully covered by your health insurance. Fully as in you don't have to pay anything - maternity costs are not part of your contribution or franchise. So breathe in, relax - of course, only a certain number of check ups are covered, starting with week 12, but we'll get down to the fine print further in the article. For now, focus on this big news. Not only this, but even after birth, a certain number of home visits or consultations with a midwife are usually included. We told you it would be amazing!
Now, get ready, you'll have to get organised!
First, find and register with an OB-GYN
Your OB-GYN will accompany you for the duration of your pregnancy, you'll see them regularly and they will monitor you closely.
Choose someone you feel comfortable with. Ask friends or look for recommendations until you find the OB-GYN that’s right for you. If you don't think they are right, don't be afraid to change them. Take your time, this is important.
As mentioned previously, all OB-GYN appointments starting with week 12 of pregnancy (this is when you usually find out you're pregnant anway) and ensuing tests and care will be paid for by your health insurance company.
After your first appointment your progress will then by monitored at regular intervals by your OB-GYN.
Decide where you want to give birth, how and with whom
In Switzerland you can choose to give birth in a private hospital or university clinic, in a Gerburtshaus (a midwife led maternity house) or at home. Using a private hospital is the usual route but the choice is entirely yours. Choosing where and with whom you will give birth are the two most important decisions you will have to make. Most hospitals and birth centres offer a monthly information evening to share their birthing philosophy and show their facilities - visit as many as you can and get as many infos as you can.
You should also know, if this is your first pregnancy, that if you give birth naturally, your OB-GYN might not present during labour - they will only show up if there is a medical problem. During natural birth, you will mostly be supported and coached by a midwife. For some women, it is important to see a familiar face, hence having a doula has become quite popular lately.
What exactly is a Doula and do you need one?
A Doula is a better version of your mother, to put it simply. Remember in the old days, women used to give birth surrounded by a circle of other, more experienced women. When you give birth in a hospital, this is not the case anymore and the midwife, even if she is the nicest person in the world, is a stranger. A Doula is someone who has experience with childbirth, so she understands the journey of pregnancy through to motherhood and all the feelings and worries which may come up along the way. She is not a medically trained professional, but acts as a trusted companion, focusing on the needs of the mother, giving emotional, physical and practical support. She'll be there for you during labour, she'll support you as you breastfeed (and take our word for it, you will need help here), as you give your newborn your first bath or change his diaper (it might seem simple, but it isn't). They will even cook for you if you are too exhausted to do it.
For more infos on what Doulas are and what kind of services they provide, have look at deinedoula.ch
What to expect when giving birth by C-section (Caesarian)?
In Switzerland around 30% of babies are delivered via C-sections each year and even though it's a relatively common, low-risk procedure, your first choice, if you can, should be natural birth.
If a C-section is needed for medical reasons (baby is distressed, or in breach or born prematurely, etc.) you can be confident that the surgery will be carried out by expert hands in any major Swiss hospital.
When you give birth by C-section, your baby is usually handed to you after she is out of the womb and stays with you during recovery, which is usually short. You will be urged to move around fast by hospital staff. Recovery is much faster when you get up and walk as soon as possible after surgery. If you have trouble moving or changing your baby, nurses are usually available 24/7 in all private hospitals.
What happens after you give birth?
After birth you’ll spend a little time in hospital to adjust to motherhood - around 1 day if you have birth naturally and up to 3 days if you have had a C-section. All hospitalisation costs will be covered by your health insurance.
A hospital physiotherapist will help with a post-natal exercise regime and a midwife will give you help and advice on breastfeeding and looking after your new baby.
How about after you leave the Hospital/ Geburtshaus?
Once you're at home with your baby, with little family support in sight (as is usually the case with expats), you might feel a bit lost. Don't let anxiety get you down, help is available, so make sure to use it.
A midwife can visit you at home and provide support with breastfeeding and basic care. You will need this and it is usually covered by your health insurance. But make sure you arrange and register with a midwife well in advance. Your health insurer can provide a list of approved midwives in your area. Their schedule might be full, this is why it is important to arrange the visits in advance.
For free online support on breastfeeding from other new mothers have a look at La Leche League.
In addition to this, for any tiny crazy question you might have about your baby (and you will) there is a great local community service pretty much all over Switzerland offering support and advice to any parents with a child under 5 years old. Look for your local Mutter und Vaterberatung center in the German regions or the Centre de Puericulture in Romandie. The friendly volunteers who work for these services are happy to help you and have extensive experience on anything child related, from sleep problems to eating habits.
What it's like giving birth in a Hirslanden hospital
With 17 top-class hospitals throughout Switzerland, Hirslanden is the largest private hospital group in Switzerland and provides some of the most impressive private healthcare in the world. All the hospitals are located in peaceful, green surroundings, some with therapeutic views of lakes and mountains, others with stunning architecture. Quite simply, Hirslanden is the best hospital group in Switzerland and a true leader in the service it provides.
Each hospital takes a holistic approach to your needs, and the wellbeing of mother and child is their top priority. The English-speaking staff have open minds and the conveyer belt approach you may find elsewhere is actively discouraged.
All 17 Hirslanden hospitals offer ultra-modern facilities and state-of-the-art technology to ensure that all your needs are addressed, and you can relax knowing that you and your baby will get the most up-to-date, attentive care available. They can offer a full range of cutting-edge medical procedures or alternative therapies ranging from homeopathy and acupuncture, to massage or aromatherapy.
In the birthing suite you can choose who will be present – doctor or midwife - and if you have a Doula, they will stay with you for support throughout. If you need conventional pain relief during the birth, such as gas and air or an epidural, these will always be available as required. You stay in control of your birthing experience and the outstanding, experienced medical staff at Hirslanden will listen to your requirements, give expert advice and focus on the safe and successful delivery of your baby.
Even after the birth Hirslanden continues to provide a top-notch service. Nurses are available 24/7 to support your every single need. There’s even a gourmet menu and room service, which might remind you more of a hotel than a conventional hospital. Your family are welcome to come and visit you during flexible visiting hours and can stay overnight in your room if it helps you to relax and feel comfortable.
All in all, from conception to birth, Hirslanden offers an exceptional maternity service that celebrates the wonder of birth and is entirely focused on you and your family (and your family to be!).
Find out more in the short video below with interviews from hospital staff and patients at Hirslanden's Klinik im Park, Zurich: