We (more specifically I) have entered the final spurt of the pregnancy. It is going to be the our second child that will be born in Switzerland and while I was quite nervous during the first pregnancy I feel much more confident this time, basically because I know what to do, what to expect and what to keep in mind. Because although Germany and Switzerland are not necessarily very different (no, I am lying here, these two countries are incredibly different if one thinks about it, but it is still not comparable with differences between other cultural areas), there are certain aspects during the pregnancy and the time after the baby is born which fundamentally differ between these countries. And since this blog is listed as expat blog I thought I’ll give a quick insight into these main aspects:
The first thing that I noticed was the difference regarding the medical check-ups during the pregnancy. At the beginning of my first pregnancy I was still living in Germany and the German check-ups were incredibly detailed including many tests which costs are covered by your health insurance (the toxoplasmosis test for instance). In Switzerland, everything seems to be a bit more relaxed. I haven’t really been tested for anything apart from the NT screening and gestational diabetes and if I would insist on it, I would have to pay the costs myself (which is no option anyway considering the high medical costs). The normal procedure when going to the gynecologist during your pregnancy is simple: urine sample, blood pressure, weight and then ultra sound. I don’t even need to get undressed. While in Germany your check-ups increase with the upcoming birth, you’ll have your last one in Switzerland around 4 weeks before your estimated birth date and then you’ll see the doctor on the date of the birth again in case nothing has happened until then. During my first pregnancy I felt a bit unsecure about that, I admit, but right now I am quite happy as I don’t really want to have too many appointments anymore.
Another big difference between Germany and Switzerland is the maternity leave. In Germany it starts six weeks before the estimated birth date. In Switzerland you work until you go into labour. Hardcore. To be honest, I am quite happy that I don’t have a full job right now. The family centre where I work was closed during the summer holidays, so I didn’t have to work during the last weeks and right now I just have to manage a few meetings and preparations. The next event I have to organise is one day before the birth date and I do hope sincerely that the baby will come a few days earlier – not sure how I am supposed to conduct events with thirty or forty children while I am moving at a snail’s pace.
Regarding your health insurance it is very, very important to have your baby registered before it is born. That way you don’t risk to end up paying when your child needs medical assistance right after it is born. As medical assistance in a hospital can quickly eat up all your savings (a quick visit of the emergency unit during my first pregnancy costed us almost 1000 euros as I wasn’t insured in Switzerland at that time), it is indeed very wise to simply register your unborn child at your insurance.
When you decide to give birth at a hospital (which is our plan) your insurance will cover three days at the hospital (if you baby is born at 11pm it still counts as first day…). You will sleep in shared rooms unless you agree to pay a special fee. When you leave the hospital after three days (or earlier) you have to have organised a midwife that will visit you during the first ten days at home. This is actually an important positive difference: while the situation of the midwives in Germany has sadly hit rock bottom (there have been efforts to improve it again but it sadly looks like freelance midwives are doomed and I am not sure what mothers are supposed to do in Germany without the proper assistance of a midwife!) the midwives seem to be much more supported and appreciated by the insurances and the government in Switzerland (just my impression – if it’s really that way I don’t know). We have organised the same midwife as last time and it is actually a very nice feeling to know that she’ll also take care of our second child.
During the first weeks at home with the baby you are asked to meet up with a local parent counselling where the weight of the baby will be regularly checked and where you’ll find help with any important questions young mothers could have (if the answers really help is debatable). Apart from the weight checks it is a good way to get in touch with other young mothers – I have met one of mine and the little one’s best friends at our parent counsellor.
And then you have to go back to work after 14 weeks. Hardcore again. I know many mothers who saved their entire annual holiday plus overtime hours in order to be able to stay at home for a few more weeks. But basically you are asked to hand your baby over to a day nursery when it is 3 months old. It is something I don’t really understand and while I know that the discussion in Germany about parental leave and parent’s money is a heated one, I often wish that German parents would be aware of how lucky they are. Karsten will have ten days of parental leave after the birth which is a lot for the Swiss standard. When the little one was born, he only had five. As for myself, I really appreciated not having a job because it allowed me to stay home with the baby (without getting any money at all). Apart from the fact that I don’t want to give my baby to a day nursery when it is just 3 months old, the day nurseries are also incredibly expensive in Switzerland. They guarantee a good standard and the nurses are much more appreciated and better paid than in Germany, which is good! But the nurseries are so expensive that it doesn’t make sense for most mothers to actually continue working when having a second child. Unless you have a top salary you will end up spending all your income on child care. And seriously, I would only do that if I have a job that it completely and 100% fulfilling and fun and without which I can’t live.
But! At least with our second child I am aware of certain tricks. I can, for instance, apply for child care subsidy if I stay at home and if our salary is below a certain rate. We didn’t know that when the little one was born. Because none of the officials will tell you (very smart strategy, isn’t it?). We found out about it via a Swiss friend. Child care subsidy will be paid until your child’s second birthday. Since we didn’t know about it during the first year, we missed approximately 6000 CHF. Which is not much for a year in Switzerland, really, but a fortune for us. And we won’t miss it this time, I promise.
You will also get a certain amount of child allowance, depending on the canton and your employer (and if none of you is a Swiss citizen, your child will be perfectly integrated into Swiss policy by paying the foreigner tax when getting the allowance). 🙂
To be honest, family policy is not one of the greatest achievements in Switzerland. I know that there are many countries where it is worse and that it is complaining on a high level. We are incredibly lucky to be able to live a peaceful and good life. But at the same time I notice how the situation is managed in Germany or let alone Finland and I wonder why there are so big difference between these countries.
Anyhow, here we go, second child! 🙂