"It was like a hotel!"

“It was like a hotel!” said my (Aquabirths at Home) York agent Lis, describing the relatively small Swiss hospital she stayed in after breaking her leg on her ski-in holiday. And being an assessor for British maternity units and the maternity unit being just opposite her ward . . . she could not help hobbling across and asking if she could have a look around!

Her report was this.

70% water birth rate in this small 2 room suite. The birthing pool is at the centre of the room and the bed is tucked away in the corner. The rooms are beautiful with a lovely bedspread on the (hospital) bed and ordinary curtains and net curtains in subtle pink and blue stripes (!) at the window. Not costly or adding to infection risk but looked lovely. The floors were bare but there were tables and chairs and an easy chair for relaxing or for partner. The medical kit was around but seemed very much in the background.

There is just a 2% homebirth rate (this is nonetheless greater than Bradford’s where needless to say the water birth rate is much lower also). My agent said that she did not blame women for having a hospital birth in the circumstances with such stats. and 5 days of first class care in hospital and no quibbles about staying longer if the woman needed more support with breastfeeding. Post natal accommodation was mainly 2 bed rooms with babies in with the Mums.

Lis was told that they never induced prior to 42 weeks without a real medical reason. Induced women were still allowed to use the pool. Access to the pool was just a simple step. They didn’t worry about hoists or fancy kit for lifting women out of water: Everything kept very low tech. Seemed much less of a culture of claims if anything went wrong.

Generally CS rates are low both here & in general through Switzerland. If women had high blood pressure or just a few minor problems they still stayed in this local hospital. They were just monitored more closely or moved down to a room in a different area of the hospital to be monitored. If they knew that baby might have problems then had to be moved to different hospital as didn’t have intensive cots for newborns at Frutigen hospital.

In terms of staffing the head midwife there said that they enjoyed their work and had a good relationship with the doctors who took a great deal more interest in normal birthing than do our doctors but tended to interfere less. The doctors would see women on admission and pop down later to check how things were going but unless called in would otherwise leave the midwives to it. Needless to say it is ‘one mother one midwife care’ during labour. Women could, in this unit, even choose the MW who they wanted to have for the birth prior to the birth – though this is not true of all Swiss units

Midwives only care for women in the intrapartum period (birth). General nursing staff admit the women and care for the mother and baby dyad during their 5 day stay. Nurses who looked after new Mums & babies saw it as their role to get the new dyad/partnership established well prior to departure – for best start in life. Breastfeeding rates: Lis does not know the figures but they were good and breastfeeding seemed to be accepted normal more than in UK.

The health insurance support is generous with 5 days full accommodation with excellent food and care (my agent said the staff were amused that she kept referring to the hospital as a hotel – she responded to them that the care and food etc were more akin to hotel quality and she had never seen anything like it at any hospital in uk she had visited). However, the monthly statutory health levy for this care is substantial for say the average family. (Well, don’t we say: ‘You get what you pay for?’)

I leave with you this picture of how one small hospital in Switzerland cares for birthing women. Liz, asked many questions about what happened elsewhere to which she got relatively general or vague answers, as although midwives may have worked elsewhere before coming to this maternity unit turn over was low, and there seemed to be no plans to leave. Nevertheless, the impression she got was that things were not all that different in other parts of this region.

My motto is: Ask for the moon – you can always settle for Doncaster. Here is one very down-to-earth example of the moon – that is to say the care mothers deserve in the UK. Why not ask for what we deserve? And is it not worth paying for?

Post Script. Lis (being the canny lass that she is) says that she has an email address for the hospital and the MW she spoke to. So if you have more questions then you can contact Lis through me: ruth@aquabirths.co.uk


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lotusbirther
    Feb 09, 2009 @ 23:25:00

    aahh, this is (almost) making me broody – homebirth all the way here though of courseEven a hotel isn’t as good as being at home all snuggled up with newborn and older children and daddy of course but yes it makes you think and wonder why we put up with what we do. Perhaps our acceptance of whatever the State deems appropriate for its workers (i.e. us) is what makes it so?Check out the current vision of society if you don’t know what I mean, and if you don’t know but want to know, hassle me on my blog to collate some links to documents for you.Thanks for your good work!


  2. lotusbirther
    Feb 12, 2009 @ 02:11:00

    I’ve nominated you for an award, a Lemonade Award, so check it out!do-different.blogspot.com


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