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Original article

Vol. 151 No. 2930 (2021)

Evolution of gynaecologists’ practices regarding the implementation of Swiss legislation on maternity protection at work between 2008 and 2017

Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2021;151:w20537



In accordance with the International Labour Organization’s Maternity Protection Convention (No. 183) and European Union Directive 92/857CEE (1992), Switzerland’s Labour Law and its Maternity Protection Ordinance (OProMa) aim to protect the health of pregnant employees and their future children while enabling them to pursue their working activities. Gynaecologists-obstetricians have a key role in this legislation, particularly through the prescription of preventive leave for patients who would otherwise face dangerous or arduous tasks in the absence of an adequate risk analysis or suitable protective measures. However, international and national literature suggests that gynaecologists-obstetricians may encounter difficulties in fulfilling their role.


This study aimed to: (1) describe the practices and difficulties encountered by gynaecologists-obstetricians in the practical implementation of the OProMa; and (2) compare the evolution of these practices and difficulties between 2008 and 2017.


A survey by questionnaire was conducted in 2008 and repeated in 2017. Both surveys focused on gynaecologists-obstetricians working in the French-speaking part of Switzerland (in private practices, hospitals or both). Descriptive and comparative analyses were carried out.


83 gynaecologists-obstetricians responded in 2008 and 93 in 2017: response rates of 47% and 32%, respectively. In 2017, gynaecologists-obstetricians were more likely to ask questions about occupational risks faced by their patients when consulted by working mothers about their pregnancies. The estimated percentage of patients exposed to an occupational risk remained constant (20% in 2008 and 22% in 2017). Communication and collaboration with employers were reported to be difficult in both surveys, even though these are key elements in the implementation of the OProMa. Collaboration with occupational physicians, however, was more frequent in 2017.


In 2017, gynaecologists-obstetricians showed a greater awareness of occupational risks and collaborated more frequently with occupational health specialists. However, the application of the OProMa remained limited over the studied time period. Improving training of gynaecologists-obstetricians in this field could be a significant factor in encouraging better implementation of the current legislation. Moreover, gynaecologists-obstetricians need to be given the necessary support to enable their clinical practice to evolve towards a more preventive type of medicine. Collaboration with relevant stakeholders, including occupational physicians, midwives and workers, should be encouraged.


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