CONTRIBUTED BY LY TAN
One of the important things to do in Germany once you have passed the first trimester of your pregnancy is to engage a midwife, who is going to be your best friend in antenatal care. My first child was born in Singapore where midwifery care was available but not extensive. As I planned to deliver my second child in Germany, I was eager to find a midwife.
I wanted to have a midwife who is comfortable in communicating in English. The initial five “potential” candidates whom I had contacted were unavailable during the time around my expected due date which made me realise that midwives are in short supply. With the blessing of God, I found a midwife, Lisa, through our village community newsletter who not only speaks fluent English but is also highly qualified and experienced. Lisa had her training at Ruprecht Karls University in Heidelberg, Germany. After that, she completed her Masters in England and obtained a Postgraduate Certificate of Health and Social Care Education at the University of Brighton, United Kingdom. She accumulated 20 years of midwifery experience in Germany, England and the United States of America.
Lisa and I had two meetings before the childbirth. The first meeting was for us to get to know each other and address some pressing questions regarding pregnancy, birth, German midwifery care and possible purchases for the child etc. The second meeting involved my husband who was eager to receive expert information, especially on the delivery, as he was not present during the delivery of our first baby.
In addition, Lisa offered weekend prenatal courses which are known as Geburtsvorbereitungkurs in German. The course was conducted in small groups and only for couples. This approach was quite unique as most of such courses usually only include one or two couple sessions with the majority of sessions being attended by the women. We really like the partner approach. It helped us to gain confidence and showed us ways to support each other during labour as best as possible. The course focused on getting the body and mind ready for birth, pelvic floor exercises as well as the partner’s role during and after birth. My husband and I found the course extremely helpful as it made us more assured and confident for the coming “challenge.”
As Lisa did not have hospital privileges in Germany, she could not attend the birth with me in the hospital. It still worked out nicely as I was assisted by two experienced midwives for the delivery whom I met for the first time in the hospital. The shift of the first midwife ended about two hours before giving birth, which is why I had two midwives. However this was not a problem as the handover from one to the other went smoothly and professionally. After the birth, my newborn baby and I were well taken care of by a team of competent and caring midwives .
Lisa’s main service was in the area of postnatal care. Right after I was discharged from the hospital, Lisa visited me at my home the next day, and thereafter almost everyday for one week. During the visits, she showed me how to breastfeed my child effectively, how to treat baby rashes and how we could guide our eldest two year old son in his interaction with his new sibling, etc. She examined our baby carefully and gently and even brought along her own weighing scale in order to weigh him! She also checked my stiches and asked a list of important questions to assess the state of my physical and mental wellbeing. Most importantly, she was knowledgeable, experienced, caring, and reassuring.
An important aspect of postnatal care is to help your body recover after pregnancy. Lisa offers postnatal courses (also known as Ruckbildungskurs in German) for mothers in a small group of maximum seven participants. The course focuses on pelvic floor exercises and also the topic of self-renewal, which is basically how to take care of yourself so that you could be the mother you want to be and not according to the society’s or someone’s idea of motherhood. The course was carried out in a personal and intimate way where Lisa brought up thought-provoking questions which we could address openly or privately.
Overall, my husband and I were extremely pleased with the level of midwifery care that we have received. However, midwifery care is being reduced all over Germany because of insurance regulations that are being stated in EU legislation which requires professional indemnity insurance for all healthcare professionals including midwives and the rising liability insurance rates.
Very few practicing midwives can afford the insurance increases, bear in mind that they do not earn a high income and the majority will only be able to provide prenatal and postpartum support. Their critical expertise around birth support will be lost and eventually even the homevisit services may be removed such that women will have to go to a midwife centre or clinic in order to receive postnatal care.
Midwifery care is truly invaluable as I benefited immensely from the expertise of midwives during birth, as well as during prenatal and postpartum care. This is a profession that I hope will survive and continue to help in the well-being of women and infants.
For those who believe in the need and growing desire for the midwifery services, you may visit the following website to find out how you can support the profession visit the Our Midwives webpage.
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