Expectant parents get help and care on the way of the birth of their child from a midwife. Their number in Germany continues to fall. On International Midwifery Day, despite the challenges, there is reason to celebrate.
Interviewer: The Corona crisis is currently making the work of midwives even more difficult. Is today's International Midwifery Day nevertheless a reason for you to celebrate?
Sonja Ligett-Igelmund (midwife): Of course, we all try to celebrate a bit, that's clear.
It must be said: It is even the year of the midwife and nurse. The WHO has proclaimed this, without knowing what kind of year it will be especially for nurses. And, of course, the WHO has done this because there is still a lot to do for both professions and a lot of work to be done on working conditions. At the same time, her work is so important for women.
Interviewer: What makes it so difficult to be a midwife in Germany??
Ligett-Igelmund: Honestly, it's the working conditions. The job itself is great! But I also want to be able to do my job and not be distracted by everything else. The main problem in Germany is that there aren't enough midwives in the shift delivery rooms. So all delivery rooms are looking for midwife reinforcements and hardly find them because so many midwives have been leaving the profession for years.
Interviewer: Why do they do that? Because they earn too little or because of these bad general conditions that you mention?
Ligett-Igelmund: It is the general conditions. As a midwife I want to accompany women, I want to accompany births. I don't want to do orders in between, work through things on the phone, look after two more women, clean the delivery room, restock the delivery room and do a hundred other things at the same time.
I want to be with the woman. Because then I can also take good care of the woman. One must perhaps know that during birth, for example, the mirror neurons function quite excellently. When the midwife sits next to her on the armchair and knits, for example, the woman knows: In her labor, everything seems to be clear, otherwise she would not knit. And the better things are going with hormones and with birth. Only if there is never anyone sitting there, not even someone knitting, women are more likely to panic because they are alone, even if the man is there. The women simply need someone who permanently signals: You're doing a great job. Everything is in order. No need to panic.
Just like some passengers on an airplane need a stewardess who calmly pushes her cart through the aisle even when it's storming and snowing outside, and doesn't have panic in her eyes.
Interviewer: To what extent has the Corona crisis now exacerbated the difficulty of working as a midwife??
Ligett-Igelmund: First of all, it was quite bitter to see that the midwives had been forgotten as relevant to the system. That's why it was really difficult at the beginning for the freelance midwives to get protective clothing and hand disinfectants. So, it was bitter not to be on the list at all again and to be forgotten.
And for the shift midwives it just got complicated, how to protect themselves, how to organize it in the delivery room. For the freelance midwives, the aftercare, the courses, the home births were much more difficult. Because courses were not possible or are still not possible. And you can only catch a part with online courses.
Interviewer: In childbirth preparation courses, it's all about personal contact, specifically with the others and with the midwife. What can you do online at all?
Ligett-Igelmund: There is no personal contact at all. You sit in front of the laptop with your partner and then either look at your screen for two hours or, in the case of weekend courses, for many hours. You listen to the midwife and you can ask questions. That is something quite different and only an emergency solution. People are glad that at least this emergency solution exists. It's also difficult for the midwife, because she can't see how she's being understood and how everything is okay.
But maybe the midwife also has baby massage and baby classes as a mainstay. I really can't offer a toddler group as an online course now. That does not work. That also means that mainstays fall away. But the rent for the course rooms must still be paid. This is also difficult.
In addition, many house calls were perhaps not even made because of the perceived risk of infection. After all, not all pregnant women had Corona. Many were healthy and only wanted to protect themselves. But that means that some topics are simply discussed on the phone – for which, roughly speaking, you get five instead of 25 euros.
Interviewer: Now we have the year of the midwife and the international midwife day is actually a good day, in order to make once so correctly demands. Which demand to the Minister of Health would be the most important for you today??
Ligett-Igelmund: We have been begging Mr. Spahn for years to introduce one-to-one care. This means that a woman in labor has a midwife who looks after her all the time. She doesn't go out, just stays there. Then it is a job that the midwives can do well. And also for the woman it would be perfect. It's almost not much more than that, because it already solves quite a few problems at once.
The interview was conducted by Martin Molder.