Portrait of a midwifeNovember 2014

The role of midwives is still not well known but is not limited to the moment of birth: in fact, they support women from pregnancy until after the baby arrives, providing both medical and emotional care to future and new mums. Midwife Claudia Viegas talks to us about her job.
 
1. What made you want to be a midwife?
I’ve always wanted to care for people, so after I left school I thought about becoming a midwife. A neighbour who was a midwife let me spend a day in the labour room with her. I witnessed two births and that was it: I knew that this was what I wanted to do.
 
2. What training did you do?
I studied in Belgium at a midwifery school for four years; then I gained a qualification that is recognised throughout the European Union and came back to work in France.
 
3. Tell us about your career path so far.
Just after I qualified, I worked in a level 3 maternity unit, where many of the pregnancies had complications. Gradually, I was increasingly drawn to looking after women over the longer term, and decided to practise independently.
 
4. What do you most enjoy about your job?
I love my job, but my favourite part is definitely the preparation for childbirth classes. The contact you have with future mums during the sessions can be very calm. They’re finding out about everything and it’s very nice to be able to support them, encourage them and teach them things.
 
 
5. Could you describe what a normal working day looks like?
My day is made up of a range of activities. On Mondays, for example, I start with preparation for childbirth classes. The groups are small, with a maximum of three future mums, and dads are obviously welcome too. In the afternoons, I switch between different activities, such as pelvic floor exercise sessions, antenatal checks at a doctor’s surgery or at home, or more preparation for childbirth classes. I really enjoy being able to do so many different things and looking after mums over a long period; I generally meet them around the sixth month of pregnancy and support them for four, five or even six months after the birth.
 
6. What do you remember about the first birth you attended?
The first birth I attended as a student midwife was at night, in a calm, peaceful atmosphere. The mother was expecting her second or third baby and the labour was going well. The midwife who was supervising me was someone calm and quiet, and it was a very gentle birth. The light was very diffuse, there was no noise and it was all very intimate: a really magical experience.
 
7. Could you tell us about something else that has had an impact on you?
There was a mother who was keen to give birth without an epidural and I wanted to do everything I could to support her but my shift was finishing. When I came back the next day, she was still in labour. I thought she would give in and ask for an epidural. But in the end, having me next to her helped her keep going without an anaesthetic. She was very proud and I was very happy for her too. I really felt I’d done a good job!
 
8. How do you suggest your patients prepare for childbirth?
I use a Canadian method developed by Julie Bonapace, called stress-free childbirth. It aims to prepare the future mother’s body for the baby’s arrival, support physiological childbirth and encourage the father to take part. He is needed during the sessions so that he can learn to support his wife during the pregnancy and at the moment of birth. During the birth, the father helps the mother to manage pain by stimulating acupressure points during contractions and massaging her gently between contractions to help her relax. The techniques are very simple for the future parents to use. The Bonapace method helps the father to feel involved in the pregnancy and quickly establish a bond with the baby.
 
9. What types of childbirth can midwives manage on their own, without the assistance of an obstetrician?
At least 80% of births! All births that follow a physiological process, with dilation of about 1 cm an hour, and births that don’t require forceps or a Caesarean section can be supported by a midwife, without a doctor, from beginning to end.
 
10. Are you seeing renewed interest amongst future parents in more natural births, with less medical intervention?
Not necessarily. I have slightly more mums who come to me wanting to give birth without an epidural or aiming to keep going as long as they can without one, but they are very much in the minority. I’d say that one woman in 10 wants to manage without an epidural.
 
11. What do you think about birthing centres?
I think they’re an interesting alternative to offer to parents looking for a more humanised form of childbirth. The majority of maternity units still take a very medicalised view of birth. I encourage my patients to express their desire for a more physiological birth, but it always depends on the midwife who’s going to be with them. I know from experience that birthing centres work very well in the countries where they exist.
Mustela note: birthing centres are places that offer future mums comprehensive care during pregnancy and childbirth and provide post-natal care for both mother and baby. Birth takes place in an intimate, family, human environment without medical intervention. Birthing centres are staffed entirely by midwives.
 
12. What do you think about home births?
It’s essential to have a midwife and patients should be selected rigorously: home births are only suitable for pregnancies that have followed a physiological path without any medical problems. The framework needs to be very clear. Under those conditions, I don’t see that it presents an excessive risk.
 
13. What qualities do you think a midwife needs?
Above all, you need human qualities. It is essential to know how to listen to people and be calm and empathetic. And of course, you need medical knowledge.
 
14. Do you have any children? If so, did becoming a mother change how you approach your job?
I have two children and they have definitely influenced my practice. When you are training to be a midwife you gain a lot of medical knowledge but you do less work on the psychological aspects, although they’re essential. When you’re a mother yourself, it’s obviously easier to listen to other mums and understand what they’re saying.
 
15. What would you recommend to future mums to take care of their skin during pregnancy?
Mums often ask for advice on avoiding stretch marks and I generally recommend Mustela products.
 
16. What type of dermo-cosmetics products do you find most useful for taking care of newborns?
I really like liniment for baby’s bottom. It’s a natural product that’s well tolerated and you can use it all the time, even for nappy rash. For the rest of the baby’s body, I’ve recently discovered Stelatopia Lipid-Replenishing Balm, which I recommend for babies with very dry skin. I also like Mustela Bébé Massage Oil and recommend it to mums for a special time in touch with the baby after they have had their bath.
 
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