Interview with pioneer midwife Verena Schmid

Verena Schmid became a qualified midwife in Florence in 1979. Since then she has assisted home deliveries for more than 25 years, founded an independent midwifery centre called Il Marsupio and founded Donna e Donna il giornale delle ostetriche, a professional magazine for midwives. She founded the Elemental School of Midwifery Art in Florence in 1996, unique in Italy and Europe and she was instrumental in the opening of the Centro Benessere Maternità in 2013. In 2000 she was awarded the prestigious Astrid Limburg award for her engagement to promote midwifery and natural birth in Italy. She has been invited to teach in hospitals and health centres all over Europe and is the author and co-author of several books on childbirth including Birth Pain: Power to Transform! She is currently teaching a masters degree on Salutogenesis at the University of Salzburg.

Do you think midwifery services in general are underdeveloped in Italy?
We have realities of excellence (few), some small hospitals with waterbirth and rooms for normal birth and many big hospitals with a high level of cesarean sections. Active birth is not very common. In 50% of the hospitals mothers and babies are separated. Very often the caregivers are not respectful with women.

How accommodating are Italian hospitals to natural births?
It depends: on the place, on the midwife you meet at the moment of birth, on the birth philosophy in the place.

What advice would you give women looking for a natural birth in Italy?
To take information, make choices and to look for a midwife who offers continuity of care and goes with her to the hospital.

Do you know what percentage of mothers in Italy opt for homebirths?
Less then 1%. Women have to pay for homebirth. Some of the regions give some money back, but not all.

What are the main reasons women choose to have a homebirth?
They want a good quality of birth and life, or they are afraid about hospitals.

How can women prepare for a homebirth?
They need to contact a midwife in early pregnancy and have prenatal care with her. She will also prepare the couple for birth.

Are there any circumstances in which you would advise against having a homebirth?
If there are medical reasons or fear.

How can women find their homebirth midwives in Italy?
www.nascereacasa.it

Do you feel there is enough post-natal support in Italy for mothers and their babies?
Not at all. Only the independent midwives offer it.

You specialized in Polarity Therapy, Counselling and Focusing. Can you explain what these things are in relation to childbirth?
With these techniques you con cure many complications in pregnancy and birth, prevent these complications and ease birth.

The courses you have developed for midwives are rooted in physiology and salutogenesis. Salutogenesis examines the creation of wellbeing by looking at successful coping strategies and health. How do you apply this to birth?
We focus not on risks but on resources and how to improve them. We apply positive communication to see the best, not the worst. We lead women back to their body and self-knowledge, we use physiological interventions in case of need without any side effect, we improve normal birth also with physiological hypoalgesia.

The Centro Benessere Maternità (CBM) opened in 2013. Can you tell us more about it?
CBM is a centre for the health and wellbeing of mothers, children, families and women of all ages. It offers space for meeting, sharing, education and growth. We give guidance on the path of parenthood, using the imprint of Salutogenesis. We offer concrete options for making choices that respond as much as possible to the needs of the person. The centre is managed by a team of trained midwives, specialized in natural, physiological birth and Salutogenesis. They have support from a team of medical specialists, multidisciplinary professionals and holistic practitioners.

What services does the centre offer pregnant women?
* A professional midwife to accompany you, all the way through motherhood, from conception to the first year of life. Classes in English.
* Welcome, support, a listening ear, respect, and freedom of choice
* Personalized care, where you are at the centre, and the focus is on health and resources
* Prenatal  courses for women and couples
* New options and advanced services for pregnancy, childbirth and post natal care
* A birth center fully equipped for a delivery that ensures privacy and safety (in development)
* Support for any type of delivery you choose
* Concrete tools for you to make your own choices in a conscious and achievable way
* High standards of quality care based on Salutogenesis and the latest scientific evidence

What services does the entre offer for women once they have given birth?
* A space where we provide listening and free information in order to orient and help you make your own decisions.
* A midwifery practice for post natal care (first year of life); examination of the newborn; and counseling in breastfeeding.
* Post natal courses for women and couples
* Wellbeing of woman and child throughout the entire path of motherhood
* Aquatic courses for babies
* Cultural events and workshops

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More information can be found on Verena’s website: http://verenaschmid.eu/
Maternity Wellbeing Centre: www.benesserematernita.it

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