The first time I gave birth I was quite surprised when, many hours into my labour, the midwives changed shifts (yet again), and I ended up with a man.
I didn’t even know male midwives existed! It turns out they are quite rare, but, in my experience– every bit as impressive as their female counterparts.
My eldest son’s birth was a long process. I was induced, had my waters broken manually, was on the hormone drip, in labour for ages, had gas and an epidural, and then eventually an emergency c-section because my bub was stuck and in distress. So, I saw quite a few different midwives during this time. I’ll never forget my last one though, because he was a guy!
By the time he appeared, I was quite out of it, but I remember wondering if there were many male midwives, and what made him get into this line of work? Of course, I was in no state to be having a chit-chat, so I never found out the answers to those questions.
What I do remember is that he was the friendliest midwife I had throughout the whole shebang (and also with my subsequent two other sons’ births), plus he made me feel so comfortable and most importantly, he really knew his stuff.
Facts and figures
It turns out that less than one percent of all registered midwives in Australia are men. So in a way, I guess I had a reason to be surprised when my birth assistant fella turned up.
However, looking into it a bit further, the term ‘midwife’ itself is quite misleading. It originates from the Old English words ‘mid’, meaning ‘with’, and ‘wif’, meaning ‘woman’. So despite contrary beliefs, a midwife refers to the patient – and not the carer.
Why so few?
Well for starters, going back centuries, men weren’t allowed to be midwives. Delivering babies was a woman’s job – that is until the concept of a ‘man-midwife’ came about, which was really an early version of an obstetrician (assisting with forceps and other delivery techniques).
Now, many years later, though guys can study and practice midwifery, many still don’t. As a society, it appears we’re still a bit stuck in the notion that childbirth is ladies’ business (even though many obstetricians, gynaecologists and paediatricians are males).
It doesn’t matter
In my opinion though, if a male midwife has lots of experience birthing babies (including helping with breathing techniques and different birthing positions!) and has a kind and caring nature – then why wouldn’t you want him helping you through childbirth?
Cheers to all the male midwives out there!
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