Gender Discrimination and Male Midwives

One of the main worries when the topic of male midwives is discussed among pregnant women is the fact that men cannot experience childbirth for themselves, and therefore will have no idea what they are going through.

Obviously the same could be said for female midwives who do not have children of their own. But this idea along with a sense of embarrassment at having a man attending to you ‘down there’ seems to prevail among a lot of women.

It’s somewhat unfounded however when you consider that during any type of birth a woman is likely to be treated and assessed not only by midwives but also by any number of doctors, surgeons or consultants, who are just as likely to be male as female.

Neither does this take into account the large amount of male medical professionals who practice as gynecologists or obstetricians.

It does seem like this issue of gender discrimination is somewhat unique to the area of male midwives.

But it has caused women to make the decision to refuse to be treated by a male midwife whilst in the labour ward.

Of course it is the unquestioned right of a women in labour to refuse to be treated by any midwife, male or female, if they for any reason feel uncomfortable.

And in some cases, such as with women with a history of abuse, through no fault of their own the idea of a male midwife attending them may be too traumatic to accept.

But to turn away a male midwife bases on the assumption that he will not provide the required standard of care as he cannot bear children himself seems more than a little ridiculous.

And as far as the embarrassment part goes, as many have pointed out when a woman is in the throes of childbirth it’s unlikely she will care if the whole ward is starting at her ‘down there’!

And the majority opinion seems to be that male midwives do a fantastic job, with many mothers remembering their birth experiences with a male midwife as an outstanding experience.

The bad experiences reported were not to do with the gender of the midwife but rather with personality clashes, unprofessional attitudes and miscommunication.

As far as the issue of whether the attending midwife had experienced childbirth themselves was concerned this wasn’t always seen as an entirely positive thing.

There were criticisms leveled at some midwives for being judgemental, comparing the birth they were attending to their own experiences and dismissing and belittling concerns and fears of the laboring mother (especially where pain relief was concerned)

But again this was not due to gender, but to bad practice. Positive experiences with both sexes of midwife had exactly the same words of praise.

These midwives were described as being gentle, relaxed, empathic, non-judgemental, and good listeners.

After all the meaning of the word ‘midwife’ is ‘with woman’, and is not gender specific.

And a good midwife is an individual who regardless of sex is 100% there with a woman during the birth of her child, who does their utmost at each and every birth to assist women through this amazing and life changing event.

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Emily Seddon

Emily is a midwife with many years of experience. She is passionate about supporting midwives of the future. As a clinical mentor, student link and being on university interview panels, she knows what it takes to get a place!

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