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Thriving in a Woman's World: Meet Mr Gore a Zimbabwe Male Midwife - Nursing Heroes - Nurses Arena Forum

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Thriving in a Woman's World: Meet Mr Gore a Zimbabwe Male Midwife by Idowu Olabode : June 20, 2017, 04:21:35 PM
Often mistaken for a medical doctor when he enters the labour ward at Beitbridge District Hospital, Mr Matindita Gore has broken the barriers to thrive in an unlikely environment.Addressed as "sister" by his colleagues, many fail to comprehend how a male can even have such a title. Mr Gore is one of the rare male nurses who practice midwifery across Zimbabwe. "People are quite surprised when they find out that I'm a midwife," he said in a recent interview.

"I think they assume that it's very unusual for a male to be in a female-dominated field. "That is just weird, you know. Dealing with female reproductive organs during birth; and women in general."

Mr Gore has faced a number of challenges. He narrates the obstacles he faces as a male midwife operating at a small hospital in such an area like Beitbridge. "Some women shy away from me and at times they even refuse my assistance," he said.

It is even worse when he attends to women from the rural areas surrounding Beitbridge where pregnant women are used to elderly midwives. In Zimbabwe, elderly women have traditionally been assisting women during childbirth.

They provide local women with pregnancy monitoring and delivery services. The elderly women also provide post-natal care for the mothers. Today, 77 percent of live births take place in health facilities, according to Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey.

The ZDHS further states that most institutional deliveries take place at public sector health facilities. It is at this stage that women encounter male nurses like Mr Gore, who have taken up midwifery as part of their duties."I started out as a general nurse," he said.

"I always knew that I wanted to take care of people as it was a calling. I went on to further my studies and trained as a midwife at Mpilo General Hospital."

At Mpilo, he was taught about obstetrics, which at first, he thought was a waste of time. But he soon fell in love with the job. "The love for babies also drove me," said Mr Gore a father of two girls.

"To see a new life being brought into this world . . . being born and taking their first breath, understanding what women go through, it has to be appreciated." The number of men working in obstetrics has largely increased over the years.

However, the same cannot be said in the midwifery as a profession. "It takes a very special breed of man to practice midwifery," he said. "To be honest, I see myself as a midwife first and man second. It feels very special to have the ability to practice in this profession."

Mr Gore relies on his roles as husband and father to understand better how to connect with women at the crucial time - all the while not forgetting about the other man in the equation.

There are those who can feel overwhelmed during this period. "It can be very positive for the fathers to have another male knowing what they are going through," he said.

"One of the very social moments after birth is telling the father that the child is born, sometimes with tears in both our eyes." There are, however, other women who feel uncomfortable to be attended to by a male midwife.

Even worse, there are some partners or fathers who express their reservations when their wives are attended to by a male nurse. "Of course, I have met women who preferred not to be assisted by a male nurse," said Mr Gore. "I have learnt not to take that personally.

"I try to understand where people are coming, from a different point of view. There are religious reasons. Sometimes there are women who would have been abused." The sentiments were also echoed by Mr Rukudzo Makunike, who believes it's wrong for men to assist women deliver their babies.

"The birth process is sacred and for that reason it should be among women themselves," he said. "I would not feel comfortable having a man attend to my wife. I mean, how does he know what she is going through?

"It is not just training that is needed by a midwife. During that process women feel empathy for each other. That is how I feel comfortable knowing she is safe in the hands of someone who went through the same experience."

He added: "Besides it is called midwifery for a reason." The word "midwife" itself can give people the wrong idea and it is from Old English - "mid" meaning "with" and "wife" referring to the expectant woman.

According to Ms Lilian Dodzo, president of the Zimbabwe Confederation of Midwives, in Zimbabwe, more male doctors take up gynaecology and obstetrics as a specialty at tertiary level.

The same does not, however, apply to the midwifery profession due to social beliefs. "The presence of a professional male can cause anxiety, perhaps due to sociological conditioning," said Ms Dodzo.

"This could account for the high number of men in obstetrics, with many women actively choosing a man to oversee their journey. "However, we do have men who chose midwifery as a career path." Ms Dodzo noted serious gender stereotyping in the midwifery profession.

"What must be realised is that people should do away with gender stereotyping because the important factor is reducing maternal mortality and morbidity rate," she said. "Everyone should make sure that no women should die giving birth."

According to, men first won the right to be registered as midwives just 20 years ago, following a long legal battle. The website further states that the men faced opposition from female midwives and expectant mums.

Even today, it adds, not all women are comfortable with a man delivering their baby. "Some are suspicious of men's motives, while others reject them on religious grounds," reads the website.

"Occasionally, the woman's partner might decide he doesn't want another man in the delivery room." According to Dr Deanna Pilkenton from the United States, the ancient occupation of midwifery was the exclusive domain of women. "During the time of Hippocrates (460 to 410 BC), it was thought that midwives in Athens should be required by law to have had children themselves.

"During the 17th and 18th Centuries, the advent of surgical instruments and institutional medical training brought many changes to midwifery and medicine in general."

Initially, barber-surgeons, who carried with them destructive surgical instruments, were called to difficult births by midwives in a desperate attempt to save the life of the birthing woman. This role evolved in 17th Century Europe into what was termed the "man-midwife," the predecessor of the obstetrician, she adds.

"These doctors who attended births were controversial from the onset," she says. "Their motives were questioned and they were often viewed as deviant, improper and scandalous. Some men were certainly curious about birth; most men had never witnessed one.

"However, there are clear accounts that man-midwives went to great extremes to respect modesty and reduce embarrassment by all." Despite the controversy during this time, prominent men were making great strides to further the science of midwifery and what would later become the practice of obstetrics.

William Smellie, born in Scotland in 1697, is credited with innovations on the shape of the forceps. In recent decades, women have overcome many barriers to practicing medicine and now make up a large proportion of obstetricians.

It's generally socially acceptable for either male or female obstetricians to attend births. Dr Pilkenton further states that male midwives are making a positive impact on child bearing families every day.

Men, according to Dr Pilkenton, bring their own unique history and perspective to the child bearing family, adding that the midwifery community will be a stronger one when all voices, including those of men, are heard.

Source : Herald

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