30th June 2005
Midwifery: Few men explore women’s world

By Benon Herbert Oluka

Finding a man who is a professional midwife turned out to be most difficult task. It is a midwife after all, not a ‘mid-husband’.

Determined to talk to a ‘male midwife’ on reproductive health, I set out to look for one.
At Mulago School of Nursing and Midwifery, the secretary looked shocked just by the mention of the words ‘male midwife’.

“We don’t train male midwives. Maybe you try 4th Floor of that building,” she said.
Fourth Floor is home to the department of Gynaecology. But even here, the secretary had never heard of a practising male midwife.

“All the [practising] midwives here are women. We don’t have men,” she said.
Uganda Nurses and Midwifery Association too had none, according to the registrar.
Would the private practitioners salvage the situation? The Uganda Private Midwives’ Association (UPMA) could not provide an answer either.

UPMA Chairperson, Sakina Kiggundu, later said there was one in Mukono who registered two years ago, but is no longer an active midwife.

“He used to practise but he retired,” she said. Just like his Fort Portal counterpart, details of the male midwife in Mukono were scanty.

The search took me to Mpigi where I finally chanced on Farouk Muyingo, 27, a nursing assistant who has practised midwifery but is yet to register.
He had just helped Jane Nalumansi to deliver at Mpigi health centre.

“She has delivered a boy. He is 3.2 kilogrammes,” he said excitedly.
His excitement told of a man who likes his job. But does any woman like the sight of a man other than their husband in the maternity ward with her legs apart?

“Yeah,” Muyingo replied quickly. “Most women like to be delivered by men because they say men show interest, and are more caring than fellow women who say; ‘twalabadda’ (We have seen it all before)”.

According to Muyingo, the preference for men stems from the fact that female midwives are impatient and handle the expectant mother roughly, as opposed to men who are caring and patient.

Muyingo picked interest in midwifery from his mother, a midwife. By the time he enrolled to become a nursing assistant, he could already deliver children by himself.
In 2003, he was posted to Mpigi health centre’s maternity department. His duties include delivering expectant mothers, providing family planning services, anti-natal care, and post-natal care services, counselling of new mothers, and prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS during delivery.

But Muyingo faces occupational hazards, most notably lack of protective gear, like gloves.
Without protection, Muyingo says he has to do most of the work with his bare hands – dangerous enough, especially given the risk of HIV/AIDS.

There are other problems, like women who don’t attend anti-natal clinics; or those who come in full term [after nine months] without preparation. Many women also try to deliver from their villages and only come to the health centre when they run into trouble.

“But we have no theatre,” Muyingo complained.
He advises women to always go to health centres for check up so that those with complications are quickly taken to more competent health facilities.

Kiggundu says UPMA would welcome more Muyingos.
“Sure. Why not? Reproductive health is for both men and women,” she said, adding that there are few male midwives because “it is a new field to them”.

Asked if male midwives wouldn’t be driven out of the field by the fact that many women would not be ready to be delivered by men, she said even the women who are sceptical would get used once male midwives became common.
“Since there are male doctors and they treat women, then we can have male midwives. In fact, some women like to be treated by male doctors,” Kiggundu said.

For Muyingo, in just two years, he has made such a mark in Mpigi that he is now referred to as musawo [doctor], a fitting tribute to a man who has ventured into a field that – to most men – is a no go area.