Que­bec wel­comes first male mid­wife

Story of stud­ies and train­ing sub­ject of new French-lan­guage doc­u­men­tary

The Observer (Sarnia) - - LIFE - CANA­DIAN PRESS


MON­TREAL — While the word “mid­wife” seems to sug­gest a fe­male-only prac­tice, the first Que­bec man to en­ter the pro­fes­sion is adamant that he doesn’t need a dif­fer­ent ti­tle.

Louis Mal­tais points out that the word, which comes from Old English, ac­tu­ally means “with woman,” and that it goes straight to the core of what a mid­wife does.

“It’s about women, and it will stay like this, be­cause it’s about women’s time and their ex­pe­ri­ences, and the name says that,” Mal­tais said. “We’re there for women.”

Mal­tais turned heads ear­lier this year when he be­came the first Que­bec man to en­ter and com­plete the prov­ince’s only uni­ver­sitylevel mid­wife train­ing pro­gram.

The months since then have been a whirl­wind that in­cluded de­liv­er­ing his 100th baby over the sum­mer, mov­ing back to his home­town of Chicoutimi, and at­tend­ing screen­ings of a doc­u­men­tary about his ex­pe­ri­ences, ti­tled Un homme sage-femme.

Mal­tais, who is a young-look­ing 31, said he feels his peers and his pa­tients have been open to hav­ing a man in their midst.

Part of the rea­son he al­lowed the doc­u­men­tary crew to fol­low him, he ex­plained, was to share his ex­pe­ri­ence with oth­ers — in­clud­ing men — who may want to en­ter the pro­fes­sion.

“I think it’s not for ev­ery man be­cause it’s very fem­i­nist, and that’s a very im­por­tant part of it, but when you feel re­ally com­fort­able with this, women are very open,” he said in an in­ter­view ahead of the film’s first Mon­treal screen­ing at the Cine­math­eque que­be­coise on Satur­day.

The doc­u­men­tary, which is show­ing un­til Wed­nes­day, will also be broad­cast on French-lan­guage TV at a later date.

While about one woman in 20 doesn’t want him at their birth, Mal­tais said most are re­cep­tive — and they gen­er­ally be­come more com­fort­able over time.

Mal­tais said he de­bated be­com­ing an os­teopath or an acupunc­tur­ist be­fore de­cid­ing to be­come a birth spe­cial­ist, for rea­sons he’s not en­tirely sure how to ex­plain.

He was look­ing for a job where he could con­nect with peo­ple, and he started re­search­ing the Bach­e­lor of Mid­wifery pro­gram at the Univer­site du Que­bec a TroisRivieres, where he was at­tracted to the pro­fes­sion’s pa­tient-cen­tric ap­proach.

“I like the chal­lenge, and to bring some­thing dif­fer­ent and some­thing very im­por­tant for women, to help women find their power to give birth,” he said.

“This is huge, and I was look­ing for some­thing huge that would have many mean­ings.”

While mid­wifery has been prac­tised in Canada for cen­turies, no­tably by In­dige­nous women, the prac­tice be­gan re-emerg­ing in the main­stream in the 1960s and ‘70s along with the women’s right move­ment, ac­cord­ing to the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Mid­wives.

Cur­rently, mid­wives are present at about 11 per cent of births in Canada, al­though that varies widely by prov­ince.

On­tario had the most mid­wifeled births last year with over 23,400, al­though B.C. had the high­est per­cent­age at over 22 per cent.

Mid­wives pro­vide health care to women dur­ing preg­nancy, labour and the post­par­tum pe­riod, with the goal of fa­cil­i­tat­ing a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence cen­tred on the mother’s needs.

The Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Mid­wives says it only knows of one other male mid­wife who was trained in Canada, al­though there may be a hand­ful who did their train­ing else­where.

But while male mid­wives are ex­tremely rare in Canada, the as­so­ci­a­tion points out that’s not nec­es­sar­ily the case in other coun­tries.

And as de­mand rises to the point where many mid­wives have long wait­ing lists, the group’s pres­i­dent said she’s more than happy to wel­come Mal­tais into their ranks.

“From the po­si­tion of the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Mid­wives, we want more mid­wives prac­tis­ing in Canada, what­ever gen­der they may be,” Nathalie Pam­brun said.


Male mid­wife Louis Mal­tais.

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