Meet McMaster’s first male midwife

Men are attracted to obstetrics, so why not midwifery?

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Photo courtesy of Otis Kryzanauskas

When Otis Kryzanauskas was four years old, he didn’t want to be an astronaut, a police officer or a firefighter.

After witnessing his younger brother’s birth at home — and cutting the cord — he decided he would one day be a midwife.

Next spring, he’ll be the first male graduate of the Bachelor of Midwifery program at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.

Kryzanauskas, who has participated in almost 100 births already, believes that he may be the first male midwife to graduate anywhere in Canada — ever.

Why are there so few men in this fast-growing field?

Midwives provide primary care to women and their babies during pregnancy, labour, birth and the postpartum period. According to the Canadian Women’s Health Network, midwives spend an average of 20 to 30 minutes more per appointment with their patients than other medical professionals do. That could explain why demand for midwifery services is increasing. Rare two decades ago, over the course of 2010, there were 14,000 midwife-attended births in Canada.

That’s thanks to a growing army of professionals. The number of registered midwives in Canada grew from 207 in 1997 to more than 626 in 2006. There are approximately 850 today.

The Ontario Midwifery Education Program at McMaster, the oldest in Canada, started in 1993. Outside of the Ontario program (which also has students at Laurentian University and Ryerson University), there are programs at the Université du Québec à Trois Rivières, the University of British Columbia, the University College of the North and Mount Royal University in Calgary.

So why is the field growing without attracting any men? It’s not like there aren’t male obstetricians.

Eileen Hutton, the Assistant Dean of the Midwifery at McMaster, thinks part of the problem is the name. “People hear the name midwife and think it has to do with the practitioner,” she says. The ‘wife’ in ‘midwife’ actually refers to the patient. For whatever reason, male midwives are common in the Netherlands and U.K., she says.

Either way, Hutton argues that gender is “irrelevant.”  Most women only care that their midwife knows what he or she is doing.

Kryzanauskas reports that being a male isn’t a problem for patients and he hopes more males will consider the profession. “Come on and apply,” he says. “The field is wide open.”