On the labor and delivery unit where I work, there are no male nurses. And it kind of got me thinking — is that acceptable? There are male obstetricians everywhere, right? What’s the difference?
Can guys be labor and delivery nurses?
According to a 2005 survey of male nurses by Hodes Research, less than 1 percent of male nurses work in obstetrics (OB) — the lowest percentage of any field. And as recently as less than 10 years ago, some states, like California, actually legally banned males from working as nurses on obstetrical floors.
Today, states and hospitals cannot deny a male entry into a nursing profession simply based on his gender. However, in a lot of instances, social and cultural norms may still prevent male nurses from entering the field.
First of all, there is what I professionally call the “weirded-out" factor. Many women — and probably even more so, men — express a wariness towards male nurses in the OB field. “I was hardly comfortable with a male doctor,” said Morgan Renae. “A male nurse watching everything and assisting with the stitches would've been too awkward!” Aware of that stigma, many male nurses avoid the OB floor altogether.
As a nurse, I have worked with a few male nurses on other floors, and they have all been wonderful. Caring, fun, empathetic, and if I’m being completely honest, quite handy sometimes if I had a heavier patient I needed assistance with. But when it comes to the business of having a baby?
I’m just not sure I’d want a male nurse
Legally and professionally, of course, I know I have no business saying this. As fellow nurse Amanda Hoover tells it, “I think that whatever gender the nurse may be, as long as he or she has a great bedside manner and is there to work as a patient advocate/knowledge base/another support person, as well as your nurse, then that is the best person for the job!”
Logically, I know she’s right. But as a woman and a mother, I purposefully chose a female care provider for each of my three births. To me, it’s not so much about the physical anatomy part or even that I would care if a male nurse saw me down there — trust me, that’s the last thing I could care about during labor. Instead, to me, there’s just something about having that female relationship that feels essential to me, akin to the sacred rite of passage that birth has been to women throughout history. Women spend the majority of their labor with their nurses. There is much more of a bond established with the nurse, rather than the doctor — who swoops in at the last minute to catch the baby.
Maybe a male nurse would be OK
On the flip side, many women have actually found that males can be more caring and empathetic during labor and delivery.
“Men haven't actually experienced labor so they may be gentler because they can't even imagine what it feels like, whereas a woman may have been there herself and think, ‘I did it and lived,’ so this woman will too,” explains Loriann Hawkins.
Surprisingly enough, in an unofficial survey on my Facebook page, the majority of women professed that gender simply didn’t matter to them. As Leigha Campbell nicely summed it up, “I don’t care who is helping me as long as they are a professional,” she wrote. “By the time I'm ready to deliver modesty has no place in the room!”
What do you think? Would you be comfortable having a male nurse during your labor and delivery?