How unusual are male midwives

Austria's first male midwife

It has been a women's domain for centuries: the midwife profession. Now Austria could soon have its first male midwife: Markus Leich is currently completing the midwifery course at the FH Campus Wien.

First of all: Yes, male midwives are also called “midwives”. This is what the Austrian Midwifery Act stipulates, and Markus Leich is also very satisfied with it: “In Germany, the male midwife is called maternity care worker, but this professional title actually only refers to one part of the midwifery activity - the birth itself.” However, midwives are also in active in prevention and aftercare. Leich feels the term midwife is more appropriate - and gender-neutral.

ORF / Evelyn Kanya

Markus Leich: From hotel specialist to midwife

A birthday that changed everything

Born in Germany, he has lived in Austria for a good twelve years, is a trained tourism specialist and initially worked in hotels in Tyrol. On his 30th birthday, Markus Leich then decided to radically change his life: "I thought I would have to work another 40 years - and then I want to do what I enjoy and what I'm interested in," he told Interview with “Radio Wien”.

Leich has been interested in medicine and obstetrics for a long time, he was already doing his community service in a hospital: "I was allowed to be there at a birth, that was a magical moment." But he did not have the strength for further training at that time, he recalled should also have done the Abitur.

The skepticism among colleagues

Midwife is a profession in which you get a lot in return from your new parents, said Leich, and: “I think you can achieve a lot in this profession.” He is currently in the second of six semesters on the bachelor’s course for midwives the FH Campus Wien and is currently completing his first internship at the Vienna Donauspital. The parents have reacted very positively to him so far: “The women are enthusiastic, I also received only encouragement from the men.” He also doesn't feel primarily perceived as a man: “You disappear with your gender behind the hospital clothing. You're just a person who helps families, it doesn't matter whether you're a man or a woman. "

ORF / Evelyn Kanya

The 32-year-old feels that the term “midwife” is gender-neutral

On the other hand, he repeatedly experiences skepticism among midwives who have been doing their jobs for years. “Why does a man absolutely want to learn this trade?” That is a question that keeps coming up. “It is important to convince these colleagues that you have the same intentions as they, why they learned and practice this profession,” said Markus Leich. But he can understand the skepticism, after all, he is simply the first man in the field.

Male midwives allowed since 1995

Men have only been admitted to midwifery training in Austria since 1995. At that time, the federal midwifery schools were replaced by so-called midwifery academies, says Brigitte Kutalek-Mitschitczek, head of the midwifery course at the FH Campus Wien and a midwife herself for almost four decades. There are 30 places in her course every year: "On average, 500 people apply each year, including two men," said Kutalek-Mitschitczek. Markus Leich was the first to pass the written test at the beginning of the selection process.

In addition to Markus Leich, there are two other men in Austrian midwifery history: A man is listed in the Austrian midwifery register, but who completed his training abroad, is not an Austrian citizen and is currently not working as a midwife. Another man began his training in Tyrol in the 1990s, but broke it off.

Course director: "Was skeptical myself"

Kutalek-Mitschitczek can understand the skepticism of her colleagues; at the beginning it was the same for her. Men are not that unusual in obstetrics - in Vienna, for example, more than half of gynecologists are still men. “At the gynecologist there is usually an instrument or gloves between the woman and the doctor. This is not the case with the midwifery profession, you are very close, it is very personal, ”she explained.

There is also a historical rucksack: The history of midwives has always been a struggle between men and women - about who should set the tone in obstetrics, says Kutalek-Mitschitczek. Discussions with young mothers then brought about rethinking: “20 to 30-year-old women, whom I have often asked what it would be like if they gave birth to a man, are very open. And that made me think: why not! "

First birth in autumn

Markus Leich's next internship is scheduled for autumn - and then his first birth as a midwife is waiting for him. Will men like him remain exotic? Kutalek-Mitschitczek thinks it is impossible to make a prognosis, but said: “We are currently in the process of finding new roles, whether in the family or in relationships. You can feel a change. ”And male midwives are also a part of it. Leich is convinced that many men would not even know that they could become midwives. This could change now.

Evelyn Kanya,