Forgot Password

Sign In


  • Company Information

  • Billing Address

  • Are you primarily interested in advertising *

  • Do you want to recieve the HealthTimes Newsletter?

Midwives - who happen to be male

Photo: Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation
In a time when gender stereotypes are being actively broken down, with terminology such as “male nurse” and “female mechanic” slowing making their way out of our collective vocabulary, the appearance of Ian Kenny as the scheduled midwife, continues to raise a few eyebrows.

“Surprise is a fairly common reaction, but I find most people are ok with it,” says the 51 year old, who began his midwifery tenure later in life, commencing study in 2008 following a successful career in nursing.

“I started my midwifery education at University of Ballarat in 2008 and registered in 2009 so planning is underway for our ten year reunion in March,” says Kenny, whose passion for his new profession is clear.

In the early 90s Kenny worked in a small country hospital in the South Australian mid-north, doing a little bit of everything.
“Emergency, aged care, surgery and maternity - it was a great environment where there was a real sense of caring for the community," says Kenny. 

“When I left I had to make a choice about what path I wanted to take and ended up taking a path in critical care.

“I worked as a critical care nurse for nearly 20 years, working in ICU and ED, in a range of settings and roles.

“I've worked in Adelaide, Cairns, Sydney and Melbourne, in regional, private sector, metropolitan and major metro in both clinical and management roles.”

After almost two decades, Kenny decided it was time for another change - so he decided to explore a path he’d not yet followed.

“Lots of people say to me, ‘you must love being with the babies’ or ‘it must be amazing to be at the birth’, but I think what I enjoy the most, is helping young women and their partners prepare for parenthood .

“When you see that transformation, it’s pretty amazing.

“Of course I may change my mind about my favourite thing tomorrow. There's so many amazing moments in this profession.”

While Kenny’s current hospital has a long history of men in midwifery, he says overall the number of male midwives is few.

“There aren't a great many men but I couldn't give an exact number," he says. 

“There are four where I work, but I don't often meet other men when I go to conferences or midwifery events.”

In fact, Kenny says it’s common practice for event planners at midwifery conferences to rebrand the male toilets as female.

“Now I email before the event to make sure there will be one toilet left for me.”

Fortunately, most of the women who attend Kenny’s hospital are aware of the its history with male midwives so aren’t always surprised to see the ccoasional man around. 

“I do sometimes have women who aren't comfortable with the idea of a male carer, and we always try to accommodate that," says Kenny. 

“Often its cultural, but at the end of the day, the reasons aren't important. 

“Midwifery is all about partnership with the women, and we need to make that partnership  a positive experience.”

But Kenny says despite society’s expectation that midwives will be female, he refuses to introduce himself as a “male midwife”.

“I'm a midwife who happens to be male.

“I do exactly the same work as my female colleagues.

“It’s just that society applies gender norms and to many professions.

“How often do we have ‘female pilot’ or ‘lady doctor’? It's just more uncommon for gender labelling to be ‘male this or that’.

“Having said that, we seem to be moving away from ‘male nurse’, so maybe there's hope for us all.”

For Kenny, the experience of being a midwife is unparallelled, and he urges everyone - both men and women - to give it a go.

“I wouldn't specifically like to see more men in the profession, but I would like to see more people of all genders consider midwifery as a profession.

“It's a profession that offers incredible role diversity, and combines both science and caring.”

Over the past ten years, Kenny says he’s had so many positive experiences, it’s difficult to attribute his love for midwifery to one key reason.

“I love when you work with a woman over a period of time, and then something clicks and she just gets it, and when that happens, she goes home with her baby, confident as a mother.

“Or when you have a beautiful normal birth. Or when you have a complex birth, but you give the woman the best experience you can under the circumstances.

“Or even when the family is facing a terrible loss, and I some small way, you're able to make it a tiny bit less awful.

“I do love it though, when you meet a family that you've worked with before and they remember you years later. I shows that in some, I made an impact on their lives.”

Kenny says he used to be one of those nurses who said midwifery was just an extension of nursing, but now admits to feeling a little bit of shame at having ever entertained the thought.

“While there are many skills in common, the two professions are so very different.

“While nursing comes from a place of illness, midwifery is grounded in normality.

“Our primary role is not that of carer, but as educator, guide and coach.

“But the difference I value most, is that, having working in Critical Care, there is a tendency to do things ‘to’ people, whereas in midwifery, everything we do is ‘with’ women.

“That partnership is incredibly empowering to both the women and to midwives.”


Thanks, you've subscribed!

Share this free subscription offer with your friends

Email to a Friend

  • Remaining Characters: 500

Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications ( and a children's author.