Should you let a male nurse deliver your baby?

Posted by Erica Noonan  June 8, 2009 07:16 PM

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Great conversation and debate going on at Lylah and Barbara's Child Caring blog about moms who get the creeps leaving their children with male caregivers.

This drives hard-working male teachers, not to mention devoted dads, understandably crazy with outrage over society's sexist double standard. (For the record, I adore the two men teachers at our preschool -- I think they are great role models for the little boys, and all the kids see that teachers of either gender can teach and comfort them.)

So moms (and dads) here's another conundrum: What about having a guy as your labor and delivery nurse? An unfamiliar man checking your cervix and uterus? Helping you breathe and grunt through contractions?

Several months ago, I interviewed male nursing students studying at Bunker Hill Community College's state-of-the-art nursing program who hoped to enter the labor & delivery field.

These were really nice 20-something guys, but during their student-training rounds at big city hospitals, they were regularly ordered by laboring women to get lost.

Birth is a female thing, they were told. (In fact, male OB/GYNs are less prevalent in delivery rooms than they used to be, many studies show, as female doctors and midwives flood the field.)

The nursing students I interviewed didn't want to make too much of fuss, but admitted it was hurtful to be excluded from a rewarding career path, they said.

They were also fighting another battle -- the acceptence of men as nurses in general. Even in the 21st century, guys who want a nursing job -- and have no interest in medical school -- are seen as oddballs.

Women spent decades fighting for equal rights, yet we still want to toss male nurses out of maternity wards? Or should a laboring woman have the right to dictate exactly who she wants in the room?

What do you think? Leave a comment below or email me at enoonan@globe.com


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about the author

Erica Noonan is chief of the Globe West bureau. Before joining the Globe in 2000, she worked for the Associated Press in Boston. Raised in Wellesley, she has a master's degree in political communication from Emerson College and a BA in political science from Trinity University in San Antonio. She lives in Natick with two energetic children: Dennis, 6, and Lila, 4.

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