Meet Canada’s first male midwife

He just graduated and is ready to deliver babies. But are moms up for it?

Photograph courtesy of Otis Kryzanauskas

What do you call a male midwife? “Well, a male midwife,” says Juana Berinstein of the Association of Ontario Midwives. The word midwife means “with woman,” she says; it doesn’t actually refer to the professional, but to the client.

A male midwife, then, is how Otis Kryzanauskas, the first man to ever graduate from a midwifery program in Canada, will be known from now on. At 25, Kryzanauskas has completed a bachelor of sciences in midwifery from McMaster University to become the only registered male midwife in Canada. He expects to deliver his first babies as a professional midwife as early as August at his new job with Community Midwives of Hamilton.

Though seven Canadian universities offer midwifery degrees, in their almost two decades of existence no man has ever enrolled in the program. Kryzanauskas, who has participated in about 100 births already as part of his training, says it was hard being the only male student. People would sometimes tease him, mainly about the title—not unlike the ribbing that male nurses often face. He admits there have been times when clients have balked at the idea of having a man participate in the delivery. “Sometimes people don’t want you involved in their care,” he says. “Or their partners don’t want you in the room.” He’s learned not to take it personally.

Kryzanauskas was well acquainted with midwifery before he enrolled in the program. He was born at home in Kimberley, Ont., delivered by two midwives and an apprentice. His mother, Michelle Kryzanauskas, is a practising midwife. “To me it always seemed reasonable that, since he was a little kid, Otis wanted to be a midwife,” she says. Kryzanauskas remembers witnessing his own brother’s home birth when he was four; he got to cut the umbilical cord. “The actual delivery was so calm,” he says. “It seemed like the right way to bring a baby into the world.”

Vicki Van Wagner, the very midwife who delivered Kryzanauskas 25 years ago, still practises and teaches at the Ryerson University midwifery program. “It’s an important moment for the profession,” Van Wagner says. She hopes more men will follow Kryzanauskas into the field to boost the overall number of midwives in Canada, currently at slightly more than 1,000, at a time when growing numbers of women are seeking their care. For instance, Ontario may be home to the largest number of midwives in Canada, but even then, four out of every 10 pregnant women who want to have a midwife go without because there aren’t enough to meet demand. Whether they are open to having male midwives make up for the shortfall remains to be seen.

Larry Lenske, the only other man to have worked as a midwife in Canada, and who started before midwifery became a regulated practice in 1994, says he’s puzzled as to why no other men have entered the profession. Now retired, he acknowledges it’s tough to break into an occupation dominated by one gender. “Maybe it takes someone who is brave or stupid [to break the status quo],” he says. Whatever the reason for the absence of male midwives, now that Kryzanauskas has gone where few other men have, the question is, will he remain alone?




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Meet Canada’s first male midwife

  1. There are many male Obstetricians and Gynecologist. Most important that he provides
    a high quality care and he understands the golden Midwifery Model of care.

  2. Is that a way to hold a baby?

    • Why not? I’ve held my babies that way.

      • Uh..why not?…The baby is against his body and his head is supported. Why do people always try to put another person down..If a woman was holding a baby like that..it wouldn’t be an issue. RIDICULOUS!

  3. First of all, congratulation to Otis! I know how difficult it is studying Midwifery! You really have to be committed and passionate about it.

    I’m a student midwife in the UK who happens to be male…my title when qualified and registered will not be ‘male midwife’; it will simply be ‘midwife’ :-) and I have to say that so far I have not experienced any issues with the women I have looked after; they appreciate that I am gaining the necessary skills to support them.

    It also seems to reassure them that I have 4 children of my own.

    Personally, i am not studying midwifery because I want to break through some perceived gender barrier but because it is something I am passionate about; it is all supporting and reassuring the woman, making sure that both she and the baby are OK and if there are any issues then referring appropriately.

    My long term goal is to hopefully move to Canada and practice.

    • I scuba dived in Australia and met a male midwife on board, also British, and didn’t think much of it. Didn’t realize this was so “groundbreaking” in Canada.

  4. This is awesome! Congratulations Mr Kryzanauskas! I’ve worked in obstetrics, as an RN and a doula, and have learned the hard way that the sex of a care provider has very little to do with the service that patients receive. For low-risk mothers the Midwifery model of care is far superior to the Medical model of care, and I would prefer a ‘male midwife’ over a ‘female obstetrician’ any day!

  5. The greatest strenght of a midwife –meaning a woman– is that when she looks you in the eyes and tells you, just before the next contraction you’re sure you can’t take, that “yes it is painfull, but yes, you have the power to make it”, the message can only be so strong because it comes from someone who’s been through the whole thing.

    Sorry for not applausing, I did hired the only male midwife of Belgium and was not satisfied.

    And no, this is not a serious way to hold such a small baby.

    To my opinion, male and female equity is desirable, but not to be confused with trying to make females as males and males as females. Each sex has is strenghts and it is time we value both for their DIFFERENCES.

    • Are you serious? Your entire argument is invalid considering it is not a requirement of becoming a midwife to have had your own child, do you think all the 18/19 year old students at school have had their own child? Under your logic an infertile woman cannot be great midwife.

      • Agreed, Sophie.

        And also, it’s a perfectly legit way to hold a baby. I often held my own baby that way because he liked it, and I hold babies like that all the time.

    • As a dude, I must stick up for Otis. So you’ve had a baby — great. While it’s an amazing feat, one pregnancy cannot possibly account for the multitude of experiences/feelings/personalities/pain/etc. that can be encountered, and I’m glad that Otis probably recognized this and also recognized that he had something valuable to offer. Congratulations!

    • Forgive me for not agreeing that your sample size of 1 means that all midwives need to be female in order to be effective.
      Would you request a different surgeon if you found out the one performing your hysterectomy was a man?

    • This is an example of saying something just for the hell of it. unbelievable. Otis took over for my actual midwives after 30 hours of labour and neither of them had children…. he was wonderful and after 100 births, he knows it hurts sweetheart. He was more compassionate, more understanding, and more eager than my previous midwives.

    • Ma’am, are you for real?? No you must be kidding me! Someone who has been through the whole thing is the only one qualified? Ma’am are you listening to yourself? So a male gynae doctor…would he be “qualified” in your book? Cause he has not “been through the whole thing!”

    • I can’t tell you the number of midwives that are without child. Many midwives have NEVER experienced birth themselves. Give me a break!

  6. if i was a patient or client i would not be thrilled personally i had midwives partly for the reason that they where feamale and I think women are better suited for the job and after care as they have been through it. and know how to hold a baby and take care of one would not appreciate having a male in my home espically for after baby is born when Hubby is at work. Both me and my hubby find this strange and wired

    • So you cannot have any kind of work man or tradesman etc in the house when your husband is out? How very old fashioned

  7. this is terrific! my experience with my midwives has been absolutely amazing, and i’m really stoked to see that men are deciding to contribute towards providing more women and families with midwifery care. the more midwives practicing, regardless of gender, the better!

  8. I recently read an excerpt of Dr. Michel Odent’s (a respected obstetrician in midwifery circles) interview with Mindful Mama Magazine (http://youtu.be/_4YLY_KmEHo) in which he says, “The best environment I know for an easy birth is when there is nobody around the woman in labor but an experienced midwife or doula – an experienced mother figure who is there, and who can remain silent.” He himself brings a doula to home births he attends to and stays out of the way during labor, “I stay in the kitchen making the man (the baby’s father) busy – talking, finding topics of
    conversation, different things to do… leaving the two women together in
    another part of the house.” I wonder how long it will take this midwife to learn one natural fact, mother’s labor better in the presence of another woman. DONA has studied it and found it to be statistically significant (http://youtu.be/u792CxDT7cE).

  9. Male “midwife.” Midhusband? How come no cloying but catchy handle?

  10. Fantastic,
    Otis Kryzanauskas! I’m totally on board, love your story, and your guts! Way to go! I hope more men follow in your footsteps. It’s so not about gender, it is about attitude and having an empathetic and listening attitude. Good luck! =)

  11. Not all people who are pregnant and have babies are women. People of different gender identities are having babies, and so the people who support them, including midwives reflect that. Congrats to Otis!

    • @APW what do you mean not all people who are pregnant and have babies are women? That’s the dumbest thing I have ever read. Think before you write.

      • Have you heard of Thomas Beatie? Also an unidentified man in Germany gave birth this year… So he is talking about 2 births worldwide ever..

  12. I think it’s great that this gentlemen has persevered and followed his passion. The only advantage I see a woman in this profession having, would be if they have had their own children and actually know what labour feels like, but then some female midwifes don’t have students and don’t know either.

    • I agree in part. But also, each experience is so different it may not help. My first was a posterior birth (ouch lol) and then a preterm classical caesarean before my beautiful (unassisted) hospital VBAC. That first labour was something else with the posterior position – you just couldn’t understand it if you hadn’t been through it! And I would bet some women feel that intense pain with a well presented babe too because the actual labour and delivery varies so much. I’ve had excessively long labours, and one very quick one. So I’ve had a range, but I know I still cannot relate to some mother’s experiences. I know that a mother may have a more difficult labour than me with a well positioned babe, or an easier labour with a malpositioned babe. That’s the only downside I can see, if she *thinks* she can relate but can’t.

  13. oops I mean’t don’t have “children” not students..

  14. I’ve been talking to my girlfriend about it and she agreed she would rather have a home birth natural than a hospital birth with 4-6 strange doctors looking at her vagina. Men deliver babies in hospitals so why not at home? I’ve been doing research on homebirth and midwifery and think it would be very cool if I could help her deliver our first child with just the two of us and perhaps a couple family members. Is their anything wrong with that? Good job otis, you’ve given me hope.

    • She can have a beautiful hospital birth too! My last babe, I caught him myself while kneeling in the shower, just hubby and our doula by my side (midwife missed it!) I was in hospital as I had a previous preterm classical (vertical) caesarean which brings some additional risk otherwise homebirth would have been wonderful!! Always remember – she does NOT have to consent to any care! I had no vaginal exams with my last delivery. It is up to you guys to accept or decline anything, you have that right AND the right to request a change of midwife/Obstetrician if necessary. I personally think homebirths are a beautiful way to deliver if you have the opportunity, but just in case anything prevents that, hospital births can be amazing too :-)

  15. Otis’ mom Michelle Kryzanauskas, who is also a midwife, delivered my second child. If he is anything like his mom, he will make an amazing midwife. Congrats to Otis, your mom is a pioneer in midwifery in Ontario, and you are a male pioneer in the field now!

  16. Babies aren’t “delivered” by anyone… they are birthed by their mothers. Midwives and other caregivers “attend” the birth.

  17. Congrats to Otis! I am currently a midwifery student in Rotorua, New Zealand and I am also a male. I am the only male student in the class and while the class is made up of 40 something other female students, I personally don’t feel it has anything to do with your sex. There are other students in the class who are fresh out of high school and look to be about 16 or so and they too are also faced with opposition. It’s not about sex, race, age, cultural beliefs but about understanding of the midwifery model of care. I totally understand that some people are not too keen on the idea (in my clinical placement I have already worked with a registered midwife who told me she is philosophically opposed to a male midwife, yet she had NO qualms in working with me and actually told my tutor that I was a wonderful student) and I applaud them for stating their opinion – we are all entitled to one after all. Just like Otis says, there will be, and already have been, some women who will not consent to having me be part of their care and that is totally OK with me, I like Otis don’t take it personally and just carry on with my training because there are plenty of other opportunities for me to learn. What affirms my decision is that I have recieved hugely positive feedback from women and their whanau’s (Maori word for families) on the care I provided them and were supportive of my choice and wished me all the best for my continuing studies. A midwife is to be “with women” and as long as I am with the women I am caring for during their journey, I shouldn’t have to justify myself to anyone but me! I would like to congratulate Otis and I hope one day in the future we shall cross paths and share experiences on our amazing career choice.
    I would like to leave you with a quote that my tutor stated to me in my interview process that has stuck with me on my journey thus far:
    “A nurse does not have to have cancer themselves to know how to care for a patient with cancer….it’s the same for a midwife”

  18. I’d let him deliver my baby if ever I were to get pregnant again. There is no difference in my experience with my caring and competent female midwife who was unable to conceive her own child and who delivered my son at our house. I really hope people can be opened minded and hope he has a long and happy career as a midwife!

  19. Hello a questioh from France where the male midwives have a name (accoucheur, or maieuticien)… if wife in midwife relates to the pregnant women (so nothing to do with the genrer of the midwife) then with calling the men male midwifes?… and then why women are not called female midwifes????
    In the wikipedia I found this etymology for midwife:
    The term midwife is derived from Middle English: midwyf literally “with-woman”, i.e. “the woman with (the mother at birth), the woman assisting”

    I”m confused now… Who’s right, who’s wrong….
    Can you help me? Thanks in advance :-)

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