Midwifery: the art of giving birth to women has no gender

France had around 23,400 midwives, including (only) 641 men in 2021

Midwifery: the art of giving birth to women has no gender

France had around 23,400 midwives, including (only) 641 men in 2021. And it is to them that director Jennifer Devoldère dedicated her film, Sage-Homme, in theaters on Wednesday March 15. This is the story of a young man (played by Melvin Boomer) who fails his medical examination and ends up in a school of midwives. There he meets a caregiver embodied by Karine Viard who will pass on her knowledge and passion to him. In France, it was in 1984 that training opened up to men, as told by the Order of Midwives. Before 1982, you had to be female to sit for the entrance exam to the School of Midwifery. A clause that disappeared thanks to a European directive which focused on gender non-discrimination in all professions.

Sébastien Trela ​​is a midwife in Lyon, a job he has been doing for 20 years. In literary language, the term maieutician is used instead. Gynecological follow-up, support during pregnancy, preparation for childbirth, its missions are identical to those of the other pink blouses.

Le Point: You saw the film Sage-Homme by Jennifer Devoldère, what did you think of it?

Sébastien Trela: I had the chance to attend the preview in Lyon in the presence of the film crew. It's a beautiful film, a tribute to men and women midwives. It was highly appreciated in the profession, it also highlights the men who are still in the minority in this profession. It's also a way to highlight our daily lives – not always easy – to the public authorities. It's a window on our profession and perhaps an opportunity to give ideas to future students!

Men remain a minority in the profession, do you practice your profession in the same way as your female colleagues?

During my studies - 17 years ago in Montpellier - we were 7 men in a promotion of 32, I have never seen such a representation in the following promotions. I have always been for gender equality. Day to day, the job remains the same. Obviously, the technique is identical, at this level, there is no difference. We all received the same training. There may be nuances in practice, but this does not correspond to the gender of the midwife, rather to their sensitivity.

Do you see a different reception from patients?

As I practice as a liberal, the patients who come to see me know who they are dealing with. In my personal approach, I want to listen to them as much as possible. There is nothing exceptional about being a man, I don't do an atypical job, you have to get out of this divide.

In a hospital environment, I suffered some refusals, but it remains really anecdotal. Very rarely have they come from patients who emphasize certain religious aspects. Other patients have already refused to be examined by a man for reasons of modesty, but these situations are really very rare. And contrary to what some people think, I can totally accompany new moms who are learning to breastfeed!

Why did you choose this career?

It was not a vocation, but neither was it a default choice. I did not necessarily think of this job when I started my studies in the medical field. I chose this profession for its human contact, I am comfortable in the care professions. To be a good midwife, you have to show empathy, benevolence, listening and rigor in facing up to responsibilities. For me, it was an accident of life, a choice that imposed itself on me.