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Africa

Ghanaian women reject male midwives

Some women in Ghana do not like to consult male midwives when they are pregnant. The Ghanaian government has scrapped a pilot project which allowed men to be trained as midwives.

Adam Amina, a 33-year-old pregnant mother, lay in one of the labor wards at Tamale’s only referral hospital in northern Ghana. She looked uncomfortable as she waited for her turn to be examined by one of the male midwives.

Her fears of being examined by a man are shared by other expectant mothers, who prefer female midwives. They were holding a silent protest in the hopes of changing things. They said that male professionals saw them naked, which they felt to be inappropriate.

"I would have loved that a woman examined me," Amina said. "It is not right in our religion for a man to see the nakedness of another man's wife." The ministry of Health has decided to scrap the program that allowed men to train as midwives. The system was introduced in 2013 as a pilot project. It remains unclear what will happen to the already practicing male midwives.

"It is not comfortable to go and lie down for a male to insert his fingers into your vagina to check you," Ghanaian Irene Convenience told DW. But Mohammed Lukeman, a male midwife, said that while the women's fears must be taken seriously, they should not worry, since he and his colleagues carry out their duties in a professional way.

"A woman's privacy should be respected. It is unethical for anyone to reveal her health details" Lukeman said, adding that privacy is respected: "It is unethical for a nurse or medical practitioner to reveal a patient's secrets."

Muslim opposition

Nevertheless, in the north of the country, the Muslim community adamantly opposes male midwives. Many women are now choosing traditional birth attendants over health facilities. Esther Dodoo, the Deputy Director of Nursing Services, Obstetric and Gynecology at the Tamale Teaching Hospital doesn't share the women’s concerns.

Ghana Mutter mit Baby (picture-alliance/dpa/J. Ressing)

A mother holds her newborn child

"It will be wise if we continue training them, because they can at least leave their families in town and work in the hinterland, where they can save mothers," she told DW.

Not all the woman reject male midwives and doctors. Abu Maria told DW that she loved the services of a male midwife when she was about to give birth. "I didn't feel bad when a male midwife attended to me, since he was only doing his job," she said.