Real Voices interview: Alan Jenkins
Meet Alan, a community midwife working in London
Why did you decide to become a midwife?
I wanted to do physiotherapy originally, then my wife suggested nursing because I’m a people person and, as a gym instructor, I was used to working with the human body. I decided to become a midwife when I did my maternity placement, during my nursing training. I was fascinated with labour and childbirth, the technical and emotional aspects of delivering a healthy baby to a healthy mother.
Do you know any other male midwives?
No. In the UK there are 35,000 female midwives and under 100 male ones.
Do you think you get more attention from your colleagues because you are a man?
When I started there were a lot of mixed emotions about male midwives, but if people had any concerns they were never verbalised. I’ve been doing it for 15 years and I’m accepted by my colleagues as a member of staff. To be a midwife, as either a man or a woman, you need to be a people person and to be able to empathise.
Are there colleagues who have preconceptions about your ability to do your job well, because you are a man?
Yes, at the start. People were worried about me caring for women in compromised conditions – whether I should be overseen for vaginal or breast examinations, or helping women to breastfeed.
Are there members of the public who have preconceptions about your ability to do your job well, because you are a man?
Yes. Some women say they don’t want a male midwife, or their partners aren’t happy. They won’t question a male doctor, but midwifery is more intimate, you form a close relationship with the patient. I’m godfather to some of the children and friends with a lot of the women.
Do you get treated differently by your colleagues because you’re a man?
Yes. I’m still a member of the team, largely, but because I’m the only male I’m always recognised. People say “Alan, the male one”. So you get pushed to the front and there’s more pressure to keep standards up.
Are there any parts of the job you can’t do because you’re a man?
No. If there were, I’d give up. It would be pointless.
Would you recommend it as a career to other men?
Yes, if they had the same ideals. There are plenty of nurses, doctors and midwives who shouldn’t be in those jobs because of their attitude.