KENNY Gibson has a risky 'ice-breaker' for when he meets pregnant women the first time, in the throes of labour.

"I tell them, I've had three kids and it didn't hurt a bit," he laughs.

Paisley man Kenny, 37, is NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde's only male midwife and one of just a handful delivering babies in maternity units across Scotland.

And while he loves his job supporting women and their partners through the pain and euphoria of childbirth and says the majority are happy to be treated by a man, the former pub manager, says some older midwives actually refused to work with him at the start of his career.

The Gazette:

While, men make up the majority of obstetricians and gynaecologists and male nurses are standard, the Royal College of Midwives say the role of midwife is still seen by many as a female job.

Kenny is the only male, NHS midwife in the West of Scotland as neither NHS Lanarkshire or Ayrshire have any.

One of his most memorable births, in his ten-year career, was delivering a 14lb baby in a labour that involved 'no drugs' and he also helped bring his first child into the world, after the newly qualified midwife panicked.

Kenny says: "When I started there was 49,000 midwives in the UK and 109 were men.

"There were six registered in Scotland when I qualified. It is very much a female world.

"You go in (to labour room) and the question is always, 'Do any mothers not want you?' You do get refusals but they are very rare.

"If you asked my mates, they would probably say, I'm the last person on earth they would expect to be a midwife.

"It's just fun and it's interesting.

"You see the women going from calm to sore, to really sore to losing it, to having a baby and then being high again.

"I actually think the delivery part is over-rated. It's the bringing the women through labour that I like. It's a rollercoaster."

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Kenny's wife Arlene, 35, is also a midwife. The pair met at college in Paisley, now the University for the West of Scotland and work in the same ward at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, in Paisley, although NHS guidelines mean they don't work directly together.

He says: "When we are at home, she watches One Born every Minute but I'd rather watch the football."

Kenny admits that when he first thought about midwifery as a career, he didn't realise the job actually involved birthing babies.

Kenny says: "I had been managing a pub and then it went out of business and I thought, I need to re-train.

"Medicine would have taken too long but I wanted to be established in a career by the time I was 30.

"I wasn't interested in nursing and then I looked at midwifery and actually thought, 'what's that?'

The Gazette:

"My best mate's mother is quite a senior midwife. She was a community midwife so I just thought you went about visiting folk. I didn't realise you actually delivered babies!

"It wasn't until I researched it I realised what is involved. I had been in the Red Cross so I knew about nursing and the sight of blood didn't bother me so I thought, I'll give it a go."

"When we qualified, there weren't any jobs for midwives in Scotland for years and years so my wife and I got jobs in New Zealand the day we qualified.

"I delivered the first set of twins, that year.

"Another time, I delivered a 14lb baby. Maori women tend to have big babies, the average is about 10lbs and they don't use any drugs but it was a pretty straight forward delivery."

His first ever birth, however, while training, was not straightforward - a delivery that occurs in around 1 in 80,000 births.

He says: "I trained down in Ayrshire, so it was down in the old Irvine Central and the baby was born in the amniotic sac, so it was quite unusual.

"It was just me and a midwife but I had seen a few of them before, during training so it was fine."

Kenny says Muslim women or those who have suffered sexual abuse sometimes request a female midwife but refusals are rare.

He said: "The most important thing about being a good midwife is staying calm.

"Some women will say the pain is like a bad period cramp and obviously I don't know what that is.

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"With me, it's more like you are a guide, and you are just bringing the women along. As long as they trust you, they have to know they can get through the pain. You have to be confident.

"You have to honest, that it's going to hurt but we can help them through it. It's about trying to empower them, to stay in control."

His most memorable, although fairly dramatic, birth was helping deliver his own, first child Holly, now 7, while the couple were living in the Gold Coast in Australia.

He says: "Arlene had a very long labour and the midwife was quite new and I had to help out. When she came out she wasn't breathing so it was a bit scary at the time.

"We had our last baby, Isabel, in the RAH and she delivered in about twenty minutes."

While the couple were living in Australia, Kenny also launched a business in Brisbane, teaching ante-natal classes for men, in the pub, "with a beer and a burger" and the classes are still being taught.

While Kenny says he hasn't experienced much negativity from pregnant women, he says he did experience a bit of animosity from some of the older, midwives at the start of his career.

He says: "There were one or two wouldn't work with me. They got away with it though. But overall, everyone was really positive.

"The weird thing is, the RAH has always had a male midwife, there was one before I started and he is now one of the lecturers in midwifery at UWS."

Dr Mary Ross-Davie, Director of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) Scotland said that while midwifery remains a hugely popular career for women - there are five applicants for every training position - the number of male applicants remains small, across the UK.

She said: “Midwifery has traditionally been seen as female profession, but there is no reason for gender to be a bar to entering the profession.

"I have worked alongside some fantastic midwives who are men during my career, and in fact had a midwife who was a friend and a man looking after me for my first birth, which was a really lovely experience.

The Gazette:

“Rather than gender or a personal experience of childbirth, what is more important is that someone who wishes to become a midwife has the right interests, values and communication skills.

"Midwifery is a rewarding, exciting and demanding career for women and men – we need people who want to support women and new families to have the best possible start in life. This involves being calm, caring, warm, unflappable in an emergency situation, a great team worker.”

This article was originally reported in our sister title, The Evening Times

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