Designer: ‘Aurat’-covering maternity pants compromise for male doctors treating Muslim women

Muslim women looking at posters on Muslim fashion at the Islamic Women's Convention (Konwanis) 2014 in Cyberjaya, on April 26, 2014. Now a doctor has come up with unique maternity pants for Muslim women. — File pic
Muslim women looking at posters on Muslim fashion at the Islamic Women's Convention (Konwanis) 2014 in Cyberjaya, on April 26, 2014. Now a doctor has come up with unique maternity pants for Muslim women. — File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, June 27 — The invention of pants to cover a woman’s “aurat” during childbirth, deemed to be her ankles, knees and thighs, was inspired by demands for pregnant Muslim women to only be handled by female doctors.

According to Dr Wan Yusof, one of the designers of the unique pants, the idea to develop the pants started five years ago, after the case of a Muslim woman who had her baby delivered by a male doctor.

“The mother went into labour and was handled by a male doctor, which later kicked off a debate as to whether such practice was halal, Islamic and many others.

“A petition was even started by a Muslim doctor calling on the government to permit only female doctors and nurses to handle the pregnant mothers from all race and religion, with several Muslim scholars later declaring that male doctors should not attend to female patients.”

Dr Wan Yusof said that the argument then prompted research into possible solutions to the demands made in the petition, particularly ones that would not require the laborious policy changes to ensure patients are only attended to by doctors of the same sex.

From this sprang a collaboration involving concerned Muslim doctors, Islamic healing group Pertubuhan Amal Perubatan Ibnu Sina Malaysia (Papisma) and reproductive experts.

According to Dr Wan Yusof, their research concluded that women's thighs, knees and ankles need not be exposed during childbirth.

“Our aim is to minimise the expose of unnecessary body parts of the mother, as the only part needed for medical purpose is the vagina and this is why we just want to cover the unnecessary part, but allow only the opening of the vagina,” he said.

The group then began looking for products that would allow these parts of the body to be clothed while still enabling doctors the needed access during delivery.

“There were a few, in fact, with one from the United States, but it was not acknowledged as maternity pants specifically, but a general hospital wear.

“There was also one from China, but all these were not fully optimised for labour purposes as there were issues with the measurement near the mother’s genitalia to allow the baby to be delivered,” he explained.

Dr Wan Yusof said that after studying the available options and failing to find one that met their criteria, the team of 19 doctors then designed the MamaPride prototype: Maternity pants that resemble track bottoms with an opening designed for childbirth

They then proceeded to conduct trial runs of the pants at two private hospitals in Kelantan and Kedah to test for shortcomings, and after several minor upgrades based on feedback from pregnant mothers, packaged the pants for sale via Koperasi Amal Medik Bhd.

The pants were also patented last year.

Dr Wan Yusof said that the cost to develop the product was about RM10,000, and was mainly borne by the designers who were determined to find a solution for Muslim mothers.

The medical authorities were also not receptive to the idea, he said, when they declined to provide a development grant to the group last August, deeming the product to be impractical.

“Many rejected the idea of our product, claiming it is not viable. Nobody believed this idea to be an alternative solution, but we kept our hope and wanted to see it materialise...so we sacrificed for it,” he said.

“Today, our hope and perseverance has paid off.”

Dr Wan Yusof has taken a hiatus from his medical practice to focus on developing the market for MamaPride maternity pants.

Public reception over product

According to the doctor, response to the product has been a mixed, both from Muslims and non-Muslims.

However, he said that the negative comments have not served to demoralise the team or efforts to market the pants.

“In fact, about 20 non-Muslims have already purchased the pants directly from us and we have received positive testimonies from them,” he said, adding that the number may even be higher as the product is also being sold by agents.

“We have faced so much criticism, but we take it positively... when people say this product is not viable, we believe otherwise,” he added.

“One of the mantra that keeps us going is that women like to protect their modesty and even their husbands would like to protect their wife's modesty... we strongly believe in that... we believe this is the solution,” said the 29-year-old father of two.

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