Giving birth is, without a doubt, one of the most intense and stressful times in a woman’s life. So is it all just about getting the baby out safely, or does it really matter how midwives and doctors speak to women?
Researchers in the UK are saying it really does matters. The British Medical Journal has published a list of examples of “poor language” used during birth, and suggested alternatives.
Midwives and doctors are being asked not to use phrases that are anxiety-provoking, over-dramatic or violent. That means “fetal distress” should be replaced with “changes in the baby’s heart rate pattern,” and “rupture the membranes” should be “release the waters.” As for “big baby,” that should be “healthy baby”.
Women are to be respected as adults, which is why the phrase “good girl” shouldn’t be used during labour. On top of that, women must not be viewed as just a container for a baby. That’s why “delivered” is out, and so is “she’s 7cm”. Instead, it should be “gave birth” and “[woman’s name]’s cervix is 7cm dilated”.
Phrases that are discouraging or insensitive shouldn’t be used. “Failure to progress” should be replaced with “slow labour” and “painful contractions” with “strong contractions.”
Listen: On Mamamia Out Loud, millennial Jessie Stephens shares why giving birth is her biggest fear. Post continues after audio.
Women shouldn’t be told they “must have” a caesarean. Instead, it should be recommended, with reasons given.
The authors of the journal article – Natalie Mobbs, Catherine Williams and Professor Andrew Weeks – say if there’s positive communication during the birth, it has a big impact on the woman’s experience, which can affect her mental and physical health and her relationship with her baby.
In Australia, the language used towards women giving birth has changed a lot in the last 10 years, according to Professor Caroline Homer.
“There’s some terrible language in maternity care that we’ve really tried to get rid of,” Professor Homer, who is the director of the Centre for Midwifery, Child and Family Health at UTS, tells Mamamia.