Don’t say labour ward and big baby, midwives are told
MIDWIVES and doctors should avoid using the terms ‘delivered’ and ‘big baby’ to avoid upsetting women in labour, say experts.
Instead, they should say the woman ‘gave birth’ to a ‘healthy baby’.
The new terms are contained in an ‘alternative’ language guide designed to ‘empower’ pregnant women with suggested phrases to replace common terms.
Midwives and obstetricians should give words of encouragement such as ‘ you’re doing really well’ rather than using the oldfashioned term, ‘good girl’ during labour.
They should not use ‘anxiety-provoking’ phrases such as ‘labour ward’ but should instead say ‘birthing suite’.
And they should never refer to the pregnant woman as ‘she’ and must address the woman directly, the guide says.
The guide has been produced by Professor Andrew Weeks, a maternity expert at the University of Liverpool, medical student Natalie Mobbs and Catherine Williams, of support group National Maternity Voices. The authors were responding to guidance issued 12 months ago by NHS watchdog NICE, in which staff were told to ‘treat all women in labour with respect’.
The guidance said doctors and midwives should ‘establish rapport with the woman’ and ‘ be aware of the importance of tone and demeanour, and of the actual words used’. The NICE guidance did not give examples of the words to be used, so the academics, writing in a letter to the British Medical Journal, compiled a list of phrases to avoid.
They wrote: ‘Although eyes may roll at the thought of “political correctness gone mad”, the change is well founded.
‘It is the duty of caregivers to use language which will help empower all women.
‘Language signals the nature of the relationship between woman and caregiver, and can deny or respect a woman’s autonomy.
‘Language matters as a way of respecting women’s views and ensuring that they are empowered to make decisions. The use of insensitive language can be indicative of an underlying malaise, which reveals underlying attitudes and prejudices.
‘It is essential that we achieve respectful practice, ensuring that women have complete understanding and control of their own care.’
Edward Morris, vice president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said his organisation seeks to abide by the principals of the NICE guidance, and has issued its own guidelines.
He said: ‘This opinion piece, published in The BMJ, highlights the importance of creating a culture of respect for women during pregnancy, labour and after birth.
‘It is essential that healthcare professionals ensure women feel like they are in control of their own pregnancy and birth and are involved in what is happening to them.
‘The RCOG welcomes this recognition and seeks to abide by these principals in our own guidelines to ensure that women are at the centre of their own care.