Anyone who's had a baby knows that the things a midwife says during labour and birth can have a huge impact on how things progress during the delivery – and long after.
So it's no surprise to me that medics have drawn up new guidelines for the language midwives should use – in order to foster a ‘culture of respect’ for women. About time – I love this idea.
'Experts say the new words will instil respect for pregnant women, with midwives encouraged to drop old-fashioned terms and phrases. Authors of the new guide, published in the British Medical Journal, write: ‘Although eyes may roll at the thought of “political correctness gone mad,” the change is well founded.’ Midwives and doctors are told to address pregnant women by their name and must not refer to them as ‘she’.
I'm not so sure about the not referring to labouring women as she part, but I think it's timely that appropriate language is being clarified. It's incredible to me just how profoundly I was affected by things that midwives said to me while I was in labour. All good, in my case, I am fortunate to say, but I've heard enough horror stories to know that the reverse can also be true.
Hearing encouraging words from my midwife helped me focus during labour, not to mention believe in myself. Conversely, I know of mums who have panicked whilst giving birth because of things said by midwives that could perhaps have been more carefully phrased.
The guidelines include:
Avoid phrases that are anxiety-provoking, over-dramatic or violent (e.g 'Changes in the baby's heart rate pattern' instead of 'fetal distress')
Respecting women as autonomous adults. (e.g 'You're doing really well' instead of 'Good girl')
Respecting women as individuals (e.g '[Woman's name]'s cervix is 7cm dilated' instead of 'She's 7cm')
Respecting the woman's authority as a decision-maker (e.g 'She declined' instead of 'Patient refused')
We'd love to hear your thoughts on this story. How much of an impact did the words of a midwife have on your during labour and delivery? And would do you welcome the introduction of these guidelines? Leave us a comment here or come and join the conversation over on our Facebook page.