Midwives Must Ditch Old-Fashioned Language From The Birthing Suite

Midwives Must Ditch Old-Fashioned Language

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.

Metro reports:

'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.


  • Chelsea C.

    don't even know what my midwife looked like nevermind said :joy::joy:

    • Maxine C.

      Haha I know and I've done it 4 times :joy::joy::joy::joy:

    • Chelsea C.

      Could of told me he was coming out green and I wouldn't of cared :joy:

  • Elaine T.

    Words are the most powerful tool (and weapon) we humans have ... I think the changes are for the better.

  • Carol B.

    I think midwifes do a fab job and what I read and changes does it matter if they say she is instead of ur name my midwife told me to just get on with it the baby is coming in fact was best thing she could say to me at the time lol

  • Susan A.

    to be honest when your having a baby it bloody hurts..... contractions are painful so for me the midwife could be saying "give it some bloody welly girl" in the middle of a contraction whilst im pushing and i couldn't care less..... that being said every persons different. Ok if ur in early stages supportive comments are a go and yeah phrases like "fetal distress' will scare the crap out of any person, but we all know that 'changes in babys heart rate' mean the same thing theyll just take a while for a mother to realise (but probably not so long for partners/family to understand and worry) change is good, but sometimes change isnt needed and i believe in this case it wont make any difference.

  • Kel M.

    I'm sure midwives know there job let them get on with it.

  • Emma D.

    My midwife was great! I remember her being quite firm with me but I needed it. I didn’t care what she said, she made my eldest and I safe and stopped a major bleed. Far more important things to worry about in the moment than what she’s saying! Give them a break

  • Ally O.

    Cudnt give a toss to be honest wen ur in labour they just doin their job n last thing on my mind is wat they say xx

  • Lizybeth D.

    My midwife could have been talking about what she had for lunch and I still wouldn’t have noticed!

  • Sam K.

    Can't remember what language they used to be honest, all I can remember is that they were all fantastic, got me through three births, only one of which was fairly straightforward, they did a fabulous job.

  • Louise W.

    no nonsense from you from now on lol :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

  • Tracy C.

    Never mind old fashioned! My midwife called me 'Hun', I wanted to kill her!

    • Elaine T.

      It irks me even more when they're young enough to be my daughter and calling me 'hun' ...

  • Joanna D.

    I was more upset at having to listen to Coldplay when they broke my waters....

  • Emma H.

    Yep because we don’t get penalised enough already!!! Whatever bloody next :smirk:

  • Louise G.

    I can't remember what they looked like, said or anything during both births so who knows :joy:

  • Jenny K.

    Had 3 children and very little recollection of anything they said. Only one I remember is”baby is coming, do you want it delivering straight onto you (or words to that effect) to which the answer was “I don’t don’t b....y care, just get it out”!! Same delivery, my husband was asked “do you want to hold baby straight away” answer “ no , I’ve got my best tie on!l (he came straight from work). We weren’t as uncaring as those sound. She was and is very much loved.

    • Lyndsay M.

      My midwife went into shock when she asked me if I wanted immediate skin to skin and my response was “don’t hand me a skanky baby” here response “pardon” and I repeated it with the added clean it first! When I’d finally pushed him out the other midwife handed him over saying “there you go, one non skanky baby” :flushed: - obviously I love him to bits but all through pregnancy I couldn’t stand the thought of being handed a bloody baby and so in throws of pain my comment just slipped out :joy:. X

    • Lisa S.

      I was the same "ermm no thanks please clean her first" :joy:

  • Victoria R.

    I could not have cared any less what the midwife was saying. I had everyone in there; student, midwife, senior midwife and then the doctor too. I just wanted to know that the person looking after me and baby knew what they were doing and they did a cracking job. Whatever was said to me I couldn’t tell you - gas and air was my friend!

  • Sarah B.

    Midwives are clever enough to work out how to talk to labouring women. Somew will want the "political correct" watt. I, myself, couldn't stand it. Talk me as me as I talk to you. Just get the kid out, in best way possible!

  • Lynsay H.

    I have 3 children and can’t remember a thing my midwife said to me I do remember them taking the gas and air of me with my second as he was coming fast no time for pain relief so the gas and air was all I had and I wouldn’t help to get him out..... her words no more gas and air until this baby is out and you need to help :joy:

  • Shell J.

    Does it matter! All that should be of concern is that baby is delivered without any hiccups and Mum is happy and as comfortable as can be :)

  • Samantha K.

    Honestly I don’t think I cared what she was saying. She was trying to get me to be quiet and that didn’t work either! It bloody hurt and that’s what the noises were about! I had lovey midwives though and I mostly trusted them to do their job. One of my midwives my husband had to translate for me- I was so tired I couldn’t understand her- she spoke perfect English- just had an accent and for some reason I understood her less while in labour??? :joy::joy: I honestly don’t think it matters!

  • Natz V.

    Both my midwives were great support. My son became distressed and if it wasn't for her words of support and firmness I don't think I could have done it and with my daughter my midwife was great as my placenta retained and I had massive blood loss and she spoke me through everything with the doctor and she kept me talking so I didn't pass out.

  • Kathryn W.

    I have no clue what the midwife said, she could have been reciting Shakespeare as far as I know. I couldn't pick her out of a line up either, no idea on age, hair colour, height.... By the time I was in the delivery suite I was so engrossed in just having y baby that nothing else mattered.

  • Jemma L.

    Oh for crying out loud!!!!! Utter nonsense

  • Emma B.

    Really couldn't even say what words my midwife had used and don't think I cared lol

  • Claire-Louise W.

    Midwives aren't stupid, they don't need a manual on how to speak to someone. It's the same as any person who works with the public. You gauge your audience. Some people like to be called by their first name, some like to be called miss or missus, some like to be called 'hen', 'pet' or 'love'. In all honesty, when I was in labour with my first, I remember the midwife calling me a 'good girl' at times and it didn't bother me, as it instantly made me warm to her as it was like a term of endearment at a time when I was feeling a wee bitty stressed! Midwives have enough to do, without someone in an office who has no concept of the job, working out ways to give them more to worry about and more training to do!

  • Rachael H.

    All of my midwives were lovely but special hugs to the one who asked if I wanted to brace against her shoulder then promptly kicked her across the room :joy:

  • Ashley D.

    My midwifes with my second baby well I couldn’t thank her enough, due to the fact I was struggling, she got my son hear with out having to go to theatre, I think it should be what ever is needed to get the mother through her labour, x

  • Lorz L.

    By the time I was giving birth I had so many pain killers in my system they could have called me patrick and referred to me as a football and I wouldn't have noticed xD

  • Gillian C.

    Midwives do a hard enough job without having to worry about their Qs and Ts. They have common sense as well as patient care at their core and they will be able to read people and how comfortable they are being addressed etc in certain ways. My midwife could have screamed profanities at me towards the end and I wouldn't have cared less and would still of thanked them lol Gx

  • Rachel S.

    In the grande scheme of bringing a healthy baby in to the world I think the effort would have been best placed elsewhere - on something that actually needed fixing.

  • Kayleigh A.

    I've had 3 children and can't remember a single word any of the midwives uttered.

  • Giseffemae H.

    All I remember is "PUSH" "READY ... PUSH HARD" I don't think anyone cares what terms the midwives use. You know that they will lead you to a place where the pain will stop. You do as they say.

  • Emma W.

    I don’t think I can remember a single thing that my midwives said to me! Certainly didn’t make any impact on me.

  • Stacie-leigh H.

    All I remember my midwife saying was ‘ come on now stop making those silly noises:flushed: , and too late for pain relief you’ll just have to do it the old fashioned way :dizzy_face:don’t remember the rest :laughing::laughing:

    • Becky Y.

      ... ^^ Just one example of how SOME midwives really do need language guidelines!! X

    • Emma C.

      Lol I was also told by my midwife "now come on, don't be screaming, you'll scare all the other mums!" after having had a distressing delivery with my first - yes I wanted to scream as I pushed with everything I had to get him out so we didn't have the same issues as before! But I got over it quickly and was just glad he was here safe and sound. The midwife was actually really lovely. As were all the midwives who had taken part in my 2 weeks of care before and after my son was born. Especially the 2 girls who got me from induction to 15mins before he was born! But otherwise I didn't care if they called me she or whatever

  • Leanne M.

    Don’t think people should be putting any more pressure on midwives as they have enough to deal with!

  • Helen M.

    My midwives were amazing and so supportive but I have no recollection of the actual words they might have used...i was being consistently sick over over one of them apparently so she would have been well within her rights to use some old fashioned language at me!

  • Becky W.

    Oh this is ridiculous! The midwives are doing an amazing job bringing our children into the world and rather than focusing on that they’ve got to remember to say certain phrases?!? In my opinion, say what you need to to get the message across quickly and get our babies here safely!

    • Becky Y.

      NO!! MOTHERS do an amazing job of bringing their babies into the world!!

  • Laura A.

    What a load of bollocks! I can't remember a thing either of my midwives said, I don't care if they referred to me as 'she' - what I do care about is that they were kind, supportive and helped me to birth 2 healthy babies.

  • Michele P.

    OMG they're treating grown women like children now! This actually made me LOL and I did start to wonder whether it's April 1st already.

  • Linzi L.

    Just let them get on with their job!! Midwives do an amazing job and I couldn't have coped with out mine :heartpulse:

  • Klr I.

    all I can recollect is the male midwife continually saying “not you can’t, you have to!” :joy:

  • Emma J.

    My midwife told me to stop making so much noise and push as "This isn't Coronation Street"!!!! I was mortified but it did the trick!

  • Pauline L.

    No longer allowed to say if it's a boy or a girl only "it's a baby" :joy:

  • Betty S.

    I agree. Some people have too much time to think these things up.

  • Laura L.

    When you’re in labour, the last thing you give a shit about is politically correct language. As long as I have a great midwife who cares well for me and my baby, I really don’t care if she says ‘good girl’. Jesus Christ.

  • Lauren D.

    I have no recollection of anything either midwife said to me each time I was in labour. I know I was treated with respect (as was my husband) and both my babies were born safe and given the care they needed in SCBU. Surely there needs to be a little wiggle room for professional judgement, and, heaven forbid, personality!! Midwives are people too!

  • Jeannie L.

    What? Both my midwives needed to say exactly what they said and it worked with 2 safe deliveries. I think this is ridiculous!

  • Jennifer B.

    I remember being constantly berated and shouted at by the midwife and had no support from her at all. Put me completely off having another.

  • Ness W.

    Let them just do their job, they need their eye on the ball not worrying about what they're saying, plus most labours go by in a blur anyway, id imagine most women cant recall how they were addressed by the midwife

  • Ellen T.

    It’s great to hear positive comments however not all midwives are great, my family has paid the orice of that certainly so concentrating on getting that right and not on what they are saying would be a good start .

  • Milene S.

    I remember my midwife yelling at me "Millie!! Stop screaming, you will scare the other mums". I wasn't that loud, but I answered something like "I'm in labour, in case you don't know! And if you talk to me like that again, I will accuse you of obstetric violence". After delivering my boy, she apologized for her attitude, wished me all the best and gave me a hug.

  • Nichola H.

    I would like to hear them shout more obscenities at people!

  • izzywoo

    all i remember is asking for gas and air and she said "its too late!" as they pushed me along the corridor to delivery room!

  • Ellen R.

    Lol. Let’s put even more pressure on our midwives. I couldn’t care less whether they referred to me as she or Ellen. All that mattered was my babies were delivered safely. And in the midst of the gas and air haze, who bloody remembers anyway?

  • Becky Y.

    It's lovely to hear that so many women had positive experiences with their midwives. And perfectly valid that many of you feel they wouldn't care what language your midwives used. However, we have to recognize that not all women feel that way. For midwives who are already speaking respectfully to women this shouldn't even matter. There's no need to be offended by it. I think it's good that there are guidelines in place, because not ALL health professionals do speak to women respectfully. I have had 4 babies, I've been cared for by 9 midwives over the course of my 4 labours. All of them were lovely, truly respectful, skilled, wonderful souls who truly enhanced my birth experiences .... except ONE. But that ONE with a bad attitude managed to ruin TWO of my births and spoil all the wonderful work the others had done on those occasions. Your birth experiences stay with you forever. They should not be ruined by the very people meant to protect them. Even if it is just one person out of 9, people like her need reigning in. Guidelines is the only way to do that. I would think lovely respectful midwives as they generally are would welcome guidelines that reflect their way of working and their ethics and mean that colleagues who don't work in this way have to step up. As a doula I meet so many women with previous birth trauma and usually it's not because of what happened, it's because of the way they were spoken to or treated at one of the most vulnerable moments of their lives. X

  • Amy T.

    I wish we could meet our midwives before the appointments before the birth as in the days of 'Call the Midwife'. Would have been lovely to have seen a familiar face during a really stressful and frightening time.

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