A new set of language guidelines have been launched for midwives to use in the hopes of fostering a ‘culture of respect’ for women.
Medics have drawn up the new guide which sees words such as ‘good girl’ and ‘delivered’ replaced with ‘you’re doing really well’ and ‘gave birth’.
Experts say the new words will instill 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’.
In the guide the authors also point towards evidence that shows positive communication can change the course of pregnancy for the better, and say that clear language can reduce the rates of potentially dangerous Caesarean sections.
Medical procedures that don’t work should be described as ‘unsuccessful’ instead of ‘failed’ while phrases such as ‘fetal distress’ or ‘big baby’ have been dropped in favour of ‘changes in the baby’s heart rate pattern’ and ‘healthy’.
Coded language should be replaced by plain English while midwives are asked not to use discouraging or insensitive language.
The three authors are Natalie Mobbs, a fourth year medical student at the University of Liverpool, Catherine Williams, a committee member of National Maternity Voices and Andrew Weeks, Professor of International Maternal Health Care at the University of Liverpool.
They write: ‘Good communication during the birthing process is critical to good maternity care; but achieving a shift in deeply ingrained language, and the thinking it reflects, is difficult.
‘There is a fine line between changing terminology to integrate language which is more respectful, inclusive, and less intimidating for the mother, and substituting vague, verbose language which hinders the original message.
‘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.
‘If we can achieve that, then the use of appropriate language will follow on naturally.’
It adds: ‘Those providing maternity care need to consider their use of language seriously.
‘Not only as a way of respecting women’s views and ensuring that they are empowered to make decisions, but also in order to respect their human rights.
‘This requires careful use of language, reflection on our own practice as caregivers, listening to women, and communicating appropriately, plainly, and respectfully to guide her through the complexities of maternity care.’