Midwives told to replace 'disrespectful' phrases with 'empowering' alternatives

Midwives have been told to use phrases that are "disrespectful" to women and instead uses "empowering" terminology.

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) article titled "Humanising birth: Does the language we use matter?" gives examples of poor language use followed by the suggested alternative.

Examples include; the Labour Ward should now be called the "Birthing Suite", a big baby should be called a "healthy baby" and the term fetal distress should be altered to "changes in the baby's heart rate pattern".


The three experts devised the list of “disrespectful” common terms, in the hope, it will ensure women are ‘empowered to make decisions’.

The document goes on to challenge the use of complex clinical acronyms that non-healthcare professionals may not understand or phrases that could cause distress.

Phrases such as “terminate pregnancy" should be avoided and instead, patients should be told they are undergoing a “compassionate induction”.

Writing in the BMJ, the authors said;

"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.”

“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.”

Recent updates to the NICE Intrapartum Care Guidelines emphasise the importance of good intrapartum communication and respect for women’s autonomy.