Midwives: 17 Words & Phrases To ‘Consider’ Stopping Using…..Please? 😔

17 Words and Phrases I’ve Heard Midwives Say That Need, In My Opinion, SCRAPPING..if you are a midwife and use any of them…please consider other options 😃

Number 1: ‘MY ‘ladies’.

Number 2: ‘you might ‘be ALLOWED’ to have a home birth’…insert anything in for home birth. The language of permission is missing the point.

Number 3: ‘I just catch babies’! Aghhh at most midwives offer support based on reflected upon experience. Midwives and birth professionals ‘point’ to the ‘source of birthing power’. Any phrases that even hint at a ‘power shift’ towards the professional  help little. 

Number 4: ‘if you don’t push better than this I’m going to get the doctors’. 

Number 5: Any references to ‘stages’ of ‘labour’ that suggests that they actually exist! Remember, we MADE them UP! Useful guide? Maybe? Maybe not. 

Number 6: ‘They’. Women are not all the SAME, your experience is useful BUT not absolute, always ‘bow the knee’ to a woman’s sublime uniqueness. 

Number 7: Any use of the words ‘they’ or ‘them’ when speaking about pregnant women.  

Number 8: ‘pethidine will work well for you. 

Number 9: ‘you must get on the bed for me to examine you’. 

Number 10: ‘it’s too late for an epidural’. 

Number 11: ‘we are going to let your epidural wear of so you can feel when to push’. 

Number 12: ‘if we put your legs into lithotomy you will be able to push better’. 

Number 13: ‘If you think this is painful (a comment on so called latent phase of labour), just wait until ‘labour’ starts. 

Number 14: ‘it’s too early for gas an air’. 

Number 15: with fingers in the woman’s Vagina: ‘RELAX’.

Number 16: ‘just pop on the bed, I’m going to examine you ‘down there’.  

Number 17: ‘chin on your chest, hold your breath and with the next contraction…PUUUUUUSH’! 

(For advanced information about @birthing4blokes video programme go to Birthing4Blokes

15 thoughts on “Midwives: 17 Words & Phrases To ‘Consider’ Stopping Using…..Please? 😔

  1. I LOVE this! It is especially great that it’s been written by a midwife; far too often have I heard myself and to clients a lot of these sentences!!

  2. No 16, replace with anything following just. ‘Just….’ The word just in place of consent drives me freeking nuts!
    Just pop up on the bed
    Let’s JUST examine you
    I’m JUST going to break your waters
    I’m JUST going to put you on the monitor…. Agghhhh!!!

    Great post, thanks 🙂

  3. This stuff is really important even though people often think it’s just semantics. My favourite was when a student midwife I know was talking to her friend and she said ‘I delivered a woman’s baby for her’ – I wanted to say ‘Oh well done, good job you were there and she had nothing to do’! Sometimes as in this case it doesn’t have any unkind intentions behind it but it does give a clear idea where the power is seen to lie. Sometimes it is deliberate and issued to ensure that the control stays in ‘the right place’.

  4. Bloody Brilliant!!! Thank you for this 🙂

  5. Lol, I’ve heard most of these and probably uttered some myself as I’d have thought they were what toy should say! Thankfully I’ve got better with experience. ‘You’re not in labour’ and ‘its just false labour ‘ are my pet peeves.

  6. ‘Examine you down there’….What my feet?!!

  7. It is without question unacceptable for a midwife to use terms or phrases for the purposes of undermining, coercing or controlling a pregnant woman however to suggest that a midwife should not use words such a ‘just’ or ‘my ladies’ is IMHO really sad.
    ‘Just’ as a pregnant woman is a unique individual so is a midwife & to attempt to control how a midwife naturally speaks is just as wrong as a midwife attempting to control a pregnant woman.
    I am a midwife & a ‘cockney’ & I confess I frequently address women, their children & partners with terms such as love, mate, sweetie etc I equally greet my own family & friends with such terms… These to me are terms of affection & kindness & never used to undermine or patronise. I also confess I refer to my caseload of pregnant clients as ‘my ladies’ & I guess that I use this reference to affirm my commitment & responsibility to those clients in my case load… They belong to me just as I belong to them… I do often hear my clients say of me – she is ‘my midwife’ or- this is ‘my midwife’ & I confess I am not in the least bit offended by those clients calling me ‘their midwife’ & I am therefore perplexed as to why they would they be offended by me calling them my ladies!… Should such a innocent terms really be stopped?
    Respect, compassion & appreciation of individuality is IMHO a two way process… True partnership can only form if both the midwife & woman develop trust & respect for each others individuality & that includes accepting unique & innocent quirks of speech.

    • Thank you. You are right, I see that I am overstating the importance of the phrase you mention, I’m sorry if you were sad reading it. There is a sense in which even saying someone ‘should’ or shouldn’t’ say any of the phrases is not what I am really wanting to say….my larger concern is the influence that our words and phrases have on another persons ‘meaning making’ and subsequently their experience of the world.

      My opinion, ‘my’ suggests possession, and ‘ladies’ hints at a paternalistic narrative, but that’s just my opinion.

      Again I’m sorry, and thank you for commenting.

    • Well said I agree

  8. For me as a home birthing mother, while some of your examples relate to midwifery best (or not) practice, I think appropriate language, terms of address etc is caught up with manner, body language and the power balance. Language is just a signpost whether there is true empathy and respect. Giving a crib sheet (pardon the pun!) to create an illusion of empathy doesn’t help, but using experiential learning through modelling the ‘right’ language would shine a light on how small and no-cost things make a difference to a woman’s empowerment and ability to own her birthing body, decisions and space which would extend into the wider experience of child birth.

  9. Harriet Anderson

    I don’t understand why you are apologising Mark. Labouring women are in such a vulnerable position with health-care professionals anyway, it’s really hard to exert choice, and the stress of trying can interfere with labour and result in even more exposure to health-care practises. Belittling language just makes things even harder, whether it’s conscious or not.

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