Language Power: The Inocent Miss Use By Birth Proffesionals…..πŸ˜”

‘You did very well indeed’, ‘it’s just that you ‘failed to progress”.

What? ‘Failed to progress’!!? 

Please forgive my use of exclamation marks this Monday morning. I am a little tired after a wonderful day in Bristol hanging out with midwives, student midwives, doulas and antenatal teachers, tired but tiredness tinged with elation, I’m going to miss these workshops for sure. 

It’s hard to believe that knowing what we do about how the words we use have the potential to direct another’s internal ‘meaning making journey’, to even ‘shape’ the ‘story’ she lives in as she cares for her new born, we still have ‘phrases’ like ‘failed to progress’ in our obstetric vocabulary? 

When you consider the hormonal imperative for nurturing and supporting that ‘shy’ hormone oxytocin, and the links that there seem to be between the intimate context ‘required’ for women to be able to ‘release’ herself into orgasm and the ‘birthing process’ working well, to even suggest that woman a woman ‘failed to progress’ is nothing short of a scandle. 

Charles Darwin, when speaking of poverty said :

‘If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin’.

As I reflect upon his words it occurs to me that in some ways it is too often the failing of our ‘birth institutions’ to create suitable environments for birth that are the ’causes’ of a woman’s birthing experience to be less than optimum. 

‘Failure to progress’? 

No! Our response should be ‘sorry’, ‘we failed you’πŸ˜”.


4 thoughts on “Language Power: The Inocent Miss Use By Birth Proffesionals…..πŸ˜”

  1. Hi Mark I’ve been banging my head against a brick wall for many years at our Trust here in Sussex via the MSLC regarding language, intonation and body language. It’s not only birth professionals but other medical personal that need educating. We have a patriarchal, top down hierarchy where the wishes of the service user comes way below the wishes of the Medical staff with Consultant at the top of the hierarchy. Women and their babies should be at the centre of care with all of the professional involved placed around them rather that the pyramid of Consultant, Registrar, Head of Midwifery, Supervisors, Midwives, Woman. I have offered many times to give free workshops on the birth psychology and language, plus language and trauma, unfortunately it falls on deaf ears. They are not listening to those of us who are experts in the field in the same way that they are often not listening to service users either. I had a HypnoBirthing Client recently ridiculed by a midwife at a Home Birth workshop. The midwife was enacting birth with screams etc and informing a room of frightened new parents to be that this is how it will be and the pain will be such and such. When this lady said that she was doing HypnoBirthing so was hoping for a calmer experience she was scoffed at and told her ” believe me you’ll be sounding just like me when you birth” and the whole class laughed at her. Needless to say she was upset and I am having this investigated currently. This type of patronising and actually cruel way of speaking to women is unacceptable and yet it goes on day after day in hospitals and clinics up and down the country. Time for a programme of re-education and this needs to start with those who are most ingrained in their habits which are more often the more senior staff.

    • Yeah πŸ˜”. I do think that much of what you describe and I have experienced is ‘innocent’ , flowing from ‘ignorance’, but I get the intensity of you compassionate anger.

      • It’s not always innocent I’m afraid. As you know people operate from their own beliefs and filters and sometimes the language is used to force people to adopt a course of action that the caregiver believes in rather than what is best for that person. I’m sure you must have heard statements for example to women with increased sugar levels, such as “if you don’t have an induction at 38 weeks your baby will grow too big for you to birth and you’ll end up with a CS, is that what you want?…” and other lovely gems such as this. Using terms such as “Failure to progress” is more ignorance than innocent. We have been teaching HypnoBirthing for nearly 17 years – my ex husband introduced it to the UK from Marie Mongan’s work. I think there is no excuse for medical personal to be unaware of the effects of language on an emotionally vulnerable person in this day and age. Care with compassion is what should be practiced and speaking in a way that you would want to be spoken to is paramount to this.

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