The Language of Pregnancy

The Language of Pregnancy 

Words are powerful.

The way our culture talks about pregnancy is not the most supportive, can be downright degrading, and is something that has bothered me for a long time. Pregnancy and early motherhood are incredibly challenging – for some, these are the hardest periods of their lives. I think it’s important to adjust how we talk to women about their bodies, and how we frame this profoundly life-changing period for so many women. Women are incredible: they are the very source of life, bringing new humans into the world every single day, and I believe it’s time that a mother’s body received the respect that it deserves. Below, I’ve shared some important reframed and reimagined ways of describing a woman’s body in pregnancy and beyond.

Incompetent cervix

Before pregnancy, your cervix (the lower part of the uterus that opens to the vagina) is normally closed and firm. An incompetent cervix, also called a cervical insufficiency, occurs when weak cervical tissue causes or contributes to premature birth or the loss of an otherwise healthy pregnancy. 

So, having what is referred to as an ‘incompetent cervix’ is a real and very serious situation.  But let’s stop and consider how this ‘incompetent’ term effects the pregnant mother: here she is, pregnant in a body that was ‘made’ for this process, yet her cervix is ‘incompetent.’  She will most likely have to be on bed rest as she enters the last weeks of pregnancy. She is approaching labor being told she has an ‘incompetent’ body part – one that will play a significant role in the labor and delivery she’s about to undergo. How does this language impact her attitude or belief in her own body? Probably not in many positive or constructive ways.

Alternative language: Cervical weakness. While this term still needs a lot of work to be reframed in a more positive light, it’s certainly an improvement.

 

Miscarriage

This term ‘miscarriage’ just starts off wrong: the root of this word means “wrongly,” as in, a woman’s body did something wrong to cause a pregnancy loss. This outdated word has been part of our cultural vernacular since the 1300s. It’s time for it to go! Losing a pregnancy is already an incredibly traumatic, emotionally and physically depleting experience. Adding blame and fault into the mix is enough to break a woman’s spirit. Let’s take care of women who experience this terrible medical event by changing up the language we use to talk about it. 

Alternative language: Lost pregnancy, or simply a loss. This is a loss for the Mama, not something that her body somehow caused.

 

D&C/D&E/Abortion

In our culture, the word ‘abortion’ has not only a negative connotation but is the subject of many political debates. When a woman loses a babe and has to have a medical procedure to ensure that she can remain healthy, she should not be labeled as having an abortion. In modern times, abortion indicates you had a choice in terminating the pregnancy – a woman who lost her pregnancy did not choose to abort, it’s medical necessity. 

Alternative language: Medical termination of pregnancy. Or, you can call the procedure by its exact medical name: Dilation & Curettage, or Dilation & Extraction.  

 

C-Section 

We section cows and pigs before we can eat them. We can give a woman’s body more respect than we give to livestock. Further, the term ‘C-Section’ makes no mention of the miracle that occurred therein: the birth of a human child! 

Alternative language: Abdominal Birth

 

Postpartum

The term ‘postpartum’ just sounds dark and gloomy, so it’s no wonder we don’t want to talk about the postpartum period nearly enough as we should. This relates to the several-month period of time directly after delivery.

Alternative language: Postnatal. While this isn’t a huge change, I feel that it seems lighter more mother-focused than postpartum.

 

Advanced/Geriatric Maternal Age

Wow, I love this one. I’ve got good news – most practices don’t refer to women older than 35 as ‘geriatric’ any more, instead they’re choosing the friendlier term of ‘advanced maternal age.’

Alternative language:  Pregnancy over age 35. Simple and accurate.

 

Doctors Who Deliver Babies 

I truly believe that doctors and midwives are essential, and that they play an important role in the delivery of babies. I have, however, never seen a doctor deliver a baby – the mother delivers the baby. It’s called labor, the Mama is doing all the hard work, and the Mama then delivers the baby. Doctors catch babes, and we are so lucky to have their skills! But, really, it’s Mamas who deliver babies. When a mother can own her unique role in childbirth, she’s empowered, capable, and strong beyond words.

Alternative language: Mamas deliver babes. Asking, Which doctor caught your babe? Or, Which doctor was present when you delivered your babe?

Words are powerful, how can we talk about pregnancy and delivery in a manner which empowers parents more? 

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