Birth Small Talk

Talking about birth

Language matters

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

As I writer, I know that words are really important. Without them, our ability to communicate with one another would be limited. For communication to work, there must be a shared understanding about what we mean when we use certain words. Words carry meanings with them that enter our attempts at communication. Sometimes there’s more going on than first meets the eye and our word choices can cloud our attempts at communication or introduce meanings that we hadn’t intended. Reflection on our language choices regularly is important. Are we really saying what we think we are? Using the best word choice is important as words shape the ways we are able to know things and therefore the ways we act. We can often tell the patterns of belief that people ascribe to by the choice of language they use. The importance of language in maternity care is something that others have written about (here, here, and here for example).

The use of language in relation to fetal heart rate monitoring is also something I write about regularly. You might like to check out some of these posts for yourself.

  • Let’s just pop you on a trace: This post looks at how different language can obscure, or make clear, that women have decisions to make about fetal monitoring options. 
  • Fetal distress: What do we really mean when we say this? What do people hear when maternity care providers hear this? Is it time to abandon the term? Read about this here.
  • Perinatal asphyxia: As an alternative term to fetal distress, this post explores how we generate meaning in healthcare terminology. What seems real and concrete is actually made from a series of human decisions and is therefore impacted by people’s beliefs and attitudes. 
  • What do we mean by monitoring? This post examines how the term fetal monitoring came to be synonymous with CTG use. The consequence of this is that intermittent auscultation appears to be “not monitoring” despite the research evidence showing it is as effective as CTG use in preventing death or damage to the baby. 
  • Who or what is doing the monitoring? As well as commenting on some new research, this post makes it clear that CTGs don’t do monitoring, people do. 
  • It’s #notallmen: In this post, I explained what I meant when I said we need to overthrow the patriarchy. I used genital tract trauma as an example to show how easy it is to view women’s bodies through a patriarchal lens without realising you are doing it. 
  • Changing threat to curiosity: back in the early pandemic times I wrote about my choice to use the word “interesting” rather than “unprecedented”. This post has held up well over time and serves as a useful reminder that we can change our outlook on the world by changing the words we use. (And yes – online meetings are the best! You can crochet, knit, or sew during them as long as you angle your camera the right way, and no one knows what you are up to.)

What are some other important language choices we should consider when communicating about maternity care? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Categories: CTG, EFM, Feminism, IA, Language, Reflections

Tags: , , , ,

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