Don't say 'good girl' to women in labour because it is disrespectful, midwives are told

Laura Donnelly
The authors admitted some might think the language advice was “political correctness gone mad” - PA

Midwives should not say “good girl” to women in labour because it is disrespectful, according to new advice.

Other words to avoid include describing a baby as big or referring to a woman in labour as “she” in the guide published in the BMJ.

In the advice, the authors admitted some might think such caution was “political correctness gone mad” but said changes were needed to “instill a culture of respect” for mothers-to-be.

The advice drawn up by maternity experts, has been backed by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.  

Its authors said using the right language could reduce anxiety in women in labour, cutting the rates of complications.

The advice includes avoiding discouraging language  Credit: BMJ

Instead of using the term “good girl,” medics are asked to say, “you're doing really well” to encourage a women during labour.

They are also asked to avoid  the use of the phrase “big baby” in case it makes women anxious, and not to talk about “foetal distress”.

Instead larger infants should be described as “healthy” while foetal distress should be described as “changes in the baby’s heart rate pattern,” they state.

The advice says midwives and obstetricians should never address the pregnant woman as a “she” when they are discussing the situation at hand.

Instead, they should always refer to her by her first name, the guide says.

Professor Andrew Weeks, from the International Maternal Health Care at the University of Liverpool, Natalie Mobbs, a medical student at Liverpool, and Catherine Williams, a committee member of National Maternity Voices, drew up the new tips.

The tips encourage midwives to say "you're doing really well" rather than "good girl" Credit: BMJ 

Writing in the BMJ, they 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.”

The authors said recent efforts to improve communication in the NHS, with new guidelines, were welcome.

“Although eyes may roll at the thought of "political correctness gone mad," the change is well founded,” they said.  

If a medical procedure doesn't work, midwives should describe the attempt as “unsuccessful”, rather than '”failed”. And it also says plain English should be used instead of medical jargon.

The guide also asks midwives to avoid discouraging or insensitive language, such as the phrase “terminate pregnancy”. 

Instead, women  should be told it is a “compassionate induction”.

Edward Morris, vice president of RCOG, said the guide “highlights the importance of creating a culture of respect for women during pregnancy, labour and after birth.”