As a childbirth educator, the language you use matters tremendously.
Today, more people than ever are involved in the astonishing process of giving birth. Research by the Family Equality Council shows that there are between 2 million and 3.7 million children under age 18 who have an LGBTQ+ parent. Many of these children are raised by a single LGBTQ+ parent or by a different-sex couple where one parent is bisexual.
Just as you learned in kindergarten, families do come in all shapes and sizes, and therefore, it’s critical to include all of them when working as a childbirth educator.
Let’s discuss why inclusive language is so essential and how you can lead by example.
Why Is Inclusion in the Classroom Important?
Birth workers are often confused about inclusion as it pertains to childbirth language. However, contrary to what you may have been taught in biology class, all kinds of people give birth.
- People identifying outside the gender binary
- Single people
- People in relationships other than traditional monogamous marriage
Inclusion can often be difficult because gender, sexual identities, and relationships between the people interpreted as the “couple” are not always obvious. Using inclusive language prevents assumptions, maximizes comfort for patients, and allows them to communicate their identities or stories unpressured. These seemingly small changes in word choice ultimately make a huge difference for the people you serve.
How to Incorporate Inclusive Language
While this isn’t a comprehensive list of how to incorporate inclusion in the classroom as a childbirth educator, it should provide a handful of ideas of how to get started.
- Consider using gender-neutral language on both your website and registration material.
- Ask your participants what their pronouns are (he/him, she/her, they/them) on their registration form, and introduce yourself at the beginning of class with your pronouns. Encourage others to do the same in person if they feel comfortable.
- Use whatever name a person requests (whether it is their name given at birth or not). Always refer to birthing people by their first name to avoid anonymizing them or reducing them to a potential parenthood identity.
- For example: Instead of “Okay Mama, let’s try this technique…” try “Okay Taylor, let’s try this technique…”
- Don’t assume that every birthing person has a husband, male partner, or is partnered at all. If a non-pregnant person is attending with a birthing person, call them the support person.
- During class, refer to the individuals giving birth as “birthing people” or “pregnant people” instead of “pregnant women” or “mothers.”
- For example: “When the birthing person arrives at the hospital, they may go to triage.”
- Ensure there is a gender-neutral bathroom available for class members to use.
- Reach out to the people you refer your participants to (lactation consultants, yoga instructors, etc.) and encourage them to update their language and materials if necessary.
The medical and reproductive care system still has a lot of room for growth when it comes to inclusive practices. Fortunately, childbirth educators are well-positioned to provide all birthing people and their families support while positively turning the tide in birth culture. Shifting from more limiting terms and phrases to more inclusive terms and phrases helps to make the birth world safer and more accessible for participants.
Join the world of inclusive birth educators with Birth Beautifully.
Christine Herrera helps people become amazing birth professionals.