Words are powerful. So powerful they have started wars. Words are more powerful than actions. Words can allow someone to take over your mind completely, while actions can only force you to do something out of fear.
Being aware of language is such an important life tool. For example, in answer to the question “What do you do?” someone might say, “I am just a stay-at-home mum.” Can you see how the word “just” changes the whole meaning and context of this sentence?
Words can linger in your subconscious without you realising. Then they can creep up on you when you least expect it. Before falling pregnant, you may not have batted an eye if you saw negative birth stories on TV or online. But those words or visuals will sit in your subconscious until you are pregnant when they can resurface and impact your perspective.
That’s why, in all the courses run by The Positive Birth Group, I set the tone of the language we will be using at the beginning of each course. I teach you the language you should be using and the language you should surround yourself with during pregnancy and birth.
Here’s an insight into The Positive Birth Group’s thesaurus and why we change the words we change. This is done in chronological order from the beginning of your pregnancy.
Due date → due period
A date signifies one day. But, as only 4% of babies are born on their due date it’s almost meaningless. Using due period is much more accurate and puts less pressure on that one day.
Fetus → baby
Fetus is a very medicalised word, which can form a barrier in your mind and suppresses the nurturing bond between you and your baby. We talk about your baby to encourage you to bond.
Complications → special circumstances
If something is described as complicated, it has associations of being difficult, challenging or scary. In the interest of staying calm and being rational about certain circumstances, we refer to complications as special circumstances.
Pain → intensity/powerful
Pain is a small but strong word. Being asked “are you in any pain?” immediately makes you think about pain. Instead, we ask; “can I do something to make you more comfortable?” Birth is intense and it is strong, but contrary to what the TV shows would have you believe, many people do not relate it to pain. By relating pain to birth, you will expect it to be painful.
False labour/Braxton Hicks → body practising birth or preparing for birth
Sometimes people can feel disappointed if they have false labour pains or experience Braxton Hicks contractions. But these are actually amazing and really positive sign during established pregnancy. They mean your body is starting to prepare for birth. Your muscles are having some warm-ups before the big day. It’s very positive.
Dilation → opening
When you start to dilate, your cervix starts to open to make space for the baby. The word dilation isn’t negative, but it is a very medical word. Describing the cervix as open is softer and more relatable. Rather than: “You are only 3cm open”, how about: “You are opening beautifully, 3cm open is amazing”. Yes, 3cm is amazing! You’re a third of the way there.
Late → we just don’t use this word
If someone or something is late, it’s not good. Your bus is late, you are running late, or your friend is late. These are never seen as positive things. Babies come when they’re ready. They are never late. It’s unfair to call a baby late before they are even born.
Failure to progress → resting birth
Failure to progress is such a disheartening term. Births can stall for many reasons, but your body wants to birth your baby and your baby wants to be born. That design is not flawed. Your baby might have sent a signal for things to pause because it is tired, it might not be in the right position or the umbilical cord might be in the way. It’s a signal to pause, slow down and reassess. This is not a failure. You or your baby is having a rest. Let it rest. Trust the process.
Contractions → surges or waves
Contractions is such a medicalised, harsh word, and is strongly associated with the word ‘pain’. By using terminology related to nature, you can help your brain to see this stage of birth as a natural process and can more easily visualise what’s happening.
Push → breathe down
When it comes to the ‘pushing’ part of birth, it’s actually not at all helpful to think of it as pushing. TV and movies show women being told to push, push, PUSH! People scream and shout and the woman is not breathing – or even actually pushing – she’s just tensing her jaw and squeezing. Breathing down is a much more accurate account of what you need to do during this stage. If you push, you will hurt yourself, if you breathe down you will support your body and your baby. In all our courses, we teach you how to practice breathing down so you are ready.
Deliver → birth
When something is delivered it magically appears, most of the time by someone else. A parcel is delivered, a pizza appears at your door, room service is delivered. Your baby does not magically appear. You work with your body – sometimes for days – to give birth to your baby, so we should not belittle the process by saying you are delivering your baby.
Labour → birth
The word labour means to work physically hard, when actually not all people that give birth feel like their birth was hard, physical work. Switching words with negative connotations like this to something more relatable will soften it in your mind. You will give birth to your baby.
Can you see what a difference these small changes in your pregnancy vocabulary can have on your perspective and the tone of the conversation around pregnancy and birth?
If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, start thinking about the language you use and the language that is used around you. Changing a few words will have a massive, positive impact on your whole pregnancy and birth.
For more useful and helpful support around pregnancy and birth, look at some of our upcoming courses: