Outdated (and Frankly, Insulting) Women’s Medical Terms Are Getting a Much-Needed Update
Recently, Chrissie Teigen spoke out about the need to banish the term ‘geriatric pregnancy’, explaining that the language that we use — even medical terms — is important. While it is simply the medical term for a woman who falls pregnant over the age of 35, this is a clear example of terms that are not only offensive but undermine women unnecessarily.
But it isn’t just the term ‘geriatric pregnancy’ that is problematic. Once you really start to think about it, there are many outdated medical terms that are insensitive and frankly, rather insulting to women that are in daily use. Think ‘incompetent cervix’, ‘failure to progress’, ‘stay at home mum’, and ‘failed pregnancy’.
These medical terms are well overdue for an update, don’t you think? One in nine new mothers suffers from some form of post-partum depression, hearing their bodies referred to with such demeaning phrases as ‘poor maternal effort’ or your ‘failure to progress’ would be heart-wrenching.
Language and medical terminology are updated all the time. There is really no reason to continue using these words that make women feel awful about themselves when they are at their most vulnerable. Except for good old-fashioned misogyny, of course.
Peanut, a social media platform for women throughout all stages of motherhood, has announced that they are determined to make a difference when it comes to maternal health language.
“We’ve had enough. We’re calling out the outdated terminology women experience throughout fertility and motherhood,” a statement on their website reads.
“It was clear to us that something needed to change. So today, we’re announcing the launch of the #RenamingRevolution Glossary. With help from linguists and medical professionals, this glossary aims to redefine the negatively-charged terms that are too often used during the most sensitive and vulnerable times in women’s lives.”
As part of their “Renaming Revolution,” Peanut’s glossary of outdated terms has been replaced with suggested revisions. The glossary was created with expert panelists ranging from linguists and family therapists to ob-gyns, and according to one of its contributors, Dr. Somi Javaid, it includes “terms that serve the same purpose while empowering women rather than shaming them.”
Here is a sample of some of the terms due for an update along with their suggested revisions.
Hostile uterus Uterine lining implantation struggles (ULIS)
When cervical mucus makes the movement of sperm challenging.
Infertile Reproductive struggles
Struggles to conceive after 12 months of unprotected intercourse.
Inhospitable womb Uterine lining challenges
When uterine conditions make it difficult to become or stay pregnant.
Lazy ovary / premature ovarian failure Early ovarian decrease
When ovaries stop functioning sooner than expected.
Viability scan Pregnancy scan at 6-10 weeks
Determines if embryos are present and if the pregnancy is progressing.
Evacuation of retained products of conception Compassionate removal
Removal of the pregnancy tissue from the womb.
Failed pregnancy Pregnancy that will not carry to term
A pregnancy that will not carry through to term.
Habitual abortion Recurrent miscarriage
Three or more consecutive pregnancy losses before 20 weeks gestation.
Medical termination Compassionate induction
Ending the pregnancy by taking medicine.
Missed miscarriage / silent miscarriage Miscarriage without symptoms
When the embryo has died but hasn’t been released yet.
Spontaneous abortion Pregnancy loss
Loss of pregnancy naturally before 20 weeks.
Geriatric pregnancy 35+ pregnancy
Pregnancy at the age of 35 years or older.
Incompatible with life Life-limiting diagnosis
When an unborn child is diagnosed with life-limiting conditions.
Incompetent cervix Early cervical dilation
When the cervix shortens and opens early without any other symptoms of labor.
Lazy uterus Uterine atony challenges
When the uterus does not contract back on its own after pregnancy.
Uneventful pregnancy Smooth pregnancy
When the second half of pregnancy is without medical complications or challenges.
Birth defect Birth difference
A physical or biochemical difference present at birth.
Failure to progress Slowed labor
When labor slows and delays the delivery of the baby.
Natural birth Vaginal or surgical birth
When a baby is born vaginally or via cesarean birth.
Poor maternal effort Pushing challenges
When maternal exhaustion or labor fatigue interferes with fetal descent.
Unfavorable cervix Non-dilated cervix
A cervix that is not prepared for vaginal delivery.
Birth mother Birther
A person who carried the child but is not their mother figure.
Failure to thrive Slow to grow
When a baby is under a certain growth percentile.
Insufficient milk supply Low-milk supply
Lower milk production when breastfeeding.
Stay-at-home mum Full-time childcarer
A mother who cares for their children full-time.
“We hope our glossary will serve as an important resource for anyone who speaks to women about their maternal experiences moving forwards, and be a part of creating a stigma-free future.”