Should we be changing the terminology we use to describe baby loss?
I read this article in The Guardian today:
I have just discovered Katy Lindemann. She is a woman who has unfortunately been through a tough fertility journey. She’s been through the whole lot – pregnancy loss, IVF and is now facing her next challenge infertility. She has a blog at Über Barrens Club where she tells an important story of people who have not been able to have a ‘take home baby’ of their own. She aims to share a story of hope to show that things can still be okay. I understand she is due to publish a book… I wait with bated breath.
Today she has an article published in The Guardian, one of our national newspapers.
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This week for #babylossawarenessweek I wrote a piece for the Guardian about the language of miscarriage, and the need for a more empathetic vocabulary that respects and validates loss. I know that this issue will touch so, so many of you, and I wish it didn’t. But if it does, I hope that it strikes a chord. ▪️ Huge thank you to @drlarisacorda , @tommys_thebabycharity, @miscarriageassociation, @julia_bueno_therapist and @mrandmrs_not_quite_pregnant for their fantastic contributions in helping me write this piece. 700 words was not enough, but I thank you from the bottom of my heart (link in bio) ▪️ #breakthesilence #babylossawarenessweek #miscarriage #missedmiscarriage #miscarriage #pregnancyloss #babyloss #ihadamiscarriage #babylossawareness #miscarriagesupport #breakthesilence #breakthetaboo #iam1in4 #IfeelBarren #uberbarrensclub #reclaimingbarren #togetherforchange #BLAW18
Katy’s article focuses on the words and terminology used around pregnancy loss. How one day you have a ‘baby’ with a strong heartbeat, and then the next you are having a discussion about the ‘products of conception’. What ever happened to the little baby? She touches on the fact that the very word miscarriage implies fault of the woman, rather than describe the grief of a family. There are other terms that can also cause upset – evacuation, blighted ovum, incompetent cervix… All of these fail to connect to the emotional struggle that a woman or couple are going through.
The article also seeks the expert opinion of Dr Larisa Corda who states that “part of improving the care we deliver involves us improving our vocabulary”.
This got me reflecting on my own practice. I must admit that I have used these terms before, after all it’s what I learned in Medical School and they are specific, succinct terms that my medical colleagues also understand. However, it is one thing using these terms with colleagues, but then to use them when discussing with a grieving parent is a different thing all together.
I often wonder what words should we be using instead? I am unsure… But I certainly think we really need to change the script; modernise it. I think we can be more empathetic to families going through baby loss, no matter what stage, and adapt our language to suit the individual situation. I definitely think we can avoid overtly clinical terms which are archaic and soulless.
It won’t be easy to change centuries of medical dialogue, particularly if it is in an area that is rarely spoken about. Therefore (as seems to be my rhetoric at the moment) the key is to talk more about this subject. The more we discuss baby loss, the easier it will be to find alternative terms that are more suitable to both families and clinicians in today’s world.
Let’s keep talking!