100s of titles, one news app for just $10 a month.
Dive Deeper:
The language of maternity is alive and well – so why not expand it to include trans parents?
The use of gender-inclusive language around childbirth is purely about respect, says Guardian columnist Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett
This Mother's Day, help new moms return to exercise and leisure to support their physical and mental health
There are thoughtful and meaningful things to do to celebrate new mothers on Mother’s Day.
If God is neither male nor female, should we change God's pronouns?
The Christian establishment remains divided on the issue of using gendered pronouns to refer to God. But some say it's…
This Mother’s Day, I’m choosing my friends instead
Trying to avoid Mother’s Day is like trying to avoid air. I was desperate to find a way to coexist…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Give the gift of sleep to moms with babies this Mother's Day
Many possibilities for gifts come to mind to acknowledge Mother’s Day for new mothers — family and friends think about…
Don't give mum chocolates for Mother's Day. Take on more housework, share the mental load and advocate for equality instead
With Mother’s Day right around the corner, many grateful and loving families are thinking about what to give mum to…
Get all your news in one place
Latest Lifestyle news:
Five digital games to help your child’s development
Recent research has linked playing video games in childhood with an increase in intelligence. While parents and carers may be…
Read news from The Economist, FT, Bloomberg and more, with one subscription
Learn More
The North Face taps drag queen Pattie Gonia to celebrate Pride
“We're here, we’re Queer, and we’re enjoying the outdoors,” said Pattie, who will lead outdoor activies designed to build and…
In 1976, one technical innovation changed video games forever — and sparked a crisis
In this edition of Inverse Daily, read the hidden history of the video game cartridge, about dolphins' skincare routine, and…
Mystery surrounds Prince Harry’s memoir as celebrations ramp up for Platinum Jubilee
Mystery surrounds the publication date of Prince Harry's highly anticipated memoir, with some ‘uncertainty’ as to whether it will be…
QAnon cultists and antivaxxers already crammed monkeypox into conspiracies
It's all part of the plan. Obviously.
From analysis to good news, read the world’s best news in one place
The cluttercore TikTok trend has a surprising connection to Victorian England
Victorians liked stuff that they could put on display. Gen Z has rejected millennial minimalism in favor of neo-maximalism.
No June CA statewide ballot measures—first time since 1964
Welcome to the Monday, May 23, Brew. 

‘Inclusive’ language on maternity care risks excluding many women

By Letters
Portrait of young pregnant woman standing by the window.
‘Avoiding “women” and “mothers” can decrease inclusivity by requiring use of technical, more difficult to understand language.’ Photograph: damircudic/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett’s article emphasised the importance of respectful, individualised maternity care, including in the language used to address transgender people (The language of maternity is alive and well – so why not expand it to include trans parents, 5 May). This idea is entirely uncontroversial. What has become contentious, however, is whether terms like “women” and “mothers” should be used in a broader sense, including in health communication and policy or replaced with other words that do not reference the female sex.

It is a well-established principle of communication that the sex of individuals should be made visible when relevant and should not be made visible when not. This ensures that sex-related needs and issues are not overlooked and sex stereotyping is avoided. As I and others outline in a recent paper in Frontiers in Global Women’s Health, when discussing inherently sexed processes like pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, there are risks to desexing language.

Avoiding “women” and “mothers” can decrease inclusivity by requiring use of technical, more difficult to understand language. For example, when “women” is replaced with “people with a cervix”, this aids misunderstanding, particularly for those with low literacy or learning difficulties, or who are non-English speakers. Alternative terms for “women” that refer to reproductive body parts or processes such as “uterus havers”, “birthers” or “menstruators” are recognised as dehumanising and so to be avoided.

Communicating statistics when language is desexed is fraught, as the NHS discovered when it wrote about how “8 in 10 people” will get pregnant after having unprotected sex. When communications refer to “parents” rather than “mothers”, the uniqueness of the mother-newborn relationship can be more easily overlooked.

Far from a moral panic, there are real implications to desexing language when referring to inherently sexed processes and states. Thoughtful, careful discussion and consideration on this subject is needed.
Prof Jenny Gamble Coventry University
Dr Karleen Gribble Western Sydney University

Have an opinion on anything you’ve read in the Guardian today? Please email us your letter and it will be considered for publication.

What is inkl?
The world’s most important news, from 100+ trusted global sources, in one place.
Morning Edition
Your daily
news overview

Morning Edition ensures you start your day well informed.

No paywalls, no clickbait, no ads
Enjoy beautiful reading

Content is only half the story. The world's best news experience is free from distraction: ad-free, clickbait-free, and beautifully designed.

Expert Curation
The news you need to know

Stories are ranked by proprietary algorithms based on importance and curated by real news journalists to ensure that you receive the most important stories as they break.

Dive Deeper:
The language of maternity is alive and well – so why not expand it to include trans parents?
The use of gender-inclusive language around childbirth is purely about respect, says Guardian columnist Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett
This Mother's Day, help new moms return to exercise and leisure to support their physical and mental health
There are thoughtful and meaningful things to do to celebrate new mothers on Mother’s Day.
If God is neither male nor female, should we change God's pronouns?
The Christian establishment remains divided on the issue of using gendered pronouns to refer to God. But some say it's…
This Mother’s Day, I’m choosing my friends instead
Trying to avoid Mother’s Day is like trying to avoid air. I was desperate to find a way to coexist…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Give the gift of sleep to moms with babies this Mother's Day
Many possibilities for gifts come to mind to acknowledge Mother’s Day for new mothers — family and friends think about…
Don't give mum chocolates for Mother's Day. Take on more housework, share the mental load and advocate for equality instead
With Mother’s Day right around the corner, many grateful and loving families are thinking about what to give mum to…
Get all your news in one place