Just ask: Inclusive language tool for midwives

Two Queer midwives have co-designed an inclusive birthing language poster for midwives and birth workers to help provide respectful care for all families.

“When midwives use inclusive language, they make their families feel respected and comfortable and build trust more easily.

“This approach allows for open and honest communication, which is crucial during the emotional and intimate process of childbirth,” says Queer midwife Katrina Molloy.

Gender inclusive birthing language makes LGBTQ+ parents more comfortable during the birth process by affirming their identities and avoiding assumptions based on traditional gender norms. It allows them to be recognised and acknowledged for who they are, which contributes to their emotional wellbeing during birth.

The project is a collaboration between Midwives Connecting Community and LGBTQ+ charity Rainbow Families who have pledged to send a free inclusive birthing language kit to all birth workers and midwives in Australia, to include in their workspaces.

Posters already line the walls in clinic waiting rooms from Nhulunbuy in East Arnhem Land to Westmead in Sydney.

The kit explains language preferences and pronouns, as well as comfortable ways to engage with LGBTQ+ parents who have different sexualities, gender and make up.

Queer midwives Nerida Grant and Katrina Molloy co-designed the inclusive language poster which has been informed by LGBTQ+ parents they have supported, and who have expressed the need for a more inclusive approach in their healthcare.

The goal is to promote a more inclusive environment within the realm of midwifery and birth work, to ensure that non-traditional families feel at ease and accepted throughout the birth process.

“We understand that many birth workers genuinely strive to be inclusive of diverse families. So, our poster aims to equip them with the right language to authentically support these families and boost their confidence in asking important questions.

“Collectively, we can create a more welcoming and supportive environment for parents,” says Katrina.

Both midwives understand the challenges many diverse families face and are on a mission to make things a little easier for prospective parents and workers, alike. After years of nursing, Nerida and Katrina met while both embarked on midwifery studies in 2018.

“In 2018, as a queer woman in a relationship I wasn’t represented in the language – there were dads and partners, the language was heteronormative. I didn’t feel seen. I found out that other people also experienced this. It became a real privilege to talk about it with others who shared similar stories,” says Katrina.

Their experiences, along with a supportive course coordinator who was very receptive to the project for inclusive language and creating a safe space for LGBTQ+ families and to foster change, led to the project.

“Language is malleable and is always changing. We all operate within our own bias. People don’t mean to do harm, people often want to find the right language,” says Katrina who previously worked as a primary care and sexual health nurse in King’s Cross, Sydney providing free and anonymous care to people experiencing barriers to accessing healthcare.

“From own personal experience and coming from people who are solo parents and identify as Queer, there are all sorts of gaps in language and knowledge which is not the intention.

“The poster is designed to bridge the gap and help to provide safe care to the people we look after,” says Nerida, who is a midwife at Royal Women’s Sydney and Substance Use and Pregnancy and Parenting Service (SUPPs) in the Illawarra region.

By actively promoting and encouraging the use of inclusive language, workers create a warm and welcoming space for all parents, regardless of how they identify or what their family structure might look like.

“There are still assumptions out there but the reality is there are many different family makeups. The message is to ask someone and see the woman and family that is/are in front of you,” says Nerida.

The resource is an important step towards ensuring the support of LGBTQ+ families in their pregnancy and birth care journey, she says.

Inclusive birthing presentation

“Our inclusive language poster is not only educational but a powerful symbol, assuring community members that the services they choose embrace inclusivity and provide a safe, judgement-free space.

“We want to ensure an atmosphere of respect and understanding, so every family can feel valued and cared for throughout this deeply personal experience.”

Inclusive language within the context of midwifery and birth work not only benefits families but also has a positive impact on midwives.

The poster was presented and well received at the Australian College of Midwives’ conference in Adelaide in September 2023 and also at the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) conference in Sydney in August 2023.

“It’s a teaching tool making its way across the country,” says Nerida.

Register here for your free inclusive language kit

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