Gender Neutral Language Like ‘birthing Parent’ And ‘chestfeeding’ Now Being Used At UK Hospital

A U.K. hospital has taken a big step toward greater inclusivity by publishing guidelines around gender-neutral language for its maternity unit, with chief nurse Carolyn Morrice saying the goal of the move is to “treat everyone who uses our services as an individual.”

The guidelines for staff at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust included suggested new terms, such as “chestfeeding” alongside breastfeeding and “human milk” alongside breast milk.

The Brighton and Sussex Maternity Twitter page shared the news about the new guidelines, adding in a reply to its tweet that the approach “has been carefully considered to be inclusive of trans & non-binary birthing people without excluding the language of women or motherhood. ”

The trust is the first in the U.K. to issue such guidelines, which will be used alongside — not instead of — traditional terms to make places like Brighton’s Royal Sussex County Hospital more inclusive of trans and non-binary service users.

The department in Brighton has also been renamed “perinatal services.” It serves one of the highest proportions of openly LGBTQ+ people in the country.

“We know the vast majority of our midwifery service users are women and we are not changing the language we know they are comfortable with. For example, we will continue to call them pregnant women and talk about breastfeeding,” Morrice said in a statement. “What we are doing is adding to the language we use to make it as inclusive as possible and to ensure that people who may identify in a different way feel our services are accessible. Adding to the language we use is something people who use our services have been asking for, for some time.”

The trust’s policy document puts the guidelines into context and gives examples of language that people might use for their own anatomy, such as the term “front hole” instead of “vagina.”

Other suggested terms include “maternal and parental” or “maternal/parental” in place of “maternal,” “mothers and birthing parents”  in place of “mothers,” and “woman or person” in place of “woman.”

One of the authors of the new policy, non-binary midwife Helen Green, said on Twitter that the new standards were “developed from grassroots research and lived experiences in the trans and non-binary community.”

“I am looking forward to a time when this standard of inclusive care is in fact business as usual for the whole of the NHS,” Amanda Clifton, the head of midwifery, said in the statement. “That being said, improvement has to start somewhere, and I am particularly proud of all the hard work our service has put into this award-winning work.”