Gender neutral terms such as ‘birth giver’ may endanger women’s health say researchers 

New research has found that gender-neutral terms, including ‘chest feeding’ and ‘birth giver’ may be sexist and could cause ‘insidious discrimination against women’. 

Leading medical researchers said that introducing terms such as “birth-givers” is “rapid and extreme” and runs the risk of dehumanising women. 

In a paper published at the end of January, they claimed that changing language with the goal of being more inclusive of transgender people can end up having “unintended consequences that have serious implications”. 

The research comes as NHS Trusts, health trusts, academics and government departments have all received criticism for introducing gender neutral terms including “chest feeding” as opposed to breastfeeding, and “birth-givers” as a substitute for mothers. 

The authors of the paper warn that the normalisation of such terminology could jeopardise decades of work to improve gender bias in medicine which research has found is putting women’s health at risk.

The paper states: “Desexing the language of female reproduction has been done with a view to being sensitive to individual needs and beneficial, kind and inclusive.

“Yet, this kindness has delivered unintended consequences that have serious implications for women and children.”

The consequences of gender neutral language could include “decreasing overall inclusivity” and “dehumanising” women, according to the leading women’s health researchers, from institutions including King’s College London and Harvard.

Describing pregnant women as “‘gestational carrier’ or ‘birther’ marginalises their humanity” and reverts back to “sexist” ideas of women as failed men, they note.

It also “works against the plain language principle of health communication and risks reducing inclusivity for vulnerable groups by making communications more difficult to understand” they assert.Researchers maintain that the terminology can also be confusing, adding: “What does the phrase ‘women and birthing people’ actually mean? This construction could be interpreted in a literal way as meaning that ‘women’ are not people.”

One of the ten authors on the paper, professor Jenny Gamble, said that gender identity should not be confused with biological sex as it could lead to “health consequences and deeper and more insidious discrimination against women”. Prof Gamble, a midwifery professor at the Centre for Care Excellence at Coventry University, speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, said that the trend to erase the word ‘women’ had begun to seep the world, adding that “the way the UK has moved to erase the use of sexed language has been rapid and extreme”

The midwifery professor at the Centre for Care Excellence at Coventry University told the Sydney Morning Herald that the trend to erase the word women had started to sweep the world and “the way the UK has moved to erase the use of sexed language has been rapid and extreme”.

In their bid to make society more seemingly ‘inclusive’ to transgender people, trans activists have persistently called for the removal of any form of gendered language from public life.


Researchers argue that pregnant women and new mothers “have unique vulnerabilities and also require protection”. The authors note that women are the ones disproportionately impacted by “desexing language” which, in relation to males, “occurs less frequently”. 

Whilst focusing on childbirth and motherhood, the authors note that the issues are “relevant to other situations where sex is central, including: domestic violence, sexual assault, sex-selective abortion and infanticide, female genital mutilation, and reproductive cancers and other sex-specific conditions”.

A recent investigation by The Telegraph revealed that LGBT charity, Stonewall had been advising employers that they must remove all gendered language from their policies and to substitute terms such as mother with “parent who had given birth”. 

Last year, in a move which provoked contention, Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust became the first in England to formally implement a gender inclusive language policy for its maternity services department. Now, rather than being known as maternity services, the department is now called “perinatal services”. A list of alternative trans-inclusive terms were also given to staff, to the incredulity of some, including “birthing parents”, “chest feeding”, “parental” and “human milk”.

In conclusion, the authors of the article state that: “In the midst of the current move to desex language, we argue that if women and mothers are not named, it makes it more difficult to effectively advocate for them; ‘women’ disappear into ‘people’ and ‘mothers’ disappear into ‘parents.’ This inevitably changes the focus.”

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