Gender inclusive language in midwifery and perinatal services: A guide and argument for justice

Sally Pezaro*, John Pendleton, Rodante van der Waal, Sarah Lachance Adams , Mario Santos, Krishna Istha, Ash Bainbridge, Zan Maeder, John Gilmore, Janine Webster, Bunty Lai-Boyd, Anne Marie Brennan, Elizabeth Newnham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


Effective communication in relation to pregnancy and birth is crucial to quality care. A recent focus in reproductive healthcare on “sexed language” reflects an ideology of unchangeable sex-binary and fear of erasure, from both cisgender women and the profession of midwifery. In this paper, we highlight how privileging sexed language causes harm to all who birth—including pregnant trans, gender diverse, and non-binary people—and is therefore unethical and incompatible with the principles of midwifery. We show how this argument, which conflates midwifery with essentialist thinking, is unstable, and perpetuates and misappropriates midwifery’s marginalized status. We also explore how sex and gender essentialism can be understood as colonialist, heteropatriarchal, and universalist, and therefore reinforcing of these harmful principles. Midwifery has both the opportunity and duty to uphold reproductive justice. Midwifery can be a leader in the decolonization of childbirth and in defending the rights of all childbearing people, the majority of whom are cisgender women. As the systemwide use of inclusive language is central to this commitment, we offer guidance in relation to how inclusive language in perinatal and midwifery services may be realised.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
Early online date1 Jun 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Jun 2024

Data Access Statement

Data sharing not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analysed during the current study.


  • Gender
  • Inclusive
  • Midwifery
  • Justice
  • Language


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