Midwives have been told to say “chestfeeding” instead of “breastfeeding” and to replace the term “mother” with “mother or birthing parent” as part of moves to be more trans-friendly.
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust is the first in the country to formally implement a gender inclusive language policy for its maternity services department, which will now be known as “perinatal services”.
Staff have been instructed that “breastmilk” should be replaced with the phrases “human milk”, “breast/chestmilk” or “milk from the feeding mother or parent”.
Other changes include replacing the use of “woman” with “woman or person” and “father” with “parent”, “co-parent” or “second biological parent”, depending on the circumstances.
A policy document released this week states that staff should not stop using the word “woman” or other terms describing motherhood but they should consciously start adding in the word “people” and other more inclusive language.
It says: “Gender identity can be a source of oppression and health inequality. We are consciously using the words ‘women’ and ‘people’ together to make it clear that we are committed to working on addressing health inequalities for all those who use our services.
“As midwives and birth workers, we focus on improving access and health outcomes for marginalised and disadvantaged groups. Women are frequently disadvantaged in healthcare, as are trans and non-binary people … By continuing to use the term ‘woman’ we commit to working on addressing health inequalities for all who use our services.
“We also recognise that there is currently biological essentialism and transphobia present within elements of mainstream birth narratives and discourse. We strive to protect our trans and non-binary service users and healthcare professionals from additional persecution as a consequence of terminology changes, recognising the significant impact this can have on psychological and emotional wellbeing.
“Acknowledging the cultural context in which service development occurs is vital in making trans and non-binary lives safer.”
In a statement released on Twitter, the Sussex maternity department said: “We want everybody who uses our services to see themselves reflected in the language that we use. This means not only pregnant women, but also pregnant trans, non-binary and agender people. Our chosen approach to inclusive language is additive rather than neutral.”
The language changes will be implemented in the trust’s webpages, leaflets and communications such as letters and emails. Staff will be asked to use language that reflects people’s “own identities and preferences” when talking to patients.
The move was welcomed by inclusivity campaigners.
Trans Actual said: “This is fantastic, well done. Let’s hope many more trusts follow suit. Everybody deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.”
Dr Ruth Pearce, a feminist sociologist who acted as an external reviewer on the language policy, tweeted: “This is absolutely groundbreaking work on trans inclusion in perinatal services from the BSUH Maternity Gender Inclusion Midwives team.”
The changes drew criticism on social media, with some users accusing the trust of “peak misogyny” and “eradicating women”. Others questioned the use of NHS resources to implement the changes.
An estimated 1 per cent of the adult population in Britain identifies as transgender or non-binary but the trans population in Brighton and Hove is thought to be larger.
Although no official figures exist on the trans community, research has shown nearly 10 per cent of the population of Brighton and Hove identify as LGBTQ+, compared with about 2.2 per cent of the general population.