Thursday, February 4, 2010

Midwives Don’t Deliver? What's the Catch?

by Melissa Garvey, ACNM Writer and Editor

In preparation to launch the A.C.N.M. Foundation’s online quiz at, one of the biggest hurdles was choosing a name. Our review panel consisted of midwives around the country of varying ages and practice settings, A.C.N.M. Foundation Board members, and the ACNM communications team. DeliverMyBaby had that snappy ring we were looking for, but there was that word…“deliver.”

Our review team members had opinions both for and against “deliver.” Most midwives prefer saying “I will attend a woman’s birth” or “I will be there to catch a woman’s baby”—not deliver a woman’s baby. It’s a noteworthy distinction, which acknowledges that the woman does the work of birthing the baby.

Midwives have a distinct style of care, and it shows up even in their word choices. Many midwives say they have clients—not patients. Some clients end up needing a cesarean birth—not a cesarean section.

But, of course, there is a flip side when it comes to naming an online quiz. The quiz was made for expectant parents who may have never considered using a midwife as their care provider. What are they most likely to click on: attend, catch, or deliver my baby?

This reasoning is causing some traditional midwifery word preferences, such as "client" and "catch," to take a back seat to more mainstream, commonplace terms of today’s health care scene. As an ACNM communications team member, I prefer the traditional, unique words used by midwives whenever possible and appropriate. I do, however, think there is a time and a place for both “deliver” and “catch.”

What do you prefer? And what do you think about the evolution of how midwives are using these words?


amberdoula said...

I prefer "catch", but I agree that most but not all babies "fall". So I suppose there are times when some swift maneuvering is involved though I guess you can't call it "finger-hook-press-down-both-knees-up-to -chest-while-pulling-on-angled" Or Can you? "A midwife finger-hooked-pressed-both-my-knees-up-to -chest-while-she-pulled-on-angled my baby."

Anonymous said...

Someone I know uses the term "receives the baby" which I like. I understand the use of the term "deliver" in contexts such as this (but I try not to use the term myself).

It is actually pretty irksome to have all the praise and focus towards the person who just happened to be between the woman's legs, y'know? In my case, my sister was the baby-catcher when I gave birth the second time, because I didn't call the midwife in time. And my mom and everybody else just buzzed about how "L delivered Kathy's baby!" Um, excuse me? I was the one in labor with him for 24 (sporadic-contraction-filled) hours. She just happened to show up 10 minutes before he was born. If she hadn't been there, I would have caught him myself, or eased him gently out onto the floor. But *she* gets all the praise and accolades?? So like I said, "irksome." :-) Now if the mw/doc actually *does* something other than gently receive the baby, then I can understand all the praise and focus. But most of the time, that is simply not the case.


mezzaluna said...

I prefer to say that a midwife "attends the delivery." The term "catch" has always struck me as a little cutesy, or a little terrifying - the thought that the mother would drop the baby if it weren't for the midwife doing the catching.

Melissa Garvey said...

Wow, I'm a fan of "finger-hook-press-down-both-knees-up-to -chest-while-pulling-on-angled."

mezzluna, I have to admit that "catch" makes me picture a catcher's mitt.

While reading the latest Science and Sensibility post, I realized new words are creeping into the vocabulary of birth advocates, like "unnecesarean."

Ciarin said...

I sometimes feel silly using the term 'catch' but it depends on the context. But 'deliver' just ain't right. It really takes the focus away from the woman who worked so hard to labor and birth her child. It's gotta be about the woman and not the midwife. I will sometimes say "when you deliver your baby" as opposed to "when i catch your baby". This way the woman becomes the focus.

Amy Romano said...

I absolutely agree that we need to choose the language that will resonate with the key audiences, even if it is not the language we would choose for ourselves. Lamaze International recently undertook research to learn more about branding and messaging of for birth. It was no surprise to any of us that the phrase "normal birth," which Lamaze had been using extensively, did not resonate and in fact was offensive to many. We now talk about healthy and safe practices for birth.

I don't often use the term "deliver" but understand why you would use it here.