Improvement in Medical Language – Obstetrics

Nurse in a hospital taking notes talking to pregnant person

Improving Medical Language/Suggestions/Messages 

Although pregnancy and childbirth are not illnesses, pregnant women/people typically encounter many medical procedures, tests, and interactions with medical personnel as well as other birth professionals such as childbirth educators and doulas. The language used by those who work with expectant couples can be extremely positive and encouraging, or it can be inadvertently detrimental to a healthy and confident pregnancy and birth. Whether the woman/person is at a prenatal appointment or already in their birthing, they are affected greatly by those chosen to care for them and is highly suggestible to the messages they provide. This is especially true when medical procedures are being performed and/or the person is in pain. Medical care providers can and should alter their language during tests and procedures to present the best possible expectation and therefore outcome for the pregnant mother/person. The body can and does manifest effects instantaneously from the suggestion of positive…or negative messages, and all birth care workers can be more responsible in the use of their language.

Below is important information from the article, Holistic Language for Nurses: The Power of Suggestion
by Ron Eslinger, RN, CRNA, MA, APN, BCH

A person in pain, fear or panic is considered to be in an “altered state of consciousness.” At such times, healing suggestions can be spoken to the body and accepted as truth by the brain/mind.

Words affect the following functions:

Pain Bowel motility
Heart Rate Smooth muscle tension
Contractions Sweating
Blood pressure Allergic responses
Bleeding Asthma
Inflammatory response Immune response
Itching Allergic responses
Respiration Much more

Negative or toxic language is language or words that create affirmations, evoke emotional and/or physical responses, or alter perceptions in a negative manner.

Examples of Toxic Medical Language:
•   “This may burn…”
•   “You may feel an electric shock down your spine.”
•   “It’s really noisy in the operating room.”
•   “This will feel like a bee sting.”
•   “That equipment is broken again?!”
•   “Is your pain really bad?”
•   “Do you feel like vomiting?”
•   “We’re going to put you to sleep.”

Words can paint mental pictures, change behaviors, and alter symptoms or sensations. This phenomenon can be demonstrated by thinking about eating a lemon. Try it. Think about eating a lemon, smelling it, biting into it and remember what a lemon tastes like. You may have made a face, experienced salivation or even jaw pain. The subconscious mind does not think or reason, it only responds to thoughts created by the words we speak and hear.

Words used are important in helping patients deal with fears and built-in anxieties about treatments, findings, cost, inconvenience, loss of control, major life events, threat of loss or disfigurement and alien environments. Have you or a family member experienced a situation where the words used by a health care provider caused a change in your feelings, good or bad?

Suggestions should be positive and affirming, clear and specific, firm, believable, rich in imagery, and beneficial. Suggestions should avoid anger or blame. In other words, avoid saying, “Boy, you really broke yourself up,” or “How could you do something so stupid?” Also avoid any negative words like “pain” and “hurt.”

Some suggestions that can be edited for any situation or procedure:

Avoid Saying Instead, Say
“This isn’t going to hurt.” “You might feel a slightly cool pressure as the bandage is applied.”
“Don’t give up.” “Focus all your energy on healing.”
“Don’t be afraid.” “We are well trained in how to take care of you.”
“A little bee sting.” (There is no such thing as little bee sting.) “Some people feel this; some people don’t.”
“Looks like that must hurt a lot.” “Let me know where you feel any discomfort.”
“Do you feel like vomiting?” “You may have a warm hungry feeling in your stomach.”
“We’re going to put you to sleep.” “I am giving you some medication that will let you gently go to sleep.”
“Don’t worry, you won’t wake up!” “I will be with you the entire time to make sure you stay asleep during your surgery.”
“Are you feeling better?” “You look/sound like you are feeling better
“See if this Nitroglycerin tablet will help.” “Take this. It will make you feel more comfortable”
“Has the oxygen helped your breathing?” “The oxygen has really helped your breathing. You are looking better already.”

 All of the suggestions above become “waking suggestions” and can create instant effects for the person hearing them, but the ones on the right create a much more positive effect. We need to remember this when working with or speaking with expectant parents so that they can maintain the healthiest attitudes and beliefs for their baby’s upcoming birth. READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE.