Is Clinicalisaton on the Rise?

“I hereby agree to the excavation of contents.” Now, please sign here.
Although it sounds rather like a building site, its actually clinical term for a curette or D&C. Otherwise known as the scraping away of the womb lining after an ‘incomplete miscarriage’. To have one done, you need to sign the form to agree to have your contents ‘excavated’.
It’s D-Day, Louise and her husband have been waiting for their ‘excavation’ for eight hours. The form had been signed approving the surgery. That was a seven in the morning. She’s known about her dead baby for a week. She’s carried it around, talked to it, grieved, and then ordered it to leave. But that baby wouldn’t let go.
And long after the surgery, the term ‘excavation of contents’ wouldn’t let her go. She couldn’t get it out of her mind. Because those contents were a baby. Her baby; who didn’t make it.
 
 
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As a reproductive psychotherapist and counselor and I am struck as women and their partners endure dehumanising experience after dehumanising experience, just like this one. During research for this subject I recently composed a quick call out on social media. Have any women been labeled with a medical term for something they were enduring (pre pregnancy, during or after)? How did it make them feel? Within thirty minutes I had sixty-seven responses. After twenty-four hours there were hundreds. The tone of the responses went from smarting, to sarcastic, to down right enraged. Some of these women referred to their experience years (and in two cases decades) earlier.
Here are some of the terms the women came back with:

  • Unviable or non-viable pregnancy: – when there is no heartbeat.
  • Geriatric Mother: a pregnant woman over thirty five years of age
  • Incompetent cervix: if a pregnant woman’s cervix begins to dilate and thin before she has reached full term
  • Operation Kangaroo: a slang term to remove the joey from the pouch. In other words implement a dilation & curettage
  • Boggy Uterus: a uterus than is more ‘flaccid’ than it ‘should’ be.
  • Blighted Ovum: when a fertilised egg attaches itself to the uterine wall, but the embryo does not develop despite pregnancy symptoms
  • Incompatible with Life: Term given when a baby’s condition is unlikely to survive after birth
  • Poor maternal effort: a term used when a woman needs assistance during labour
  • A Lazy Uterus: a uterus that isn’t contracting ‘correctly’ during birth
  • Hostile Womb or Uterus: when the cervical mucus has incorrect PH for conception.
  • Naughty Breathing: a colloquial term for a newborn baby who is having trouble breathing unassisted. ’
  • An uncoordinated uterus or Uterine inertia: when a birth process is prolonged or contractions double peak
  • Naughty Breathing: a colloquial term for a newborn baby who is having trouble breathing unassisted.
  • Non Milker: term given for women who have trouble breast feeding (and yes this was put on one woman’s bed head after a long and arduous labour which left mum and baby exhausted)

 
When a person who has been a victim of sexual assault, shares their story and it is not believed, they can suffer a secondary trauma. To my clients who come in with such grief response, I use Secondary Trauma as a way to explain to their experience. Because like Louise, they too were once in the most vulnerable situations they could find themselves in; often in shock and struggling to digest the experience. The impact of hearing labels such as these can be nothing short of brutal. Of course these clinical terms are short cuts and serve a purpose for time poor medical teams. But surely it is not too much to ask a clinician to exercise mindfulness and compassion when and how they use such terminology. Because at the end of the day, there is an intelligent, feeling and often hurting or vulnerable person at the receiving end. And that person shouldn’t have to walk away from her experience more scarred than necessary.
More articles from Kimberley:
Burn Out, Baby, Burn
Pregnancy to Parenthood
 

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