New glossary updates 'outdated' terms like 'stay-at-home mom,' 'biological clock' and 'barren'

Erin Donnelly
·8 min read
"Barren woman," "biological clock" and "incompetent cervix" are among the terms being targeted in the "Renaming Revolution." (Photo: Courtesy of Peanut)
"Barren woman," "biological clock" and "incompetent cervix" are among the terms being targeted in the "Renaming Revolution." (Photo: Courtesy of Peanut)

UPDATE 4/13/2021: On Tuesday, Peanut revealed which terms it is revamping in its "Renaming Revolution" glossary, which features sections on fertility, loss, pregnancy, birth and motherhood. The glossary will be distributed to clinics and doctors in hopes of encouraging the use of more sensitive, modernized language. 

"Infertile" and "barren" have been replaced with "reproductive struggles," while "biological clock" is now referred to as "family planning." Among the terms dealing with miscarriage is "early pregnancy loss" to replace "chemical pregnancy," "early stillbirth" as an alternative to "late miscarriage," "miscarried multiple" rather than "vanishing twin" and "pregnancy loss" instead of "spontaneous abortion."

The pregnancy section features updates including "pregnancy nausea" instead of "morning sickness" and "smooth pregnancy" rather than "uneventful pregnancy." Both "advanced maternal age" and "geriatric" — the term which started it all — have been swapped out with the more technical "35+" in reference to a woman's age.

The "Renaming Revolution" also calls for "birth plans" to be reframed as "birth preferences," and "birth defects" as "birth differences." "Natural birth" has been updated with "vaginal birth" or "surgical birth."

In the motherhood section, "full-time childcarer" has been suggested as an alternative to the term "stay-at-home mom" or "full-time mom," while "birth mother" has been replaced with "birther." Other entries include "fed is best" (in lieu of "breast is best"), "slow to grow" (replacing "failure to thrive") and "non-breast feeding" (instead of "artificial feeding").

"Terms like 'inhospitable womb,' 'geriatric pregnancy,' 'spontaneous abortion' or 'advanced maternal age' have traditionally been used to designate a woman's reproductive standing. However, this terminology is outdated," Dr. Somi Javaid, an ob-gyn who helped create the glossary, said in a press statement. "The goal with medical terminology should be to educate women and to shift away from blame or hurtful labels. This new glossary will include terms that serve the same purpose while empowering women rather than shaming them."

Chrissy Teigen is joining forces with Peanut to call out problematic terms regarding reproduction. (Photo: Courtesy of Peanut)
Chrissy Teigen is joining forces with Peanut to call out problematic terms regarding reproduction. (Photo: Courtesy of Peanut)

A Long Island woman's frustrated post about being labeled "geriatric" by her doctor as she shared her plans to conceive a second child at age 38 has sparked a new effort to "reclaim the terminology used around trying to conceive, pregnancy and motherhood" — with Chrissy Teigen helping to lead the charge against offensive and outdated terms.

The cookbook author has teamed up with Peanut, an app and community for moms and women trying to conceive, to launch "The Renaming Revolution," a new glossary created with input from leading linguists and medical professionals that will, per a press statement, "reflect modern motherhood and create a culture that values and empowers women." The glossary will replace loaded terms — including "geriatric pregnancy," "incompetent cervix" and "inhospitable womb" — with more empowering alternatives that give women more agency, and less shame.

Related: Chrissy Teigen wants to help others struggling with infertility

The campaign comes after longtime Peanut user Tricia Bowden of Long Island, N.Y., took to the social networking app to vent about her doctor's reaction to her reproduction plans. "Feeling sh***y," an emotional Bowden titled her video post on Peanut, in which she shared how his labeling her a "geriatric mom" subject to high-risk complications made her feel "really inadequate and guilty ... that I'm lacking as a woman because I decided to pursue the things I love and build my career" before starting a family.

Bowden, who has a 4-year-old son and is trying to conceive after having a miscarriage at the start of the pandemic last year, tells Yahoo Life that she was "taken aback" by her doctor's comments, which left her feeling discouraged about the prospect of having another baby.

"These terms are unthoughtful and do much more harm than many of us think," Bowden tells Yahoo Life. "For me, it goes back to the discouragement women have faced historically and the impact it has had on us. I believe that you are the words you speak and think. The more we hear other people use these terms when speaking about ourselves the more we think it, even if subconsciously ... these words become part of us and how we define ourselves and interpret the world around us. When these words are outdated and have negative connotations it brings us down."

Bowden's post resonated with Teigen, herself a Peanut user who experienced pregnancy loss last September. After commenting, "This word is so lame to me, I hate it. Can we change the language here please!!" Teigen shared the video on Twitter, helping it go viral and fueling a debate about "offensive" language surrounding reproduction.

"This poor woman," Teigen, who has since left Twitter, posted on March 14. "Why are terms like ‘geriatric mom’ still being used in 2021? There is so much language that is not only offensive, but undermines women! @peanut what can we do to help?"

The 35-year-old star is now using her platform to amplify the "Renaming Revolution."

“A huge reason I have spoken about my personal experiences publicly was the immense need to destigmatize the way we talk about all stages of motherhood,” Teigen, who has spoken candidly about losing son Jack just 20 weeks into her pregnancy, says in a press release. “When I saw the woman sharing her own story on Peanut, it made me realize so many women everywhere are made to feel shame or undermined, just like I did, and that has got to stop. I’m so hopeful with this new project we are working on and I can’t wait to see real change come from it.”

Adds Michelle Kennedy, founder and CEO of Peanut: "Troubling terms used to describe fertility and motherhood have been a recurring theme in conversations women have on Peanut. This is in part due to the safe and trusted environment we’ve created where women feel like they can share exactly what is on their minds, and as a result, band together in sharing their experiences and supporting one another.

"Tricia’s video about the term 'geriatric pregnancy' going viral with the help of Chrissy Teigen only reaffirmed that these terms have harmful, widespread effects," Kennedy tells Yahoo Life. "Their associated stigmas leave lasting negative impressions on women, and we knew we had to do something about it, which is why we’ve gathered the brightest minds — from OB/GYNs to psychologists — to shift the discussion to a more positive and supportive space for all women. I can’t wait to see what our women think of the new glossary we’re creating, and better yet, see the terms used in practice. Changing how we talk to and about women will help us build a brighter future."

Author and language scholar Amanda Montell, psychologist and author Jessica Zucker, marriage and family therapist Viviana Coles and OB/GYN and founder of HerMD Dr. Somi Javaid are contributing to the new glossary, which will zero in on terms including "barren woman" and "biological clock." Peanut users are also invited to call out other terms they would like to see reformed. Once complete, the "Renaming Revolution" glossary will be released as a free guide and distributed to clinics and doctors in the months ahead.

Bowden tells Yahoo Life that she didn't complain to her doctor about his use of "geriatric" — and hopes that now she won't have to.

"I think Chrissy sharing my post and Peanut kicking off a campaign to change these terms has done and will do a lot more to create change than a formal complaint would have," she says.

Dr. Sherry A. Ross, a women's health expert and author who co-hosts the Lady Parts podcast and co-founded the URJA Intimates line of skincare products for the vulva and vagina, tells Yahoo Life that, as a medical professional, it's possible to communicate the challenges associated with conceiving at an "advanced maternal age" without leaning on a "disparaging" term like "geriatric," which is used to describe women over the age of 35. That's especially true as the average age of a first-time mother in the U.S. climbs to 26, with myriad factors — and currently, a global pandemic — putting family planning on pause.

"Personally, I don’t use and discourage using the term 'geriatric pregnancy' since it has such a negative connotation and emphasis on age," Ross says. "Women need to legitimately delay getting pregnant due to their careers, finances or waiting to find the right partner. I support these reasons to put pregnancy on hold and don’t want women to feel badly for choosing to wait until after [they turn 35]. It’s true there are additional risks to the mom and baby, but they are closely controlled and managed complications."

This article has been updated to include the new terms included in the "Renaming Revolution" glossary.

Read more from Yahoo Life:

Want lifestyle and wellness news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Life’s newsletter.