Blog of Bloodworks Northwest

Making birth more equitable: Gender-neutral cord blood language

Rozi Romanesco

In the United States, birth has been historically very gendered. The classic pink and blue have been standard since baby boomers were babies themselves; likewise, Mom and Dad are often seen as the clear-cut parenting roles.

But gender has nothing to do with reproductive organs. Transgender and non-binary individuals exist in a society that still associates gender with genitals, and nowhere is this more apparent than how we treat pregnancy and childbirth.

As a transgender person with a functioning uterus, I have struggled with visibility in the obstetric space. If my spouse and I have a baby together, how often would I be misgendered? Could my beard and belly both be accepted as part of my parental journey? Will doctors and nurses treat me differently – or worse, ignore me for fear of saying the wrong thing?

I am also an employee of Bloodworks Northwest, and a proud supporter of the Cord Blood Donation Program we offer for families in the Seattle area.

Bloodworks recognizes that not all people who give birth are women; however, the language on our Cord Blood website and other educational materials did not reflect this. The act of bringing a child into the world is an especially vulnerable time, with extensive physical, hormonal, and lifestyle changes, so we wanted to make sure that all parents felt seen, supported, and safe.

I partnered with a member of our marketing team, and we started with an audit of our webpages, flyers and brochures, social media, and other ways we reach the community to identify what needed to change.

To help with this, we also recruited a volunteer with a transgender son who was looking for a tangible way to make our culture safer for her kid.

We looked at outside resources for gender-neutral language around birth to make sure that we were using accepted terminology.

We avoided anything that felt awkward or forced. Bloodworks is a non-political organization that serves all patients in our community and makes decisions based on medical science and what’s best for patient care. However, we recognize that controversy, valid or not, might put our mission at risk.

We centered on the family, because, when it comes down to it, cord blood donation is a family decision, no matter what your family looks like.

Because cord blood donation is heavily regulated to ensure the best possible care for stem cell transplant patients, we couldn’t update everything we wanted to. There are countless Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that use industry-accepted language, such as “maternal sample.” To change these without extensive review could jeopardize our ability to save lives. But that’s something to look forward to.

March 28, 2023 4:39PM

Tell Us What You Think!