Delivering babies or birthing babies?

image-1Are babies delivered or do women birth them?

This subject has been on my mind for a while so I thought it’d be a subject to blog about.

We often hear or read birth stories and the word “delivery” is almost always in there somewhere. “I delivered my baby…”. “Midwife x/ doctor y delivered my baby”. To me, and many other doulas/ birth workers the word just doesn’t sound correct.

Copyright Michelle Bromley, snowdrop doulaSo what does the word mean and why doesn’t it feel right?

The dictionary definition of “deliver” does mention, “The act of giving birth to a child”. Although overall the definition does talk of the handing over of goods.


(Plural) -eries

  1.  the act of giving birth to a child   ⇒ she had an easy delivery
    1. the act of delivering or distributing goods, mail, etc.
    2. something that is delivered
    3. (as modifier)   ⇒ a delivery service
  2. manner or style of utterance, esp in public speaking or recitation   ⇒ the chairman had a clear delivery
  3. the act of giving or transferring or the state of being given or transferred
  4. the act of rescuing or state of being rescued; liberation
  5. (sport)an actual or symbolic handing over of property, a deed, etc
    1. the act or manner of bowling or throwing a ball
    2. the ball so delivered   ⇒ a fast delivery
  6. the discharge rate of a compressor or pump
  7. (in South Africa) the supply of basic services to communities deprived under apartheid


Delivery is associated with goods. We take a delivery of goods we have ordered from somewhere. Do we order our babies to be delivered by a third party? Like a good from eBay?

Who is this third party?

With sentences such as, “thank you to my midwife X who delivered my baby” we are constantly seeing women giving over their baby’s birth to the midwife or doctor. A third party is delivering their baby. Through this the process of birth and transformation of a woman to a mother gets somewhat lost as women constantly believe that someone else “delivered” their baby.

Is it a case of language and communication?

Language in everyday life is so important and especially important surrounding birth. As a birth worker it is essential to empower women to have responsibility of their experience and empower them however the birth turns so they feel in some control. It is proven that if a woman feels empowered and in control then she will have a positive experience of birth. If a women is believing that a midwife delivered  her baby rather than her birthing her baby herself then we let her to give over an extremely important part of her life to someone she may never meet again. She gives over the responsibility of her birth and transformation. She never owns it. As birth workers we know the importance of a mother needing to own the birth and her baby. Some (perhaps me included) would say that if women can’t own their birth then how can we expect them to own the “product” of that birth (i.e. the baby) fully and easily? We see in the animal world that if there is any intervention in the birth then the mother rejects the baby. Can we relate this to a human being allowed to believe someone else “delivered” her baby as allowing a third party intervention?

How about we all birth our babies?

The word birth conjures up allsorts of thoughts and feelings. Of magic, wonder and owe to orgasmic to fear, pain, hurt, blood and possibly horror. So many different and opposite feelings. However, birth should be and can be a positive experience.


  1. the process of bearing young; parturition; childbirth related adjective natal
  2. the act or fact of being born; nativity
  3. the coming into existence of something; origin
  4. ancestry; lineage   ⇒ of high birth
  5. noble ancestry   ⇒ a man of birth
  6. natural or inherited talent   ⇒ an artist by birth
  7. (archaic) the offspring or young born at a particular time or of a particular mother
  8. See give birth

Verb (transitive)


  1. to bear or bring forth (a child) 

I think the last sentence in the definition of “birth” speaks volumes. “To bear or bring forth”. Can a third party do this easily? I say not. What about, “the coming into existence”? This is more spiritual, positive and magical. A woman has to do something here to bring a child into existence. This word doesn’t allow for a third party to take full responsibility. Unlike the word “delivery” which immediately conjures up images of a third party help necessary.

Women will recall the fine details of the birth of their children forever. When we let women say, “The midwife who delivered my baby” it can make the lady feel somewhat detached from their experience for their whole lives. To empower women and mothers and therefore future generations surely we need to give them their births back? Let them own it.

Even when intervention is necessary is possible to give women ownership of their bodies and birth of their child? I would say yes, this is especially important, so they don’t feel like they have failed. They have still birthed their baby, albeit with help. It’s important to empower the woman to call the shots and own what is happening.

So, are babies delivered or do women birth babies?

Can we rethink the language we may use and how we respond to those comments?

Let’s empower women and mothers.