Terrible Mom-Related Terminology That Needs to Die NOW

what man came up with “incompetent cervix”?

by: elyse o’dwyer

There are terms associated with motherhood that feel like a prank. Sometimes they’re outdated or they’re the product of medical science without any regard for the negative connotations. Like most unpleasant attitudes toward motherhood, we settle for the bombardment of unsavory phrases because there’s no alternative. That is, until now!

Incompetent Cervix

Another effort to make moms feel bad about themselves in case social media, advertising and judgmental family members and strangers alike haven’t done so enough. It’s a medical term referring to a cervix that has trouble carrying a pregnancy to term, so logically medicine is moving towards the term “cervical weakness” which is better (I GUESS) but still sucks. I would also suggest anyone dealing with this issue simply be referred to as “in need of kindness and care.”


Vernix is the substance covering a baby when born. It’s derived from the Latin words for varnish and cheesy, and somehow the result is even grosser sounding. Vernix seems to do a lot of good, such as temperature regulation, anti-infective and moisturizing properties[1], but the name could use some work. My suggestions: baby protectant, baby force field or baby body wrap.

Failure to Thrive

Hearing your baby isn’t in perfect health is an extremely stressful reality for many mothers—and that’s without some doctor throwing around the word failure. The term describes an infant losing weight or not exhibiting a healthy amount of weight gain. It’s unclear where the term originates, but my guess is a new mom didn’t come up with it. Maybe referring to these babies as “underweight” was too obvious for medical science, but I think it offers the same information without inflicting moms with blame.

Baby Blues

Baby blues is a cute way to refer to the hormone drop, lack of sleep and overwhelming stress levels associated with new motherhood that can sometimes lead to depression. The term first appeared in the Nicholas J. Eastman book Expectant Motherhood published in 1940, and it would seem attitudes toward depressed post-partum mothers haven’t evolved much since then. The term baby blues works to minimize the difficulty new moms might experience adjusting to their new normal. I think if we’re doing an update, let’s use “baby blues” for baby’s eyes only and call postpartum struggle what it really is: depression. I would also accept postpartum warriors. 


[1] Gurcharan Singh and G Archana (2008) Unraveling the Mystery of Vernix Caseosa. Retrieved from The Indian Journal of Dermatology: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2763724/

shop lists

Sign up for our Newsletter

Support, solidarity and self-care for new mamas. If that’s you, get on the list!

related posts

11 Not-As-Obvious Skin Habits That Are Bad for Your Complexion

11 Not-As-Obvious Skin Habits That Are Bad for Your Complexion if pretty skin is your goal, read this by: team Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that smoking, not wearing sunscreen and going to bed with your makeup on hardly produces the coveted look...

Pin It on Pinterest