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Gender-inclusive writing for epidemiological research on pregnancy
  1. Charlie Rioux1,2,3,
  2. Scott Weedon4,
  3. Kira London-Nadeau5,6,
  4. Ash Paré7,
  5. Robert-Paul Juster8,9,10,
  6. Leslie E Roos1,2,11,
  7. Makayla Freeman3,12,
  8. Lianne M Tomfohr-Madsen3,12,13,14,15
  1. 1 Department of Psychology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  2. 2 Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  3. 3 Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  4. 4 Department of English, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, USA
  5. 5 Department of Psychology, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  6. 6 Sainte-Justine Hospital Pediatric Research Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  7. 7 School of Social Work, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  8. 8 Department of Psychiatry and Addictology, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  9. 9 Montreal Mental Health University Institute Research Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  10. 10 Centre on Sex*Gender, Allostasis, and Resilience, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  11. 11 Harvard University Center on the Developing Child, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
  12. 12 Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, and Special Education, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  13. 13 Department of Pediatrics, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  14. 14 Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  15. 15 Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Charlie Rioux, Department of Psychology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; charlie.rioux{at}


People who have a uterus but are not cisgender women may carry pregnancies. Unfortunately, to date, academic language surrounding pregnancy remains largely (cis) woman-centric. The exclusion of gender-diverse people in the language of pregnancy research in English is pervasive. In reviewing a random sample of 500 recent articles on pregnancy or pregnant populations across health research fields, we found that only 1.2% of articles used gender-inclusive language (none of them in epidemiology), while the remaining 98.8% used (cis) woman-centric language. First and foremost, recent recommendations highlight the need to include trans, non-binary and gender-diverse people in study design. Meanwhile, there remains a lack of awareness that all research on pregnancy can contribute to inclusiveness, including in dissemination and retroactive description. We explain how the ubiquitous use of (cis) woman-centric language in pregnancy-related research contributes to (1) the erasure of gender diversity; (2) inaccurate scientific communication and (3) negative societal impacts, such as perpetuating the use of exclusionary language by students, practitioners, clinicians, policy-makers and the media. We follow with recommendations for gender-inclusive language in every section (ie, introductions, methods, results, discussions) of epidemiological articles on pregnant populations. The erasure of gender-diverse people in the rhetoric of research about pregnant people can be addressed immediately, including in the dissemination of results from ongoing studies that did not take gender diversity into consideration. This makes gender-inclusive language a crucial first step towards the inclusion of gender-diverse people in epidemiological research on pregnant people and other health research more globally.


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  • Contributors CR (she/her) conceptualised the idea and developed the methodology. CR and MF (she/her) conducted the review of 500 recent articles on pregnancy. CR and SW (he/him) wrote the initial draft. CR, SW, KL-N (she/her), AP (they/them), R-PJ (he/him), LER (she/her), MF and LMT-M (she/her) critically revised the paper/edited the draft and agreed on the final version for submission. CR is guarantor for the work.

  • Funding CR was supported by fellowships from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Fonds de Recherche du Québec-Santé (FRQS), Research Manitoba, and the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba. KL-N was supported by a Vanier Scholarship from CIHR. R-PJ was supported by early career awards from the FRQS and holds a Sex and Gender Science Chair from CIHR. LMT-M was supported by the Canadian Child Health Clinician Scientist Programme and CIHR. LER was supported by the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba and CIHR.

  • Disclaimer The funding organisations had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

  • Competing interests LMT-M is an interim board member of the Canadian Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative. The other author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship and/or publication of this article.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.