Expectant Mother vs. Birth Mother: What’s the Difference?

Written By: Erin Jones

No matter who you are — whether you’re a birth mother, an adoptive parent, or someone else looking for information about adoption — you’ll soon discover that using positive adoption language is extremely important in the world of adoption. In this blog, Adoption Choices of Florida will discuss the difference between an expectant mother and a birth mother. It’s important for you to note that neither one of these phrases is actually negative adoption language. However, there is a difference between the two, and if you’re stepping into the world of adoption, you should know what that difference is. 

The Difference between an Expectant Mother and a Birth Mother

  1. Expectant Mother

Up until her child is born and officially adopted by the adoptive family, a woman placing her child for adoption is technically an expectant mother and not a birth mother yet. You might not see the phrase “expectant mother” used as frequently as “birth mother” on adoption websites, and that’s likely because women going through an unplanned pregnancy often search for adoption information as it relates to birth mothers placing a child for adoption, rather than expectant mothers placing a child for adoption. 

But why is that women considering adoption search for adoption-related information for birth mothers when they’re technically expectant mothers? That’s an excellent question! Below, Adoption Choices of Florida offers a brief history on the phrase “birth mothers” and its usage. 

  1. Birth Mother

As aforementioned — and more often than not — you’ll see the phrase “birth mother” used most commonly on adoption websites and in adoption-related articles and blogs, since a woman placing a child for adoption isn’t technically a birth mother until her child has been born and officially adopted by the adoptive family. So again, why is the usage of “birth mother” so prevalent?

In the world of adoption, the phrase “birth mother” has been in use much longer than the phrase “expectant mother.” In the United States, the first known usage of the phrase “birth mother” is credited to American writer and novelist Pearl S. Buck in Women’s Home Companion magazine in 1956. She went on to use the phrase again in 1972 in her article for Today’s Health, entitled, “I Am the Better Woman for Having My Two Black Children.” Her article was a self-reflection piece written about her own personal experiences as an adoptive mother and with transracial adoption. She used the phrase “birth mother” to differentiate her children’s biological — or birth! — mothers from herself as the adoptive mother. 

It was also in the 1970s that Minneapolis, Minnesota-based social worker Marietta Spencer voiced her approval over the use of positive adoption language and therefore the use of “birth mother” or “birth parent” as positive adoption language. An organization called the Concerned United Birthparents also contributed to today’s use of the phrase “birth parent” or “birth mother” after deciding that the use of “natural parent” could be potentially upsetting to adoptive parents, and that “biological parent” sounded too impersonal. 

Even with the frequent use of “birth mother” there’s still much debate over the use of terms and phrases like “expectant mother,” “biological mother,” and “natural mother in the world of adoption today. However, when it’s all said and done, it’s up to those who work in the field of adoption to determine what’s positive adoption language and what isn’t. For more information on adoption language, please visit our website’s guide to positive adoption language.  

Using Positive Adoption Language

Now that you’ve gotten a better understanding of the difference between an expectant mother and a birth mother, hopefully you’re interested in learning a little bit more about the adoption process and how to use positive adoption language. Adoption has become much more widely accepted in the United States; however, there’s still a negative stigma attached to it. An important part of changing that stigma starts with educating people about adoption and teaching them how to use positive adoption language, so those who are still unsure about adoption can finally see its true beauty.  

If you are a pregnant woman in Florida considering adoption, and have any questions or concerns about the adoption process, please don’t hesitate to reach out. For more information on adoption, visit us at Adoption Choices of Florida or call us at: (833) 352-3678