Transcending Language Barriers in Obstetrics and Gynecology: A Critical Dimension for Health Equity

Obstet Gynecol. 2023 Oct 1;142(4):809-817. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000005334. Epub 2023 Sep 7.


There is growing evidence that language discordance between patients and their health care teams negatively affects quality of care, experience of care, and health outcomes, yet there is limited guidance on best practices for advancing equitable care for patients who have language barriers within obstetrics and gynecology. In this commentary, we present two cases of language-discordant care and a framework for addressing language as a critical lens for health inequities in obstetrics and gynecology, which includes a variety of clinical settings such as labor and delivery, perioperative care, outpatient clinics, and inpatient services, as well as sensitivity around reproductive health topics. The proposed framework explores drivers of language-related inequities at the clinician, health system, and societal level. We end with actionable recommendations for enhancing equitable care for patients experiencing language barriers. Because language and communication barriers undergird other structural drivers of inequities in reproductive health outcomes, we urge obstetrician-gynecologists to prioritize improving care for patients experiencing language barriers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Communication Barriers
  • Female
  • Gynecology*
  • Health Equity*
  • Humans
  • Inpatients
  • Obstetrics*
  • Pregnancy