TV Shows About Birth Are Bad for Moms

Christie Haskell

Do you watch A Baby Story or any of those birth shows? I watched a ton of them while pregnant with my first kiddo. Even movies and TV shows that have characters that give birth are common, like Quinn on Glee or Pam's birth on The Office.

Because it is made for TV, the births are always edited to be dramatic, whether it's showing many more high-risk women or only showing the parts where they're really struggling. After all, what fun would it be to show a woman who is just rocking back and forth with her husband, then pops out a baby with no complications, no screaming, no dramatics or problems to solve?

Unfortunately, because they do aim for ratings, they leave most women with an unrealistic and downright damaging view of birth.

Most women give birth flat on their backs, hooked up to fluids, and get an epidural. They'll look very uncomfortable, often getting pitying looks from family who is nearby as support. You'll have times where the doctor or midwife does a vaginal check and lets her know she's not dilating "fast enough." It adds tension, you know ... dramatics.

Some of these shows would make you think it was damn near impossible to give birth without screaming in pain, with people standing around you yelling, "PUSH!"

Another common thing that always makes me want to throw the remote at the TV is when they make clamping the umbilical cord to be some dramatic life-or-death situation: "THE RED WIRE OR GREEN WIRE?! Where do I cut?" as if you leave the cord on too long, it'll begin to pump poison into the baby or something. Ridiculous.

Worst of all, the shows that do show more natural or calm births generally just mock them. From showing nurses who roll their eyes at a mom moaning instead of screaming, to saying every single time a woman goes without pain meds that she "survived and got through it with no medication whatsoever" as if you're saying she crawled across the Sahara with no water. God forbid a family actually aim to be off the bed, or use a doula -- they're almost always painted as crazy extremists. Let me tell you, the "crazy extremists" aren't in the hospitals to give birth, folks (and that is NOT to say that home birthers are crazy or extremists -- they're not).

Guess what? There are such things as calm and gentle births. But it doesn't seem that way if you watch one of these shows that depict birth as always being a traumatic experience.

What we need are shows that depict vaginal births where the mom moves around during labor, utilizes more than just drugs for pain relief, where not everything is an emergency and she's allowed to push when she is ready and her body tells her to. We need to help women learn about their options and what birth CAN look like when it's not intended just to garner ratings and make viewers hold on through the commercial break to see if the mom "makes it." The audience comes out with the idea that everyone screams in pain, that epidurals are a godsend, and only crazy people who are rushed in last second "survive" birth without meds -- and only do so because they were "unfortunately too late" to receive them.

Sadly, we know in the world of TV, it's all about money, but I do wish more moms would take the time to watch documentaries like The Business of Being Born and videos of real, calmer births to help erase the Hollywood fear and pain mold we've taught women that birth belongs in.

Do you think TV and other mainstream media influences women's expectations of birth? Do you get scared when you watch shows about birth?

Image via drewesque/Flickr

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