Birth in the Media


Thinking about the recent GRITtv interview, “The Other Side of Choice: Giving Birth in America” brings about another important and seldom talked about issue in childbirth advocacy: Birth in the Media.

It is refreshing to see the media telling the full story about the options that are available to women in their maternity care. All too often the choices women make and their views of birth are “manufactured” by the ideas that are presented in the media. The media dramatizes birth and tends to steer women towards a particular belief about birth. These instilled ideas about birth then go on to influence the way that women approach their own birth.

The media portrays birth as a dangerous, scary event that happens in a hospital. Consider for a moment: how often has the average Jane seen birth portrayed as anything other than a scared woman being rushed in on a gurney screaming her head off and cursing out her partner on some TV show? Most women don’t give birth at home anymore, so we wouldn’t see birth there; hospitals limit the number of people who can be present during birth, so you’re unlikely to see it there; and sex-ed is nearly non-existent in schools today… so where else would you see birth except in the media? (If you want to see the other side of birth, by the way, check out Debra Pascali-Bonaro’s film, Orgasmic Birth.)

Even media outlets that supposedly provide factual and balanced reports, like the Today Show, have succumbed to fear-mongering and misrepresenting the truth when it comes to birth. Just this fall, the Today Show ran a poorly researched and deeply biased segment entitled “The Perils of Midwifery” that portrayed homebirth and midwife-attended birth as dangerous and even hedonistic. This report blatantly ignored ample research demonstrating the safety of midwife-attended homebirth in the US and around the world.

Reports like these intensify the portrayal of birth as dangerous, and scare women away from wholistic, natural care in their pregnancy in favor of the medicalized style of birth. Don’t get me wrong, I think that having OBs available in a medical emergency is an amazing achievement in maternity care and undoubtedly saves thousands of lives in emergency settings. But it is important to remember that OBs are surgeons, and they are trained to think like surgeons. They are trained to look for problems and try to fix them or minimize them, often with medical interventions. The Midwives Model of Care, on the other hand, looks at birth as “normal until it’s not” and customizes care that treats each individual as a unique part of the broader spectrum of natural birth–and has safeguards in place to bring in other OBs or consults as necessary.

Ultimately, where a women births and with whom should be her own decision, and she should be supported regardless of what that choice is. It is appalling that the media has so clouded the issue by representing only one segment of the choices available to women.

I applaud media outlets like GRITtv who are finally shedding light on the “Other Side of Choice.”


  • Leslie Gold

    Really good interview; we need to see shows like this every week on tv in order to get the general public, not just the birth community, aware of the facts and the options. This information needs to become mainstream.

  • Kristi

    Too true. After I began training to be a Doula a few years ago, I remember watching the re-run episode of Friends where Rachel gives birth. At one point the OB praises her for being in labor for 24 hours. I was intrigued that they were portraying a woman in a very realistic situation, however saddened that they had left poor Rachel lying in bed that entire time instead of getting her up to walk around. Every time I watch one of the popular reality birth shows like those on TLC, I see women writhing in agony in bed and, sans IV and monitor of course, I wonder why they never thought to get up out of bed…but their expectations are the normalized ones they get from the media, it probably never occured to them.

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