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The problem with One Born Every Minute (and other TV shows)

Watching TV shows about birth.... lots of women will watch shows like one born every minute to “prepare” for what to expect in birth. And preparation is key... so this is a great idea, right? WRONG!

While preparing for birth IS important, and watching birth videos is a great way to prepare, WHAT you watch is crucial. TV and film for decades have represented birth in a very specific way, that is medicalised, dramatised and in many cases traumatic. This makes for great TV ratings, but it is extremely damaging for people who are pregnant and due to give birth. Realise it or not, those images of the woman on the bed, red faced, sweaty and screaming, will be seeping in to your subconscious, tucked away until you go in to labour yourself, at which point the mental alarm bells will start ringing “DANGER DANGER!” and the adrenaline starts pumping. Poof goes the surges, out comes the drugs, and very quickly you‘ve started down the medicalised route you’ve seen so often on your TV screen.

I get that 60 minutes of women having calm, positive births in water or at home may not make as compelling TV as the dramatic cliff hanger situations portrayed in One born every minute, but the issue with TV shows like this is that they don’t give a balanced view of birth. In fact, research conducted by the University of Nottingham found that over two series of One born every minute, there were no representations of home birth. They also found that:

  • 90% of people in the second stage of labour were on their backs

  • 98% of people filmed needed pain relief

  • 77% of the births shown included some form of intervention

Although these are true and real experiences of birth, they are extremely one sided, and the result is the normalisation of births full of drugs, procedures and pain. Nowhere in sight is the woman who chose to birth in at home without any pain relief or intervention, reinforcing the belief that this is either unachievable, rare or not an option.

If you wish to prepare for birth and want to expose yourself to videos of real labour, know it or not, you already have plenty of stored representations in a hospital setting, none of which are likely to be pleasant. Instead, seek out positive examples of labour. Get a balanced selection. Home birth, water birth, midwifery led unit, labour ward and Caesarean section. Each one can be positive and beautiful. Steer clear of biased and unbalanced depictions of birth in the form of “docu-dramas”, TV shows and films. And lastly, do your research. Get to know the facts behind the options. It can only aide you in making an informed and balanced decision on what kind of birth you want to have. There are no wrong choices, only informed and uneducated ones.

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