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The Portrayal of Birth in the Media, by Maureen Gannon

It seems that the general public are fascinated by the act of birth. One regularly sees reports of babies being born in unexpected places, such as cars, car parks, phone boxes, aeroplanes, boats, bathrooms, buses, trains and places the reader could, no chance doubt, add to the list. Paramedics, police officers, fire officers and even members of the public who just happen to be there at the time may find themselves taking on the role of midwife.

Luckily these providers of public services, are given special training to prepare them for such an emergency, but off-duty medical professionals will have to fulfil this familiar role without the backup of colleagues and equipment they are used to in a safe secure medical environment. Common sense, improvisation together with their training and experience will kick in and usually the outcome is good with congratulations and smiles all round and a mother much relieved and overjoyed, proudly holding her newborn.

When a lay person suddenly finds themselves confronted with an imminent birth in a public place they have to rely on everything they have heard or perhaps seen on film or television drama to cope as well as they can with whatever they have to hand. They will probably amaze themselves and be hailed as heroes. If journalists get news of the story the family could find themselves sitting on the sofa in a television studio, being interviewed for the entertainment of viewers.

Everyone loves a story with a happy ending. The more unusual the place the more prominent the story will appear in newspapers, radio, television and social media. It is a sad fact that the portrayal of birth in the media is of a mother in great distress and pain, with her carers bombarding her with instructions and enthusiastic encouragement to push, push, push, when the poor women is screaming with horrendous facial contortions and groans.

Usually, to add to the sensationalism and drama there will be a complication, keeping everyone in suspense and anxiety, followed by the birth and further uncertainty that the baby may not survive. A ‘normal’ birth would not be emotional or dramatic enough to excite the viewer. We would expect to see some normality in documentaries filmed in maternity hospitals with women and their partner and medical professionals. This is rarely the case as the same drama is shown, ‘warts and all’. The joy and happiness part of a happy outcome is filmed and everyone appears to live happily ever after.

The negative affect of using the very private act of the arrival in the world of a brand new life as entertainment can terrify the next generation of mothers and cause the condition of Tocophobia, which is a fear of pregnancy and giving birth naturally. This has produced an increase of requests for birth by Caesarean Section, when there is no medical indication of need for this major abdominal surgical procedure.

https://www.babygaga.com/15-reasons-why-tocophobia-is-on-the-rise/

This website shows dramatic videos of women giving birth and negative outcomes for mother and baby. Pregnant women and those planning to conceive are at risk of extreme fear, over and above the natural fear of the unknown and normal anxiety.

It is also unwise to listen to birth stories from friends and acquaintances, which can be exaggerated and misinformed, instilling fear in the listener. The basic human need at the time of giving birth, (just as for all mammals), is to go to a quiet, safe place away from noise, where the mother can be undisturbed to relax in her special place to bring her baby into the world. The last thing she needs is loud voices, cameras and unnecessary people viewing her at this most private and vulnerable moment of her life. The mother is deprived of her need for peace, respect and dignity. Birth is not for fun and entertainment.

The way we are born influences our whole lives.

Alyona Lebedeua, Midwife

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The Portrayal of Birth in the Media, by Maureen Gannon

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