Birth in the medias

Hi everyone, sorry for the long absence. I'm finally back home and my articles will come out on a more regular basis from now on.

Today I'll be talking about something that's been bothering me for a long time: the way birth is treated in the medias, especially through movies and TV shows. I personally love movies, and even studied cinema back in college. But it really saddens me whenever I see how childbirth can be depicted in movies. It is shown as something horribly painful and disgusting, where the birthing mother is screaming hysterically and saying she's going to die while begging for an epidural.

First of all, let's not forget that television shows and films are an excellent tool for propaganda. They can make anyone believe anything. But what do you think it does to a pregnant woman, or even a young girl, when she sees these kinds of horrific scenarios? Yes, it is true that birth can be painful, it can be hard, and it is probably the most intense thing that can happen to a woman. But pain doesn't mean horror, and pain doesn't mean hysteria either.

Another thing I noticed is that in a lot of TV/movie births, the actual event of the birth is almost systematically linked to a tragedy. Either the mother dies in childbirth, the father dies in an accident, something terrible happens to a loved one, the baby dies, there is a natural disaster, etc. As if the birth of a child couldn't be just a happy and joyful event. It HAS to preceed a tragedy... and that's really scary according to me. How can you just trust life and the power of a birthing woman when you think that birth means ''disaster waiting to happen''? The other thing I noticed is that natural birth almost always happens either because it happened too fast and the woman couldn't make it to a hospital, or because it is set in the past, a fantasy world, or in some indigenous setting.

Don't get me wrong, I also know that most of the time, childbirth scenes are volountarily exaggerated for comical purposes. But the problem is that people start believing that this is really how it happens, and get scared. What other reason than fear would some future mothers go as far as asking the epidural before labor has even started or asking for a scheduled c-section, with no medical reason? In Brasil, the cesarian rate is extremely high (over 80%). One of the reasons given (there are many others) is that brasilian mothers watch american films and tv shows, and start thinking that  if this is how a vaginal birth happens, they'll rather go for a cesarian section because they don't want to give birth like what is shown in the film.

What if instead of always depicting horrible births where the mother is having a nervous breakdown, we showed beautiful homebirths or waterbirths, where the mother is calm and peaceful? I understand the idea of exaggerating for comical purposes, but why not exaggerate the other way, where birth is so easy the mother almost doesn't notice it? Of course, not all women give birth with a zen attitude and a smile, but if that was the model shown on the medias, maybe we vould avoid this social fear of childbirth. What do you think?

I also found Victoria L. Elson's very interesting thesis entitled: Childbirth in American Movies and Television Patterns of Portrayal and Audience Impact It's really very interesting, if you ever have the chance to read it. She also directed a film on the same subject entitled Mass Media vs Childbirth: Laboring Under an illusion. 

Have a nice day!


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