Does Popular Media Influence Women’s Birth Choices? [Study]

Does Popular Media Influence Women’s Birth Choices? [Study]

Pregnant women naturally want to immerse themselves in all things to do with birth and babies.

We read every pregnancy book under the sun, and listen to stories from friends and family.

Thanks to YouTube, we can even watch women in labour; something that would have happened a lot more, in real life, hundreds of years ago, than it does now.

Before we have our first baby, we can experience birth vicariously, through popular media.

Turn on the TV and there are plenty of shows that claim to uncover the realities of birth, such as One Born Every Minute, Call the Midwives, and even a new US game show called Labor Games.

So, what impact does popular media have on our choices regarding birth? Are we likely to make different choices based on what we are reading and viewing?

Researchers at Monash University and Queensland University of Technology undertook a study to find out. Women between the ages of 18 and 35, who had never given birth, were given magazine articles that focused on the benefits of non-medical birth.

Lead researcher Kate Young said, “We wanted to look at how women’s decisions might be influenced by communicating the alternative benefits of non-medicalised birth”. The articles addressed topics such as perceived risk of birth, expectations for labour and birth, and attitudes toward birth.

The results speak for themselves. Women who read an article endorsing birth with no medical intervention were more likely to change their intention towards having a natural birth. The study found there was support for a social communications strategy that focused on endorsing the benefits of a non-medical birth, to offset the current media bias toward the benefits of medical birth, and therefore reducing the rates of medically unnecessary interventions.

Australia currently has a c-section rate of 32% (the World Health Organisation recommends a rate of 10%) and over one quarter of all births are induced.

The study further recommends: “Governments and other health-care providers should ensure that women have access to a range of models of care, endorse public health campaigns that can offset the current information bias toward promoting medicalised birth for all women, and provide accessible evidence-based information on a range of childbirth options”.

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Sam McCulloch enjoyed talking so much about birth she decided to become a birth educator and doula, supporting parents in making informed choices about their birth experience. In her spare time she writes novels. She is mother to three beautiful little humans.

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