Pregnant women naturally want to immerse themselves in all things to do with birth and babies.
We read every pregnancy book under the sun, watch videos, and listen to stories from friends and family, we develop our birth choices by becoming informed.
Thanks to YouTube, we can even watch women in labour; something that would have happened a lot more, in real life years ago, than it does now.
Before we have our first baby, we can experience birth vicariously, through popular media, but does this influence women’s birth choices.
Does the media influence women’s birth choices?
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.
How Does The Media Shapes Our Perceptions Of Birth?
When it comes to birth, what we see on our screens often doesn’t reflect reality. TV and movies frequently depict birth as an emergency, focusing on complications and ‘the rush to the hospital’. While high-risk situations do occur, for most women birth unfolds as a normally. Yet this over dramatisation in media cultivates a fear and anxiety in expectant mothers, that is unwarranted.
You’ve probably witnessed a few fictional births yourself. A woman’s water breaks suddenly, contractions start right away, and the frantic drive to the hospital ensues. There, doctors ‘take over’ while the woman screams in agony. An episiotomy or C-section saves the day!
In truth, a very small number of births involve complications. Contractions usually start before waters break, and early labor can last 6-12 hours. Birthing women are not hysterical, they work with their bodies using breathing techniques and movement.
It’s time we question the narratives we’re being fed. Educate ourselves on the different paths to birth so we can feel informed, confident and truly prepared. Don’t let the drama of TV dictate your choices, you have the power and wisdom within to birth your baby.
Social Media’s Impact – Influences, Trends and Peer Pressure
Social media has become a powerful influencer, for better or worse.
As an expectant mother today, your newsfeed is flooded with gorgeous “influencer” mums making pregnancy and parenting look like a blissful dream. The curated images of serene sea-side maternity shoots and perfectly decorated nurseries may have you feeling like you’re the only one struggling with heartburn, overwhelm and anxiety over the arrival of your baby.
Don’t be fooled by the facade of perfection portrayed online. The truth is, behind those filtered photos are real women facing the same challenges, questions and uncertainties as you.
Unfortunately, social platforms often only highlight an idealized version of pregnancy and motherhood. This carefully cultivated “reality” can pressure women into making birth choices that aren’t right for their situation.
Instead of comparing yourself to social media, turn to trusted experts and your healthcare providers for advice. Do your own research from reputable sources so you can feel fully informed and prepared to make the best decisions for you and your baby.
Your pregnancy and birth will be as individual as you are, focus on what really matters to you rather than chasing unrealistic trends and expectations perpetuated online. Connect with local mothers’ groups to find support from women in similar circumstances. Make sure you feel empowered to choose what is right for your own personal journey into motherhood.
Birth Choices – C-Section Rates in Australia
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”.