Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Social construction of Childbirth - how the media works

A new film called "Labouring under an Illusion"  shows the way that childbirth is portrayed in the media. The film makers juxapose the often comical, always fear inducing media perspective with normal, healthy, calm birth footage. The presentation of the two points of view provides an excellent reality check.

Here's the trailer for the video

Vicki Elson, a childbirth educator, explains her motivation for making the film during an interview with

"I was doing a workshop for nurse-midwives at a local hospital when a particularly ghastly and unrealistic (and Emmy-winning) episode of “E.R.” came out. The midwives said their phones were ringing off the hooks because moms were scared that they could die like the lady on TV. Meanwhile, Murphy Brown was America’s liberated TV mom who could anchor the news and stand up to Dan Quayle. But in labor, she was wilted and powerless, except when she was strangling men by their neckties. I wanted my kids and their friends to grow up with realistic, nourishing imagery about the power of their bodies to do normal things like have babies. I was working with midwives Rahima Baldwin Dancy and Catherine Stone on a workshop called “Empowering Women in the Childbearing Year,” and we started collecting clips to show childbirth educators what they were up against from the culture. It’s still a struggle to compete with compelling but unrealistic imagery that sticks in people’s minds. I expanded on that project to write my master’s thesis 10 years ago, and when the kids grew up I finally got around to updating the project and putting it on DVD so it’s more useful and accessible.”

Well done Vicki!  Resources like this are essential to counter the negative publicity that childbirth is subject to. For more information on the video or to order a copy, visit Birth-Media.com.

Amy Romano on Science and Sensibility blog has an excellent post on Childbirth Literacy that includes this video trailer and information. http://www.scienceandsensibility.org/

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