The Portrayal of Childbirth in the Mass Media

Authors: Cash, M., Luce, A., Hundley, V., van Teijlingen, E., Angell, C. and Cheyne, H.

Conference: Reimagining Birth International Symposium

Dates: 2-3 July 2013


This presentation will report on the findings of a systematic review of academic literature relating to the representation of childbirth in the mass media, in particular television.

Search Methods: The following English language electronic databases were searched Medline, Pubmed, NHS Evidence, Academic Search Complete, MIDIRS, Education Research Complete, CINAHL Plus, Scopus, Intute, Zetoc and Web of Knowledge. The databases or back issues of the following journals were also searched, ‘Midwives’ (RCM), ‘Maternity and Infant Care’, and ‘Media, Culture & Society’.

Search Terms: The search was conducted using the following using specific key terms; ‘media representations’, ‘media influence’, ‘media effects’ ‘childbirth’, ‘labour,’ and ‘labor’.

Method of Synthesis: Thematic analysis was used to synthesise the literature into the themes that emerged in terms of media representation of childbirth.

Findings: Considerable debate surrounds the influence that the media has on mothers who are giving birth for the first time. Much of the academic literature discusses the influence of television, and reality television programs in particular, on how pregnant women engage in their pregnancy. It is suggested that women seek out such programs to add to their knowledge about childbirth because there is a cultural void. Expectant mothers find that reality television helps them better understand what could happen during the birthing process. In general the media’s portrayal of birth is as a condition that is risky, dramatic and painful. This presentation will explore how these media representations impact on women and childbirth in general.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Edwin van Teijlingen, Ann Luce, Vanora Hundley and Catherine Angell