Changing the narrative around childbirth: whose responsibility is it?

Authors: Hundley, V., Luce, A., van Teijlingen, E. and Edlund, S.

Journal: Evidence-Based Midwifery / Royal College of Midwives

Volume: 17

Issue: 2

Pages: 47-52

Publisher: T G Scott

ISSN: 1479-4489

Background. There has been growing interest in all aspects of childbirth, which is reflected in social and traditional media.

Stories often focus on dramatic, risky and mostly unrealistic events, misrepresenting childbirth and maternity care professionals.

The question is whose responsibility is it to ensure accurate representations of childbirth? Methods. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with ten midwives working in different UK settings: the NHS, higher education, and independent practice. Participants were purposively selected based on their place of practice, years of experience and views on the relationship between the media and midwifery/maternity care. Data were analysed using a thematic approach.

Findings. Four separate but inter-related themes arose from the interviews: ‘not my responsibility’; ‘fear of retribution’; ‘power balance’; and ‘social media’. The themes sat within two wider societal issues that reflect the current challenges for midwifery: (a) the ongoing battle between the social and the medical models of childbirth; and (b) the impact of gender.

Implications for practice. The finding that midwives fear the media resonates with experiences from a number of countries and professional groups. There is a need to change media discourse in fictional and factual representations of childbirth, and midwives have a critical role to play in this, but to do this they need to equip themselves with the skills necessary to engage with the media. Guidelines on responsible media reporting could ensure that media producers portray pregnancy, midwifery and maternity care as naturally as possible.

The data on this page was last updated at 05:10 on February 18, 2020.