Changing the narrative around birth: midwives’ views of working with the media

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

Conference: 31st ICM Congress Midwives making a difference in the world


Background: Midwives frequently comment on media portrayals of birth as being unrealistic, focusing on dramatic and risky events that do not show normal birth. They blame the media for creating fear in childbirth; however a recent systematic review of the literature found no evidence to support this (Luce et al. 2016). In contrast media professionals suggest that midwives are failing to engage with the media and to provide accurate representations of childbirth (Hundley et al. 2015).

Purpose/Objective: This qualitative study aims to gain an understanding of midwives’ perceptions of media representations and their experience of engaging with the media.

Method: In-depth interviews are being conducted with midwives and midwifery educators in the UK. Participants are purposively selected based on their place of practice, years of experience and views of the media. Ethical approval was obtained from Bournemouth University. Interviews are recorded and transcribed. Data will be analysed using a thematic approach.

Key Findings: The study will be completed by October 2016 and findings will be available for presentation at the ICM Congress.

Discussion: There is a need to address the misrepresentations of pregnancy and birth in popular culture and replace them with more positive portrayals, which in turn might facilitate greater uptake of normal birth pathways. If midwives are to be encouraged to partner with media producers to develop more accurate representations of birth then we need to understand how midwives perceive the media and develop tools to support greater engagement. Engagement with the media may also be a means for midwives to communicate with women, since there is evidence that women often access such information prior to talking to professionals.

References: Hundley V, van Teijlingen E, & Luce A. (2015) Do midwives need to be more media savvy? MIDIRS Midwifery Digest 25:1:5-10.

Luce A, Cash M, Hundley V, Cheyne H, van Teijlingen E, Angell C (2016) ‘Is it realistic?’ The portrayal of pregnancy and childbirth in the media. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 16:40 DOI: 10.1186/s12884-016-0827-x

Source: Manual