Do you watch birth on TV and in the movies?

I am seeing a lot of birth on TV these days, in shows such as  ‘Jane the Virgin’, ‘Offspring’, Grey’s Anatomy and The Mindy Project. And of course there are classic birth scenes that come to mind like Rachel’s in ‘Friends’ or Katherine Heigl in ‘Knocked Up’.

More and more, I find that people are learning about birth through these fictional stories. Sometimes they’ve only ‘seen’ these births! And because these births are dramatized (who wants to see a slow 24-hour birth?), people aren’t getting the right information to make the decisions needed regarding their bodies and their babies.

Here are five myths shown in TV and movie births:

Myth #1 – Your waters break first

In reality, only about 10% of women’s membranes rupture before contractions begin. On TV everyone begins their labour this way! But it’s not true. The majority of people begin their labours with contractions.

Is there a difference in terms of how your labour progresses if they do break first? There can be. Your caregivers will most likely want you to go to the hospital sooner than later, even if your contractions haven’t started. If contractions don’t start on their own, within a given time, your caregiver will want to induce them with medication (synthetic oxytocin).

On the other hand, if you begin your labour with contractions, you can labour at home for a long time in the comfort of your own surroundings, and only go to your place of birth when labour is more advanced, avoiding the need of medication to get labour started.

Myth #2 – Parents need to rush to the hospital

In Friends, Ross is so proud that he got Rachel to the hospital in 7 minutes after her water broke. And guess what? She gave birth about 47 hours later!

In most cases, however, there is no need to rush to your place of birth. Unless of course you feel baby is coming! In my experience, first time parents go to the hospital way too early. You’ll be admitted if your waters are broken, or if you’re contracting and are at least 3 cm dilated. Many people are sent home if they aren’t far along, which is disappointing. So it’s much better to stay at home as long as you can.

Myth #3 – Birth is super fast

I recently watched Grace and Frankie, a popular Netflix show. At a family reunion, the daughter’s water broke and literally in 30 seconds her baby was born – the baby came down her yoga pants!! Talk about fast!

In reality, a first birth can take 15 to 24 hours. For many this seems long because they are used to seeing only fast births on television. This isn’t to say that some people are not fast birthers! Especially if it’s a 2nd, 3rd or 4th baby. But it can be longer than you hope it’ll be.

Myth# 4 – You have to give birth on your back

Do you know that you can deliver your baby in other positions than lying down? Many people don’t know this because, once again, in the media, we only see women giving birth on their backs.

However, this position is not always the most effective when pushing. Why? Because you can’t move and your baby may need you to be more active to help her descend. If you’ve ever seen a home birth video, you’ll notice that the mother is often moving into different positions: standing, rocking, kneeling, on all fours, etc, which helps the baby come down. You are also more in control of the pushing stage in these positions. You would never seen an elephant giving birth on its back strapped to all the wires now, would you?

Now, since the majority of births are performed in hospital in North America, you are most often relegated to the bed, but you still can push in ‘alternative’ positions such as on your side, on your knees, using a squat bar, on all fours, etc. Even if you have an epidural, ask to try other positions!

Myth #5 – Most births are traumatic

If we believe what we see on TV the majority of births are traumatic and often end in the operating room. Now, I admit, this makes for some great TV, however, in reality, the majority of births unfold just fine. Stress, yes. Pain, yes. But not the kind of drama we are accustomed to seeing on shows like Grey’s Anatomy. No wonder women today are afraid to give birth!! They have no positive birth stories as models.


Where you learn about childbirth makes a difference in how you see birth. Just remember that searching for good information is important because TV births are often not depicted correctly. Take a great interactive prenatal class that prepares you well for birth. Read some amazing evidence-based books to help you learn more. Watch or read positive birth stories – there are many. And trust that your birth will unfold as it should.


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