A few years ago, I had the privilege of joining approximately 25 other birth workers in the Bristol & North Somerset area at a meeting with 2 of the One Born Every Minute production team to discuss their forthcoming series.
Having filmed in Southampton and Leeds before, the 2 producers were excited about bringing the show to Bristol as it has a great reputation for maternity services generally.
It was fascinating watching the dynamics unfold as we birth workers got a bit defensive and heated about the way most of the births on the show are highly medicalised and dramatic, often instilling fear in viewers across the country, due to the compelling stories they feature.
The big issue we all have is simple – the effect of the show on pregnant women is enormous in influencing their understanding and expectation of birth – especially first-timers who may have no other reference on what birth will be like. It can potentially affect their actual birth stories too on their labour day if they are filled with fear and anxiety that they might have a birth like ‘that lady last week’.
Three separate mums-to-be told me in recent months that they were actually using the show as their antenatal education and two of them didn’t plan to attend classes otherwise. One actually said she was prepared for the fact it would last 36 hours and be agony, and if it ended up better than that, it would be a bonus.
Knowing what I know about birth now, both after having my baby and studying extensively about birth and how it definitely doesn’t have to be an ordeal or unmanageably painful, these kinds of comments sadden me and, like most of the other women in the room during our meeting, we feel One Born Every Minute simply contributes further to the negative depiction of birth and doesn’t do enough to show how birth can be calm, relaxed and beautiful – and above all, natural!
That’s why it was great to hear the producers saying passionately that they want this series to be different, to focus on more natural birth and show a different depiction of birth than has gone before…
That said, there were of course a few ‘hurdles’ to achieving that goal:
- They have all their fixed cameras set up in Southmead Delivery Suite (with a couple in the birth centre next door admittedly). By only setting up in a hospital environment, the chances of natural, less medicalised births are reduced.
- They say they want to film home births. But they have no access to mums other than those registered to give birth at Southmead, so will struggle to find home birthers, let alone those willing to be filmed at home with a cameraman/woman in the background
- They would also be keen to film at the new Cossham Birth Centre, but again, no fixed cameras, so mums & dads would need to invite a cameraperson into the suite with them.
- We birth workers, who have access to more women planning home births or aiming for more natural births with less intervention, are still not totally convinced that the show really wants to break from tradition, and we don’t want to suggest our clients take part if there is any risk of their births being less than perfect as a result, or left on the cutting room floor because it didn’t make for exciting viewing.
ULTIMATELY IT’S A CATCH-22 SITUATION
In order for One Born Every Minute to show better births and help change the viewing public’s perception of birth, mums-to-be have to be passionate enough to want to change it too by volunteering to have one of the most intimate moments of their lives aired for all the world to see, without knowing in advance how they will be feeling at the time or how their births will go.
A couple of us wished we were pregnant now, as it could easily be passionate birth workers who understand what’s involved and are confident in better birthing that could show the way forward. But that defeats the point, because you don’t have to be a birth worker or experienced in having babies to have a great birth – anyone can do it.
At the end of the day, it’s down to pregnant mums-to-be in the Bristol area now. Do they want to try and change the maternity world or simply have the best birth they can, in private?
If you are interested in finding out more about this new series of One Born Every Minute, or if you are pregnant and thinking you may want to participate, please comment below and I will send you details.