I have a few guilty pleasures. One of them is tea with cake. Another is watching tv shows when I should probably be doing the dishes. I particularly enjoy doing these two together.
One show I especially look forward to is ‘Offspring’ on channel 10 on Monday nights at 8:30pm. I love the drama and chaos-filled lives of all the characters. I love the protagonist – a quirky 30-something obstetrician, trying to find love in the midst of working crazy shifts and dealing with her crazy family. The actors and actresses of the show are all really quite talented.
There is one thing that bugs be though. Well it more than bugs me actually. I cannot stand the medicalised portrayal of births on the show. I have only ever seen one show that even nearly came close to the reality of birth, and “Offspring” definitely isn’t it. Seeing the labour and birth scenes through the eyes of a midwife, makes my skin crawl. I’m sure lots of people watch the show and think it looks pretty accurate. But let me tell you right now that it’s not.
For starters, it appears to be set in a public hospital because Nina (the protagonist obstetrician) works a rotating roster (which funnily enough seems to be mostly daytime shifts – 1st mistake) and doesn’t know her “patients” before she meets them in labour. If it was a private hospital, she would be a private obstetrician, who would’ve been caring for the women throughout their pregnancies. But if it’s a public hospital, it doesn’t make sense that she is called in to catch the baby for every birth – 2nd mistake. In reality, midwives catch the vast majority of babies born in public hospitals and doctors are only called in if there is some kind of problem. I also just want to note that I hate that they use the word “patient” for women in labour – they are not sick, they should be called “women” not “patients”.
The next mistake is what actually happens during the birth. All the births I’ve seen on the show are with women lying on their backs, with their feet in stirrups. In reality, most women will choose to give birth in different positions, like on their hands and knees or standing, as lying supine is the most uncomfortable position.
Last week Nina made the call for a woman in labour to have a caesarean after about 10 seconds of the baby’s heart rate dropping. In reality, there a so many actions that can help to resolve this problem prior to operative birth (change positions, hydrate, get her to start pushing if she’s fully dilated – a baby’s head can become compressed in the vagina during contractions when the woman is ready to push and so the heart rate drops). Also last week there was a vaginal breech birth on the show, where Nina and her registrar had their hands all over the baby and were pulling it and twisting it. In reality, vaginal breech in a public hospital is rare and the number one rule is “hands off the breech”- just let them come out with their own natural mechanisms of birth and only intervene if there is no progress.
Ok, so the obstetric component of the show is severely lacking accuracy, but I do still really enjoy the show as a whole. I guess I am just expressing my disappointment and wishing the media would learn to portray beautiful accurate empowering birth stories in tv and movies to stop the fear mongering. Unfortunately people do form a lot of what they know about birth from the media and this leads to an unconscious embedding of mistrust in ones own ability to birth a baby naturally. If only they could learn to portray it truthfully, we midwives might not have to struggle so hard to convince women that they are strong and powerful and very capable of birthing their babies safely and without the help of medical intervention.
But alas, I must go… After all, Offspring has just started! 😉