Five reasons why we need to look at childbirth and the media

An academic from our University has discussed ways in which the media shapes society’s perceptions, anxieties and emotions arising out of birth.

In an article for Think: Leicester, the University's platform for independent academic opinion, Dr Ranjana Das from the Department of Media and Communication outlines five of the key reasons why we should examine the relationship between childbirth and the media, and how the media is used to cope with emotions post-birth – one of the most vulnerable phases in a woman’s life as a parent.

The five reasons why we need to look at childbirth and the media outlined in the article are:

1)   Media images and texts shape the kind of expectations and emotions women carry to the laboring room. The demands women make of themselves, the expectations they have of what can, to an extent, be an unpredictable process, and the yardsticks with which mothers assess their birth experiences all occur within a mediated context

2)   While the majority of births in the UK go well, there are many who leave the moment of birth with lasting trauma and look for support on social media. This is evidenced by pages upon pages of anonymous discussions on parenting websites

3)   Global flows of people mean that practices and advice from cultures of origin often collide with those in the UK. The contrast (and connection) of cultures and generations is re-negotiated by birthing mothers, using information, advice and support that is constantly mediated

4)   Birth is idealised, or conversely medicalised, and too often graded on the media and this could contribute to feeling of in/adequacy post birth.

5)   Birth experiences shape the earliest phases of parenting - and the ways in which social media is or can be used at these times deserve critical attention

Dr Das is involved in a new project on this topic beginning this summer with a grant from the British Academy. Titled “Birth Stories” – the project is generating a body of qualitative data including 50 unique birth stories recounted by 50 mothers in England during fieldwork, 50 online discussion and support threads bearing the voices of countless anonymous mothers, and media texts and visuals from television, the press and social media.

The project aims to explore how British society presents the birthing body, how natural/medicalised births are positioned in the public eye and the experiences of mothers giving birth in the country who are not native to the United Kingdom.

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