Childbirth Choices: How Media Influences a Woman’s Choice

ByAnisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
January 30, 2017
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Most people say they’re going to have a natural birth, right? Not the case, a new study found. And it’s the media that’s steering most women towards medical intervention, like epidurals.

Researchers from Monash University and Queensland University of Technology found women’s magazines are largely biased towards promoting the benefits of a medicalized birth. And it makes sense — with more and more interventions becoming available, the media is going to report on them.

But lead researcher Kate Young worries about over-promoting medical intervention, citing evidence that it leads to preventable complications when used in low-risk births. Complications with epidurals, while uncommon, may include headache, fever, and in rare cases, hematomas or nerve damage.

So researchers tried to see how a woman might change her mind. The most effective tactic? The same one that touted medicated births to begin with.

Researchers surveyed women ages 18 to 35 who had never given birth, giving them magazine articles touting the benefits of an all-natural birth.

“Women’s expectations and attitudes about birth are shaped by various sources of information long before they become pregnant, with one of the most popular being the media, and in particular, magazines,” Young says. “We found that women who were exposed to a magazine article endorsing childbirth with no medical intervention were more likely to change their intention towards having a more natural birth.”

This doesn’t mean you should ditch your birth plan just because a magazine told you to. But it’s a reminder to be critical of what you read. Talk to your OB about what’s right for you, and make sure that you’re on the same page.

For some woman, a natural birth comes, well, naturally. But if you swear an epidural is the reason you made it out alive, we totally understand.

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