How Has "Reality TV" (A Baby Story, etc) Affected Your Work?

Specialties Ob/Gyn


Every time I hear that one of my clients has been religiously watched "A Baby Story" during her pregnancy, I almost cringe. I, personally, can not stand to watch "A Baby Story". The program is so scripted: family gathering, ask about how mom's doing, go to the hospital, get checked, order the epidural, push a few times, happy music plays as soon as baby's born. Mom is visited and almost always we hear that "[baby's name] is such a good baby. He sleeps through the night (at 2 weeks old) and never cries unless he's hungry or wants to be changed."

This program irritates me because it sends the message that all births follow a script and are very predictable. I've actually had a client (a very young one) who didn't believe me when I told her that her labor could go on for 18 hours. She refused to order an epidural because she could tolerate pain for half an hour. I was wondering what she meant by that when she told me after 6 hours of labor - "This doesn't happen on TV. The baby is always out before a half hour is up." :rolleyes:

We even had a new doula state that she thought she knew it all when it came to childbirth, and that she was very surprised when her baby wasn't out after 2 pushes. She said she attributed it to programs like "A Baby Story" when everything is condensed, especially when it comes time to push.

Has reality TV affected your work? Do you have patients who come in and are surprised when labor is very different from what's shown on TV?

kastas, BSN, RN

137 Posts

Specializes in Labor and Delivery.

I 100% agree with your post. That d--- Baby Story show irks me. I would say the vast majority of our patients make some mention about how they watch it "all the time". I just laugh and say, "remember TV is all about ratings, not reality". Yep, they are usually unclear about the pushing, epidural taking ALL the pain away, the length of labor, visitation policy (the show makes it look like you can have your entire neighborhood in there to watch).


1,804 Posts

Ditto to the above posters. I hate when people want to bring little children to the birth because their child "watched a baby story w/ mommy during the whole pregnancy". If your child is mature and well prepared for the birth, then fine bring him/her, but this is no prep for the child. It is much too predictable and also perpetuates the idea that birth is a spectator event NOT the most signifigant, yet sometimes perilous event, in a person's life (IMHO). Sorry to rain on anyone's parade. I don't really like reality tv of any sort, but I do try to be nice to everyone... even the Baby Story wannabe's. They've done a lot of filming in the Philadelphia area, but I had a pt. tell me, our area is too far for them . DARN!!! :crying2:


342 Posts

Specializes in all things maternity.

I like to watch them for their entertainment value and thats what I share with my childbirth ed couples. Enjoy them for the entertainment but don't expect your real life labor to go according to script. Those shows only show the very best or the very worst of outcomes. I haven't ever seen one that depicts true labor.


20,964 Posts

Specializes in Specializes in L/D, newborn, GYN, LTC, Dialysis.

they frankly annoy the heck out of me. people take TV so damn literally.


1,104 Posts

they frankly annoy the heck out of me. people take TV so damn literally.

Ditto that!!!

bagladyrn, RN

2,286 Posts

Specializes in OB.

I think that these shows have contributed to the atmosphere of "Let's invite everybody and their neighbors to view the birth!" as well as giving couples really unrealistic expectations for the whole experience. When patients tell me "I didn't take classes, but I watched a Baby Story every day" my first comment is "Do you understand the concept of editing?"!

Energizer Bunny

1,973 Posts

I can't stand "Baby Story" on TLC either but the one on Discovery Health Channel...hmmm...what's the name of it? Do you guys know which one I am talking about? They seem to really portray real situations....the other day I was watching one about a woman that had morning sickness throughout her whole pregnancy and then there was one with Midwives attending instead of OB's. I find it much more true to life than the crap they put on Baby Story where everything is hunky dorey and everyone is happy and fulfilled and there is no pain!


20,964 Posts

Specializes in Specializes in L/D, newborn, GYN, LTC, Dialysis.

I think those reality shows scare the hell out of people, though, CNM. One obstetric crisis after another, with fast-paced music (like a heartbeat), excited, agitated narration and quick camera work make for a very tense show that can make some who take TV too literally fear for their OWN situations. (when there is nothing amiss). I think anyone taking TV literally is poorly-served by these programs and they in turn make our jobs much more difficult. If we say or do something contradictory to the show, we are questioned suspiciously. And it would seem there are too many who do turn to TV shows like this for their "education".

I took care of a gal other day who sadly lost a 22- week pregnancy to premature rupture of membranes. Now, when we explained the baby was not likely viable (dates were absolute as this was IVF/confirmed by serial u/s), a well-meaning family member spoke up angrily and said "I saw a TV show where a 19 week baby was born, did fine, and is a school-age kid today! How can you NOT do something here???!" Did not matter, when we explained the NICU course ahead, plus the liklihood of permenent devastating disabilities facing the newborn IF she survived.

I explained that regarding that show, the viewers would have no way of knowing what the true gestational age of a baby born would be, and that ratings have a lot to do with how they present the outcomes. I also explained there is a HUGE difference in neonatal survival between 19 weeks and 23, 24 weeks and beyond. It did little good and in fact, harmed the whole situation, with the family demanding "everything" be done. ("everything" was done, believe me, and the baby died 5 minutes after being born).

I see this ALL the time. TV shows really, really make it much more difficult at times and I hate when someone says "that was not how it was on Maternity Ward, Baby Story or whatever- show- it- was"! It is all I can do to grit my teeth and not say "you should spend less time watching TV and more reading or going to school if you are interested in medicine!" I don't blame just the shows, but the viewers who spend so much time watching TV. Like I said earlier, people are way too literal regarding TV viewing. They think "reality TV" is equal to an absolute knowledge of the entire situation being dramatized.


It would be nice if you could labor and deliver, with the gory bits edited and your private parts blurred, in only a half an hour!

Energizer Bunny

1,973 Posts

I guess because I know how labor goes, I don't think of it affecting others that way. I always tend to give people the benefit of the doubt and think that they realize it is TV. LOL! I know better than that, but still...I always hope that everyone on this earth would have some common sense.


20,964 Posts

Specializes in Specializes in L/D, newborn, GYN, LTC, Dialysis.

Ah but you don't work in L and D yet CNM. when you do, you learn and quickly how literal some people are.

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