Technology and the Prenatal “Diet”

In westernized countries, television and the internet have almost completely replaced the generational teaching and learning found in the “circles” of the past. Women would gather over sewing, quilting, canning, and life events including pregnancy and childbirth. They offered support, told their stories, spoke of family life, shared their everyday knowledge, wisdom and expertise while the children played at their feet.

At first glance it seems that through these technologies women are able to gain vast amounts of incredible knowledge regarding childbirth.  There are very popular websites, message boards and forums to meet and greet other women who are expecting the very same month.  Any topic is available to explore. Excellent places for a sense of community and belonging. The information is so prevalent that some women even eschew childbirth classes because they feel well enough prepared from all the exposure. Fantastic to be sure, at first glance.

Upon a deeper look  with a critical eye at the most popular shows and on-line communities, it becomes pretty obvious that overwhelmingly the messages and scenes actually have little to do with real encouragement and instilling confidence in a woman’s design and inherent ability to birth.

Let’s start with the satellite/cable television shows on the learning and health channels. Stop for a moment and think of what occurred during the last episode you viewed.  Did you see a spontaneous labor from entry to hospital to birth without augmentation, epidural, or any other intervention except for intermittent monitoring and perhaps a saline lock (IV port) placed? Was it an induction with an epidural? Was it a cesarean or a vaginal delivery? Did she have adequate support? Was her background given in any detail? Who made the decisions? What about informed consent? Was the laboring woman paid attention too or were the machines heeded more? What sort of comfort measures did she employ? Was she ever out of bed? Who delivered the baby?  What response to her baby did the mother have? Who saw her baby first? With that clear memory in mind, how did you feel after viewing it? What thoughts came to your mind? Now consider that essentially all of the births shown take place in a hospital. In fact any birth that does not, is often touted as extreme or some other like descriptive.

Let’s move on for a moment.

Now let’s take a look at the most popular pregnancy websites, message boards and forums where women connect with one another.  The “conversations” and threads are filled with all things related to the impending birth. Chatter about baby showers, maternity leave, body changes, vaccinations, previous experiences, breastfeeding, nursery preparations and so much more. Really anything under the prenatal sun. Inspecting further though, there seems to be an inordinate amount of discussion regarding the need for scheduled inductions and cesareans and very little conversation or even support for natural or spontaneous labor and birth.

With intervention appearing to be the ruling majority within the technological communities and filling the television, how is a pregnant woman feeding her eyes, heart, and mind on this type of diet supposed to feel confident, uplifted and excited about her upcoming birth? I am uncertain that she can with the seeds of inadequacy, fear, brokenness, helplessness, and lack of options being sewn into her being at such an alarming ratio.  Sometimes yes interventions are needed, however, in practice it isn’t a need for many women and babies.

These shows and internet locales are like junk food. Like all junk food they are not to be an integral part of a healthy prenatal “diet” that will be encouraging, expand useful knowledge, grow confidence, spark self-advocacy, promote self-awareness, ignite excitement, and offer joy to the expecting mother.

How can an expecting mother improve her “diet” regardless of the type of birth she is planning? What are the better places to “shop”?

  • Turning off the TV
  • Check out and attend local groups and support meetings. Educational sessions and workshops are often free of charge. For example: Doula Groups, ICAN, Midwifery Groups, Birth Network, Birth Circles, and similar.
  • Try some different message boards, forums and sites. See Blog Roll and Resources listed on this site.
  • Seek out positive free videos to watch on You Tube.
  • Talk to women who have birthed in the hospital, birth center and at home. Get a variety of positive stories.
  • Try some different reading on for size.
  • Rent or borrow movies from Netflix, a doula or childbirth educator, such as, Business of Being Born, Pregnant in America, or Orgasmic Birth to name a few.
  • Take the challenge to learn about and be open to the variety of birthing techniques, locations, options and provider types that women are utilizing.

Bottom line, the most prevalent “food group” in a diet is going to positively or negatively affect the parts and the whole of the journey to having a babe in arms.  No matter what the mother and baby live with the outcomes from the birth. Enriching the prenatal “diet” is not a guarantee of outcome or path to the birth. It does however give much more possibility and opportunity for both mother and baby to have a better birth and start together.


  1. Anisa on February 18, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Great post! This is so true, and as someone who advocates for women’s choices in birth (and how normal and natural and healthy birth is), the constant “diet” of drama, drugs, and induction is a hard thing to fight against. Loved your post!

  2. Rosemary on February 20, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    Thanks for writing this. We live in such a culture of fear – thank you for giving a clear map for walking away from that. I understand that TV shows want high drama and tension, but to me, nothing could be more thrilling than to hear a woman deep in labor and then to see the perfect little body of the world’s newest creature and watch the ecstatic love coming from the parents!

    When the dramatic and fearful stories are shown, the worst part for me is that you can see the power being stripped away from the moms. It’s terrifying – and heartbreaking when you know that moms are not even aware of what’s being done and what the consequences may well be. I will be showing people your post!

    • admin on February 20, 2010 at 9:42 pm

      Thank you Rosemary for your comments. To me as well the stripping of power and dare I say dignity causes me to wince and cry…..

  3. Birth In Joy on April 26, 2010 at 8:05 am

    Hear, hear!

  4. Helen on July 7, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Thank you, thank you. As someone who avoids the TLC channel at all costs, dreading to see one more disturbing hospital birth, I’m glad to see someone taking these visual images seriously. Twenty-six years ago, when it seemed that everyone I knew was having a cesearean, I studied the birth stories in Ina May Gaskin’s book Spititual Midwifery as if I were studying for the bar. I didn’t know then about that common practice of athletes, visualizing the outcome they wanted from a race. I just knew I wanted one more uncomplicated vaginal birth. I wonder how I would fare now, having a baby in hospital in the present, at the age of 39. I’m sure health professionals would be frightening me to death. I find it so upsetting that the battles we thought were won, giving women the right to natural childbirth, are having to be fought all over again.