Are Harrowing TV Birth Scenes The Greatest Population Control of All?


Have you noticed that there are tons of pregnant characters on TV right now? And have you noticed that whenever a pregnant character on TV gives birth, complications and carrying on abound? It’s enough to make a lady want to knot her tubes up tighter than a Navy knot.

The Times’ Neil Genzlinger notes with an air of dismay a trend in this season’s prime time offerings — pregnancy followed by a dramatic, wailing birth scene full of complications, both emotional and medical. He wonders if perhaps this meme of the dramatic birth scene will make childbirth seem so harrowing that women will choose to forego it altogether. And, he reasons, tongue firmly in cheek, that will lead to the birth rate decreasing so much that women will stop getting pregnant altogether, which means that the “knee replacements to which (he is) entitled” will have to be paid for by some other source than the incomes of the workers we’re being convinced not to bring into the world.

His concerns are valid; hearing harrowing birth stories is enough to make any woman’s ladycave cringe and attempt to grow in upon itself. But these birth horror stories are not new nor are they exclusive to visual media; one need only hang around a group of young mothers to hear them delight in one upping each other with their birth terrors and watching your childless face cringe. It’s not limited to the present day, either. Although America’s infant and maternal mortality rate still lags behind other developed nations, women used to routinely die during childbirth. Just ask Don Draper’s mom.

In spite of the horrific vision of birth we’re presented, American women continue to have babies, and will continue to have babies no matter what TV throws at us. Ultimately, for every terrible shrieking birth scene on a prime time TV show, there are at least 5 adorable infant Halloween costumes to offset the de-incentivisation of childbirth. So don’t worry, Neil Genzlinger and concerned future elderlies. You’ll get your knees during the season finale, and after a very dramatic surgery scene involving spurting blood and a dramatic bedside confession of eternal love.

Harrowing Births on Prime Time TV [NYT]

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