TV shows like BBC’s Call The Midwife and C4’s One Born Every Minute ‘are inaccurately


The groans of women in travail have helped make it one of the most popular dramas on television.

But Call The Midwife needs to brush up on its medical scenes after a study found it does not depict labour accurately.

The Sunday night staple risks misinforming prospective parents and professionals, researchers said, while calling for safety warnings ahead of the shows.

A team from King’s College London and the University of Liverpool analysed 87 births shown in 48 episodes of three UK popular fictional and reality TV programmes — BBC‘s Call The Midwife, This Is Going To Hurt and Channel 4‘s One Born Every Minute.

They found they largely showed modern updates to labour care, in line with guidelines by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Call The Midwife needs to brush up on its medical scenes after a study found it does not depict labour accurately. The Sunday night staple risks misinforming prospective parents and professionals, researchers said, while calling for safety warnings ahead of the shows

Call The Midwife needs to brush up on its medical scenes after a study found it does not depict labour accurately. The Sunday night staple risks misinforming prospective parents and professionals, researchers said, while calling for safety warnings ahead of the shows

A team from King's College London and the University of Liverpool analysed 87 births shown in 48 episodes of three UK popular fictional and reality TV programmes ¿ BBC 's Call The Midwife (pictured), This Is Going To Hurt and Channel 4 's One Born Every Minute

A team from King’s College London and the University of Liverpool analysed 87 births shown in 48 episodes of three UK popular fictional and reality TV programmes — BBC ‘s Call The Midwife (pictured), This Is Going To Hurt and Channel 4 ‘s One Born Every Minute

Depictions of midwives and doctors clamping the umbilical cord were shown inaccurately or dramatised as unimportant a third of the time, the researchers found. Pictured: This Is Going To Hurt

Depictions of midwives and doctors clamping the umbilical cord were shown inaccurately or dramatised as unimportant a third of the time, the researchers found. Pictured: This Is Going To Hurt

Clamping in childbirth is where the umbilical cord between the mother and child is clamped before being tied and cut. Pictured: This Is Going To Hurt

Clamping in childbirth is where the umbilical cord between the mother and child is clamped before being tied and cut. Pictured: This Is Going To Hurt

The procedure should not happen until between one and five minutes after birth as it stops blood circulating between mother and child during the time the baby begins to breathe. Pictured: One Born Every Minute

The procedure should not happen until between one and five minutes after birth as it stops blood circulating between mother and child during the time the baby begins to breathe. Pictured: One Born Every Minute

But depictions of midwives and doctors clamping the umbilical cord were shown inaccurately or dramatised as unimportant a third of the time.

Worryingly, harmful medical practices that can cause death and brain injuries in premature babies are being presented as standard practice in modern TV programmes.

Andrew Weeks, a Professor of maternal health at the University of Liverpool, said: ‘Health professionals know that midwives and doctors should not interrupt the flow of blood to the newborn baby nor separate the mother and baby without a pressing reason, and yet this is what is being shown on popular television programmes as common practice.

‘Incorrect depictions like this, however routine, can lead to misinterpretations of correct practice by the public.

‘The language used in programming of “delayed” or “deferred” clamping can make people think it should be done “early” or “immediately” when that is not correct. 

What is cord clamping? 

The umbilical cord links a woman’s placenta to their baby. 

After giving birth, the umbilical cord continues to pulsate, as it transfers blood, oxygen and stem cells to the baby while they adjust to being outside the womb.

It used to be common practice to cut the cord straight after the birth. 

But guidelines say that delayed (or optimal) cord clamping is better for the baby. This means waiting until the cord has stopped pulsating and has become white before cutting the cord. 

The cord should not be clamped earlier than 1 minute after birth.

It’s recommended that the cord is clamped before 5 minutes (so the placenta can come out after it has separated from the uterus).

A doctor or midwife may need to clamp the cord earlier if there is a problem. For example, if there are concerns about the baby’s heartbeat and they need breathing support.

‘This illustrates the need for safety recommendations when TV dramas show birthing practices and procedures that are outdated and inaccurate.’

Clamping in childbirth is where the umbilical cord between the mother and child is clamped before being tied and cut.

The procedure should not happen until between one and five minutes after birth as it stops blood circulating between mother and child during the time the baby begins to breathe.

If the cord is clamped too soon, there is a risk of depriving the baby of blood that goes into the lung circulation.

The researchers found that cord clamping was rarely shown on TV and it was given less attention on screen than the baby’s first cry or cutting of the cord, increasingly a ritual performed by the father in the modern day.

Only four of the 25 instances correctly showed them take place after at least one minute, with the others taking place too early.

Susan Bewley, Professor of Obstetrics and Women’s Health at King’s College London, said: ‘Millions of viewers watch programmes like Call the Midwife every week to be entertained but the line between fact and fiction is blurred.

‘We are impressed that UK television shows have accurately depicted some changes in childbirth over the last century, but on the other hand they have also provided the public with a picture of poor-quality care when it comes to clamping during childbirth.

‘These inaccurate depictions could influence how people see real-world care.

‘We saw too early cord clamping in most televised births, but no programme informed viewers about the safety aspects.

‘When showing outdated practices, broadcasters have a public health duty to inform viewers that this immediate medical intervention is no longer recommended. No broadcaster would show the sleeping positions associated with cot-death without comment.’



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