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SALT LAKE CITY — A new reality show from Lifetime will give women the chance to give birth outdoors without any doctors or midwives to help.
“What happens when the craziest experience of a woman’s life becomes truly wild, and soon-to-be parents decide to take on an unassisted birth in the outdoors?” asks Lifetime's press release, according to Entertainment Weekly, who broke the story. “Born in the Wild will document the journeys of young, expectant parents who have chosen to give birth ‘in the wild.’ ”
Reality shows highlighting labor and delivery is not a new concept — TLC started it all 15 years ago with “A Baby Story” which showed families preparing for hospital, birth center or home births. But those labors at least had some kind of medical attendant present.
Dr. Cara Heuser, a maternal-fetal medicine physician at Intermountain Medical Center, said that based on years of research, the show is a risky move.
“While it's important not to over 'medicalize' birth, it's also important to remember that moms and babies can and do die or become injured during the process,” Heuser said in an email. “There are places where women still give birth in the wild, although not by choice, and maternal and neonatal complications are sadly common.”
We all want healthy moms and healthy babies and even in low-risk women, having those babies in the setting proposed by this show is probably not the best way to achieve that goal.
–Dr. Cara Heuser, IMC
At the beginning of the 20th century, there were six to nine deaths from pregnancy-related complications for every 1,000 births in the U.S., Heuser said. That number has dramatically decreased by 99 percent thanks in large part to medical advances, she added.
“We all want healthy moms and healthy babies, and even in low-risk women, having those babies in the setting proposed by this show is probably not the best way to achieve that goal,” Heuser said.
Based on the data, is this reality show irresponsible? Lifetime doesn’t think so. Eli Lehrer, Lifetime’s senior VP and head of nonfiction programming, brushed off the concerns that many OB-GYNs have expressed and told EW.com that the women on the show would have access to immediate medical care if needed, so it would be less risky than a real unassisted childbirth. They also won’t let a first-time mother participate, and the birth has to be within a certain distance of a hospital.
“We’re taking extreme precautions to make sure the mothers and the babies are safe,” Lehrer told EW.com. “Our presence at these births is going to make them far safer than if they were doing it on their own.”
Hospitals have made great strides in creating a more friendly environment for women in labor by providing birthing tubs, balls and letting mothers bond with their baby immediately after birth. But the Internet is rife with forums from women who are unsatisfied with their “medicalized” births and are drawn to having an unassisted birth.
The main issue when women are unsatisfied with their labor and delivery process is usually from a communication problem, Heuser said.
“Women give birth in hospitals all the time without medication and/or intervention,” Heuser said. “Our responsibility is to educate patients about the risks and benefits of various interventions and make recommendations based on the current state of medical knowledge. No one is ever forced to accept our recommendations."
Lifetime has not yet set a date for the series premiere.