January 16, 2019

Hollywood's Lazy Pregnancy Cliché

“Some things never change. The sun rises in the east. Forks are set on the left. And if there is a pregnant woman in a movie, she will go into labor at the worst possible moment.

We should really know better. But this cliché is somehow still being rolled out in even the most acclaimed scripts. The latest offender is Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma. But the inconvenient onset of labor is also used as the climax in A Quiet Place and a 2018 episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Hollywood has long struggled to get pregnancy right, from amniotic sac geysers to hilariously bad labor scenes to disturbingly unrealistic newborns. To be fair, realistic pregnancy and labor aren’t always what you’re in the mood for; one might forgive a little glossing here and there. More at issue, though, is when a script hangs its narrative on a woman going into labor at the exact worst moment — say, when she’s stuck at the bottom of a cave that is rapidly filling with water.

It probably goes without saying — but this is not how it typically works in real life. Your water breaks while you’re sleeping or peeing or walking or doing any number of other totally mundane things. “Except in rare circumstances,” said Mary P. Abernathy, a doctor of maternal-fetal medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, these movie “scenes have no bearing on how these mechanics work in real life. it is pure Hollywood magic.” A woman’s water breaking “is not caused by stress or fear. Otherwise women wanting to go into labor could just watch horror movies!””

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