13/06/2014 08:48 BST | Updated 11/08/2014 06:59 BST

Born in the Wild: Exploitation or Empowerment?


I read a blog today (you can read it here) about a new American reality TV show called "Born in the Wild". (A "One Born Every Minute" for people giving birth outside.) The blogger, Kiran, was pretty appalled by the idea of the programme, and a quick read of the TV critics revealed similar attitudes.

It's hardly surprising people are scathing of the idea. Reality TV and weird people who want to give birth outside? What's not to sneer at? If I'd seen it in a TV guide last year I might have lumped it in with "World's Most Expensive Pet" and "The Man with 3 Legs" as deliciously trashy viewing. Now, however, I'm one of them. My name is Amy and I had a homebirth. (Mine was inside though so I'm not quite as bohemian as these wall-less mavericks.)

Now I'm in that club, the idea of giving birth outside doesn't seem quite so wacky. I gave birth in a paddling pool in my living room in December, but if it had been a warm summer's evening, heck I might've taken proceedings into the garden. That's all this is, a homebirth without walls. Although I'll bet that a show called "Outdoor homebirths" wouldn't be quite such a ratings winner.

It seems to me that people have two main issues with the idea of the show. The first being that it's exploitative.

I think reality TV has been around long enough now that people are aware of the potential pitfalls of being on TV. In particular, the kind of women who want to give birth in the woods are more than likely to be strong-willed and resilient enough to make their own choices regarding being on TV.

Kiran rightly points out however, that the babies can't consent to their births being documented and shown in this way. Well no, but neither can the countless babies on One Born Every Minute.

Given the choice, as a hypothetical newborn baby, I think I'd rather be born on the show that highlights the amazing process of birth without (sometimes unecessary) medical intervention than watch my mother getting an epidural between cut aways to midwives eating cake*.

* no disrespect to any midwives intended. If you filmed me at work there'd be a lot of cake eating scenes too.

The second and biggest problem critics seem to be focussed on was the idea that the show might "start a dangerous trend". Firstly... a trend of people giving birth outside? Are you having a laugh? Women have been encouraged to give birth in hospitals for so long that the very mention of having a home birth is enough to convince people you're a placenta eating hippy who probably doesn't shave her armpits. I highly doubt anyone would be so enthralled by the programme that they'd skip seeking a medical opinion and jump straight to "I'm doing it up a mountain". Secondly, "dangerous"? Don't get me started. Home birth for second time, low-risk Mums is so safe that the National Institute of Clinical Excellence have proposed that midwives should promote it as the best choice for both the mother and the baby.

Kiran says she hopes the show won't glamourise the idea, but I hope that it does! I hope that healthy, low-risk multiparous women feel empowered by the show to demedicalise their next birth.