Pre-child, most moms have no real problem with on-screen birthing scenes. Sure, they’re same-y, and involve plenty of well-known tropes (water breaking in public places, birth over and done with in less than an hour, women looking fabulous in full make-up right after baby’s arrival…), but they aren’t anything to think any more about than that. Post-baby, however, many moms find themselves pointing out all the flaws in the scenarios, and yelling at the TV that there is just no way it would happen like that.
Look, we all know TV isn’t true to life, but for shows and movies that are meant to be portraying a semblance of what’s real, it seems surprising that there are no female script writers or directors with childbirth experience who’d say, “Hold on, now, let’s give our viewers at least an inkling of the truth.” And even if these professions have few women with children, surely there was someone they could consult--their own mother even!--about what childbirth is really like. Shouldn’t shows, whose fan bases are made up of 20- and 30-year-old women, want to cater to their audiences instead of irritating them?
Because it’s not just that these scenes aren’t true to life; it’s that they make the general non-mom public think labor is a walk in the park, and that women should be back in their pre-baby outfits the day after baby arrives--which, of course, is ludicrous.
Here are 15 examples of laughably unrealistic on-screen pregnancy moments.
15 Erica On Friends
Yes, we were given plenty of examples showing that Erica (played by Anna Faris), the woman Monica and Chandler are adopting a baby from, is a few fries short of a Happy Meal, but in the episode “The Last One, Part 1”, she delivers twins, to everyone’s--including her own--surprise.
What pregnant woman wouldn’t know she was having twins? She’d be enormous, for one; she’d hear two heartbeats at the ultrasound, for another. (Although this was handily explained in the episode, with Erica saying she thought the two heartbeats they were referring to were her own, and the baby’s.) Even with that explained, Monica and Chandler would likely have been very involved in how Erica was cared for, and would have provided for excellent doctors and hospitals, where someone would surely have explained to her that she had two infants growing inside of her.
14 Charlotte On Sex and the City
Charlotte finally got pregnant (after about a multi-year struggle on the show, which is, to be fair, pretty realistic) in the first Sex and the City film. A week before she’s due, she glimpses Carrie’s ex-boyfriend Big across a restaurant, which gets her so flustered and angry that she, apparently, brings on her water breaking.
The scene did allow actress Kristin Davis to make a perfect, oh-so-Charlotte speech to Big (“I curse the day you were born!”), but in real life, there’s very little reason to believe such a thing would cause Charlotte to go into labor. There is evidence that anxiety can bring on early contractions, but running into your friend’s ex can hardly be classified as prolonged stress. As much as Charlotte loves Carrie, I can’t believe seeing Big would rupture her amniotic sac. All’s well that ends well, though (depending if you were a Big fan), because this was the catalyst that led Carrie back into Big’s arms.
13 Nine Months
1995’s Nine Months, starring Julianne Moore and Hugh Grant as a couple who unexpectedly get pregnant, is a comedy, I know. So there are many, many liberties taken with the truth, but the most irritating one is a conversation Rebecca and Sam have when they’re in bed, kissing, and the baby’s kicks interrupts them.
Rebecca: “What if the baby can see?”
Sam: “Um...see what, my love?”
Rebecca: “Your penis coming toward it”.
Oh pul-eeeeze. Does this woman not understand a thing about her own anatomy? And if she doesn’t, has she not learned anything from all the What to Expect When You’re Expecting-type book she’s been reading? No self-respecting female adult would ever posit this question to her partner. Nor this one, a little later: “What if your penis caused brain damage?” I’d be more worried their baby might inherit Rebecca’s lack of brain cells, myself.
12 Phoebe On Friends
In “The One With The Embryos”, Phoebe goes to the fertility clinic to become a surrogate for her brother Frank and his wife Alice. The embryos are implanted. Cut to later in the episode, same day, Phoebe takes a pregnancy test. It of course is negative--because it really doesn’t work that quickly.
However, lo and behold, a little while later on the same day she takes another test, and voila! Phoebe is pregnant! If only it were that easy. In real life, it will take about a week for a standard home pregnancy test to detect pregnancy after an implantation.
This is one of the many annoyingly unrealistic things about Phoebe’s pregnancy… just watch the episode “The One Hundredth”, when Phoebe gives birth to triplets--triplets!--vaginally, in about half an hour, with minimal contractions ahead of time. Joey’s kidney stones were seemingly more painful to pass (in the same episode) than three babies.
11 Mindy On The Mindy Project
The fact that Mindy and Danny’s baby is basically never seen again after Mindy returns to work notwithstanding, there are a few other ways Mindy’s parenthood is entirely unconvincing. In season four’s episode “Leo Castellano is My Son”, Mindy is a new mother and already back in her pre-pregnancy clothes, including heels. She’s out shopping with a newborn about a week after he was born. I’m sorry… not possible! All you can do in the first week post-partum is sleep and feed your baby. There’s no way you’d be running around shopping with a quiet baby in a stroller.
And later, Mindy gets in a pickle (as she does) and has to climb from her neighbor’s balcony over to her own. While climbing over, she cries: “Oh God, my episiotomy stitches,” which is funny, and impressive that such a thing was even mentioned, but if she really had those stitches, there’s no dang way she’d be climbing over balconies.
10 Knocked Up
Judd Apatow’s 2007 film has been applauded as one of the most realistic birthing scenes in modern cinema, and it’s true, it’s a humorous and somewhat more realistic scene than many other films. Despite this, there are a few things that will stick out to moms who’ve been through the ordeal as being pretty unrealistic.
The first is the fact that Alison (Katherine Heigl) is laying down on the bed to give birth. This is a common movie trope, but there are very few moms who give birth this way--it’s just not compatible with how the human body works!
Second, the sheet covering her nether regions… I’m sorry, moms-to-be, but there will be no sheet. There will be zero modesty whatsoever, and really, by the time the contractions are close enough for baby to come, you really won’t care either. And it’s not like this movie was big on modesty anyway, what with the image of the baby crowning displayed for maximum squirm effect.
Which brings me to three, Alison noticing when Ben’s (Seth Rogen) pal walks into the room while the baby is crowning. At that stage, it’s unlikely Alison would notice a thing around her, let alone a friend ducking in the room quietly.
9 Father of the Bride Part II
This is one of the many films that uses the arrival of a baby as an opportunity for a ridiculous car race scene: Annie (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) goes into labor, and the whole family rushes to the car, to be driven through the streets at top speed by Franck (Martin Short) in order to get to the hospital on time.
Yes, there are stories every year of women giving birth in taxis, in the backseat of the car, or even on buses, but that doesn’t make it a common occurrence--it gets reported precisely because it’s not common. Most women have ample time to get to the hospital well before they’re fully dilated; some take a full day or more for their bodies to get there. So the movie trope of rushing a mom-to-be to the hospital for the birth is highly unrealistic. But then I guess for this movie, that goes hand in hand with Martin Short’s ridiculous accent.
8 What to Expect When You’re Expecting
Three women in labor, one told she’s 8 centimeters, one that she’s 9 centimeters, and one that she’s 10 centimeters. All three perfectly calm, sane, no sign of sweat or pain or delirium. By 10 centimeters, this woman, were this real life, would be focused, sweaty, smelly, and in a considerable amount of pain. She is then told, however, that she has to have an emergency C-section. Without discussing it at all, the doctor wheels her away into surgery. This might be some moms’ experience with their doctors, but it’s absolutely a worst case scenario; even if a C-section is necessary, there should at least be dialogue between the mom and the healthcare professionals before it’s scheduled.
This, of course, isn’t the most unrealistic part of the birthing scenes: Skyler (Brooklyn Decker) gives birth to twins, the first one simply by sneezing. So, yeah, the title of the movie needs a little adjustment… ladies, don’t expect this to be anywhere near the real experience.
7 Claire On Lost
At the end of the last season, the group is at a party and Claire, heavily pregnant, says she feels strange. She walks into another room and suddenly is in full-blown labor--no long build up to 10-centimeters dilated for her. She gives four or five pushes, each of about five seconds in length, and out pops a giant, perfectly clean baby with no cord to cut.
Did the mysterious island cause Claire to become a super-humanly fast birther? Is the lack of umbilical cord some kind of magical mystery in the same vein as the island’s black smoke and polar bears? Or, for that matter, what about the fact that none of the female castaways on the island ever seemed to grow body hair? Seems like kind of a fantasy island, in some ways.
6 April On Grey’s Anatomy
In the last episode of the 12th season of Grey’s Anatomy, there’s a terrible storm. April (Sarah Drew) and Ben (Jason George) are at Meredith Grey’s house, looking for wedding rings (it’s also the day of Owen and Amelia’s wedding). April suddenly goes into labor and, for some inexplicable reason, decides it’s safer to stay put and have Ben perform a C-section to birth her breech baby with a dirty scalpel, hand sanitizer, ice, and dish towels. Sure, that’s what any sensible female doctor would choose.
And so, without painkillers or any proper way to sterilize equipment, Ben cuts April’s stomach open and delivers a healthy baby. Sarah Drew’s acting in the moment Ben cuts her stomach open is pretty realistically harrowing, but I really think in real life she would have attempted to get to the hospital, or waited for the ambulance before letting her colleague slice her open.
5 Alison On The Affair
Similar as with April before her, it’s one of the worst storms of the year. Alison, 36 weeks pregnant, heads into the hospital after feeling some contractions. Noah is unreachable, being fawned over at a party by his public relations lady and a movie director.
Meanwhile, Alison’s doctor can’t make it to the hospital due to the storm, so Alison goes it alone. Suddenly, the power goes out, and Alison has to give birth in the dark with only an impossibly young doctor to help. Please tell me what hospital in America doesn’t have a back-up generator for times like this? How likely is it that the hospital lights would be completely shut down from a bit of wind and lightning?
At least the length of the birth and Alison whingeing, “I don’t want to, I don’t want to, I don’t want to,” was pretty realistic.
4 Skyler On Breaking Bad
Let me set the scene: Walt (Bryan Cranston) has one hour to pull off a drug deal. Skyler (Anna Gunn) sits at her desk, bored, staring at her computer screen. Suddenly, she has a large contraction, and then another, and another. Shockingly, in one hour, Skyler goes from pregnant lady (who, on another note, only looks around six or seven months pregnant, not nine) to holding her new baby girl, meaning that Walt misses the birth.
First of all, there’s no way Skyler’s body wouldn’t have given her some kind of warning sign before she experienced contractions of that level; she seems to go from zero to sixty. In real life, women feel little tiny contractions first, that aren’t painful at all, almost like a little muscle spasm. Second, birth in an hour from start to finish? Highly, highly unlikely, although pretty convenient for the storyline!
3 Star Wars: Episode III
Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) is pregnant with twins, despite having the teeniest tiniest belly ever. She goes into labor, and giving birth just seems to “happen” to her--it’s almost as if that birthing robot simply pulls the twins out of her, rather than her putting in any effort to get them out. She gives a yell and one baby arrives; a few minutes later another anguished cry and the second one is handed over.
The babies are also enormous compared to the size of her pregnant belly, but that’s a given in movies, considering they’re unlikely to use actual newborns! Although in this case, they could easily have used tiny dolls.
Then, despite having all this amazing high-tech, futuristic medical equipment and fancy robots to intervene, Padme dies after the birth.
2 Baby Mama
In this 2008 movie, starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, Kate (Fey) hires Angie (Poehler) to be her surrogate, after finding out she can’t have babies. But Angie seems to be the least fit person to hire as a surrogate, despite Kate having found her through an agency. There’s a point at which she’s 18 weeks pregnant, yet she didn’t know it. How is that possible, since as a surrogate, she’d be getting poked and prodded weekly by doctors and midwives from the implantation clinic?
And of course, this is one of the many films that has the mother’s water break in a public place (this time on the street), which, as most pregnant moms find out from their doctors and midwives, generally doesn’t happen before contractions start; by then, you’d either be at home dealing with the pain, or you’d be in the hospital. Very few women’s waters break spontaneously.
1 The Back-Up Plan
A scene in this film has pregnant main character Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) and her husband witness a home birth, with a birthing pool. To be honest, a lot of it seemed pretty accurate, in terms of the level of pain the woman is experiencing (although her choice to bleat like a lamb at one point was, let’s hope, not something most women do), and the fact that she’s giving birth in different positions, rather than laying static on a bed with her feet in stirrups.
However, what is totally unrealistic and actually really strange, is the fact that the woman’s birth seems to be a spectator event; there are at least 10 other people in the room, chanting and singing. It’s a comedy, and it’s funny, sure, but it totally undermines the idea of home birth, making it into some weird hippy ritual that only happens with someone beating a bongo drum in the background. Um, no.
Sources: Babymed.com, Homebirth.net.au, Blogher.com, Refinery29.com, Mothering.com, Babble.com, Mommyish.com, Reddit.com