There is literally nothing more infuriating than watching TV and movies get pregnancy so wrong. Take Friends, or Grey's Anatomy, or Knocked Up. What fans got was a ton of perfect hair and makeup, a super-stylish maternity wardrobe, and not much reality. The most that TV has ever given viewers in terms of the real deal is the brief emotional eating from Betty Draper in Mad Men. In Parks and Recreation, pregnancy doesn't seem to exist at all. For all that viewers know, Leslie Knope never actually had those triplets. Fans certainly didn't see them arrive. Come to think of it, they didn't show much in the way of a bump either. Well done, Ann Perkins, for looking picture-perfect in that hospital gown.
The movie world isn't much better. Is the image of a woman lying on her back with sheets in all the right places so realistic, they have to go with it every time? Was a pregnant Charlotte in SATC going into labor at the sight of her friend's ex-boyfriend really supposed to convince us? What To Expect When You're Expecting might have gotten it right in terms of how many centimeters those women were dilated, but it didn't get much else right. Unless that is, giving birth by sneezing is realistic. This one is for anyone who has had it with TV shows and movies not showing pregnancy as it is. From sitcoms to serial dramas and so-called "motherhood movies," here are 20 things about pregnancy that TV and movies always get wrong.
If Friends is accurate, labor takes precisely 5 minutes from start to finish. Mommy had the time and energy to get her highlights retouched in the final weeks before she gave birth – although, wait, that makes sense. Since the birthing process involves 30 seconds of huffing and puffing before everyone gathers for the congratulations, then sure. We saw this with Rachel's birth on Friends. It was a similar story with Phoebe and those triplets. Those of you who remember Breaking Bad will recall that Skyler White had a remarkable ability to go from just-about-to-pop to holding her newborn in one hour.
There's a reason that most moms can't precisely pinpoint what they were wearing while they gave birth. The pink sweater might bring back memories of the birth, but seriously – how many mothers can confidently say: "I was wearing the brand-new silk pajamas with the white piping and Adidas socks?" How perfect birthing mothers look on TV and in movies has gotten a little ridiculous. Parks and Recreation avoided showing us the births altogether. What we did see, though, were some suspiciously preened feet, newly cut bangs, and clothing that had clearly never been worn.
Hands up – who gave birth in the old and comfy clothes?
Morning sickness is one of the most common symptoms in pregnancy. Generally beginning from around 6 weeks in, the cycle of nausea is one that is perfectly normal (but also perfectly unpleasant). The reality of throwing up with no notice is one that tens of millions of women face while pregnant. Somehow, Hollywood has missed this one. Movies definitely have to write it into the script. The result is precisely one quick scene of a woman popping up a toilet seat, finding that her hair is already tied back, then resuming normal business. Look Who's Talking sort of gets it. In Homeland, Carrie Mathison just walks back into work. In Gossip Girl, we got one episode of it.
"I was told it would feel like very bad [...] cramps, but that's not what it felt like to me. It was much more intense." That's just one of the dozens of honest pregnancy reviews on Parents.com. These aren't women out to scare first-time moms. They're just telling it how it is. Contractions vary between individuals. It's on TV that we see less of this variety.
Phoebe: "I'm having my first contraction!" Chandler: "Oh, no." Phoebe: "Ooh, it's not bad."
On Grey's Anatomy, Meredith even manages to have a perfectly normal conversation between her contractions. If anyone was in pain during Phoebe's labor on Friends, it was Joey and his kidney stones.
Have you noticed how TV shows have a knack for syncing everybody's schedules for the unpredictable announcement of a baby? Little miss "I was totally taken by surprise" might not be able to predict when her waters break, but when it comes to her friends, they're all free. Most parents consider it a miracle that dad was able to make it to the hospital in time. Having his buddies, your neighbor, co-worker, sorority sisters, and her entire family "right there right now?" That might work for packing last-minute essentials, but the reality isn't anything near as streamlined. Dear TV, people do have jobs, you know.
An ultra-tight and ultra-uncomfortable dress with heels? There's a reason that these exist in maternity sizes. It's called the one actress who will have hair and makeup make it work perfectly with her very big (and very fake) baby bump. The only time we've ever seen a Hollywood actress wear rubber-tight clothing while actually pregnant was with Halle Berry. "I was busting out the suit!" she told The Daily Mail about filming X Men: Days of Future Past while pregnant. Whether it's Modern Family or Keeping Up With The Kardashians, TV seems to suggest that 8 months in goes perfectly with Versace minidresses and sky-high stilettos.
It wouldn't be realistic without a cardiothoracic surgery fellow for a BFF, right? Grey's Anatomy is just one of the shows that manages to throw us a pregnant character who is always surrounded by world-class medical advice. Think it isn't a pattern? On Friends, Rachel Green's dad is a doctor. In Homeland, Carrie Mathison's sister is a qualified psychiatrist. That might be a different kind of doctor entirely, but these people all went through medical school. The Mindy Project? Big surprise, Mindy Kaling is an OB/GYN. The Big Bang Theory? Penny and Howard are the only two without a doctoral degree. Meanwhile, in the real world...
"13 Best Labor and Birthing Positions." That's the title of a mega-detailed (but mega-useful) article outlining the different positions that women can adopt during labor. "Rotating between different labor and birthing positions is important to optimize conditions for the mom and baby" is Sara Twogood, MD's opinion.
Hands and knees, birthing balls, squatting – ever seen that on TV?
Over in Hollywood, labor is an off-the-shelf deal. You lie on a bed. You are always on your back. The stirrups are optional, but having that imaginary baby is only going to happen in the world's most traditional position. Should we get #RealLabor trending?
According to Family Education, the most common pregnancy cravings include chocolate, pickles, eggs, cheese, bacon, lemons, and ice cream. Then again, you can hear of women craving Corn Flakes with orange juice. Pregnancy storylines often pick cravings as an easy topic – there isn't much setup, it can be funny, and filming a woman eating isn't exactly demanding. Unfortunately, the result isn't exactly accurate. Whether it is Phoebe's meat cravings on Friends or Law & Order: SVU's peanut butter and tacos, it will be literally all that the woman eats. On Dexter, Rita basically lives off chocolate pudding.
Hollywood has come under fire for glossing things over – everything from gender inequality to motherhood seems to cause issues. With the latter, though, moms technically have a point. A few TV shows have shown us postpartum depression. Girls saw Caroline battle it, as did Hayden Panettiere's character in Nashville. In movies, postpartum depression doesn't even exist. We will occasionally see a new mother seeming stressed out or "teary," but any mother who has suffered this debilitating condition will tell you that there's way more to it. Mad Men gave us a depressed and comfort-eating Betty. The reasons were never made clear.
Here's something that would be an absolute catastrophe in real life: Maternity units that let everyone (and their sister) into the room while the baby is born. Hospitals keep the "immediate family" rule in place for a reason. It reduces stress for the person receiving treatment and helps keep the facility from turning into a Starbucks.
Knocked Up is just one from hundreds of birth scenes where the entire cast seems to be magically allowed into the delivery room. In The Big Bang Theory, Kripke seems to have a welcome spot in the delivery room. Don't get us started on Friends. Everyone was there.
Shopping will forever be a girly thing. What shopping isn't, though, is a "do it while I'm 9 months pregnant" thing. In SATC, Charlotte finds herself walking up and down the streets of New York City with a bump that looks like it could do with some time on the couch. Forget that she is already dressed in the most uncomfortable wardrobe ever. She's also doing the last thing that a woman at this stage of her pregnancy would want to be engaging in. Shopping at the 9 months mark? It's called Amazon. Doing it before Amazon existed? Doesn't Charlotte have a ton of girlfriends?
This is where we are so glad it's just TV. If ever there was a time you wanted a competent doctor, it's when you've got a little one to care for. Fans will remember the pretty unique circumstances in which Monica and Chandler became parents to twins on Friends.
"They did mention something about two heartbeats. But I just thought it was mine and the baby's."
Anna Faris was chosen to play the sweet (but not very bright) Erica. Her intelligence shouldn't be the issue, here. Whoever that doctor was should have used the word "twins." You do not leave that open to interpretation.
Some women will always be glamorous. Sofia Vergara has been dishing out Colombian charm and effortless chic since 2009 on the hit sitcom Modern Family. In season 4, her character, Gloria becomes pregnant. Much like SATC, What To Expect When You're Expecting, The O.C., Gilmore Girls, and pretty much every TV show out there, the audience gets one perfect-looking mom-to-be.
Just to be clear, here – the mom-to-be is perfect looking the entire time. No nauseated mornings where hair really isn't the priority and washing that face was too much effort. No slouchy sweats. At 8 months, Katherine Heigl is sitting in E!'s office looking perfect in Knocked Up.
Okay, so we might not be able to keep up with Sheldon Cooper's astronomically complicated thoughts. By and large though, we're smart enough to figure out that a character is pregnant. Maybe there's some giant insecurity over in TV production, but the whole "hand on the belly" thing is a touch overdone.
Breakout Kings used this to alert the baby daddy to the pregnancy. The classic pose was also used at the end of Minority Report. According to What To Expect, rubbing that belly is pleasurable for the fetus and important to development. What is isn't, though, is necessary to show that you're pregnant.
TV has given us some of the most intelligent women on the planet in some of the most unintelligent scenarios. Discovering that you're pregnant is definitely a huge deal. It might not always be expected and it can take some figuring out, but the real-life scenario doesn't quite match what we see on the screen.
Picture any pregnancy storyline. Whether it's Leslie on Parks and Recs in the pharmacy, Homeland's Carrie stereotypically sitting on a toilet, or Jessica on Girls, these women all seem to discover their pregnancy in one of two places: either a pharmacy or a bathroom.
Picture perfect with her blonde locks, neat nails, and maternity wear that coordinates with her eye color, here is Cameron Diaz in What To Expect When You're Expecting. That's when her character isn't bouncing around the Atlanta sunshine in yoga wear. Yes, Cameron plays a trainer who hosts a fitness show. Somehow, when it comes to the delivery, the character of Jules Baxter has managed to maintain a Hollywood look (complete with what looks like a great stylist). Rotten Tomatoes gives this movie a 22% approval rating. New York Daily Daily News noted the "fairly smooth and entertaining ride" that pregnancy seems to be in this movie.
That's more like it. In 2018, Cameron Diaz became pregnant at the age of 45. Without a scrap of makeup, she looks sensational. Not because she is wearing maternity Versace. Not because she is on the red carpet. She looks sensational because she looks real.
Cameron Diaz has famously entered the "anti-Hollywood" lifestyle. She looks wonderful pregnant.
Cameron's friend, Gwyneth Paltrow has described Cameron as "the glowiest person I ever met." In loose harem pants and a baggy wool sweater, Cameron looks way more convincing in real life than she ever did on-screen. The bump wasn't quite visible here, but it is now.
Here's something comical about TV or movie birth stories. We see the most complicated "worst case scenarios." For crying out loud, Grey's Anatomy threw us a home C-section breech baby delivered with hand sanitizer, ice, and dish towels. The same show dramatically took us from hospital birth to C-section without much in the way of consent from the mom.
From a person who was themselves a relatively healthy baby (but still spent a few hours in the incubator), this incredibly common procedure seems to have been ghosted by the whole of Hollywood. There's less opportunity for crowd gatherings with an incubator, but not seeing one also isn't realistic.
Maybe it's us, but take a closer look at this picture from Grey's Anatomy. Unless this baby is part Hulk, it's definitely showing some interesting features. Newborns vary in size – the heaviest baby ever born was 22lbs, according to CBS. For the most part though, newborns are surprisingly small. Something about TV births seems to fast-forward these new babies to the 2-month mark. If you're a mother, you'll spot this in endless shows and movies.
Hit share on Facebook for anyone who will totally agree with this. We might have movies like What To Expect When You're Expecting, but only the true moms will know that movies aren't doing the best job.