I have been meaning to write to you regarding one of your very popular shows – 16 and Pregnant– to address several issues that deeply concern me. However, since it is January and typically this is the month of resolutions and new beginnings, I thought that I would take this opportunity to call you out publically in hopes that you will give some much needed consideration to the issues I am about to raise.
Birth and raising children are experiences that transcend words. Simply put, having a baby and parenting a child changes your life. They should be taken seriously, discussed openly and honestly, and portrayed in a light that allows future parents to feel supported, encouraged, and valued. 16 and Pregnant does a horrendous job or portraying the beauty that is birth and parenting.
I could write a novel on all of the ills I see in this show. Yes, I watch it. No, I am not at all entertained by it. I am saddened and heartbroken. I watch so that I can understand exactly what message you are sending to young mothers and fathers around the globe. I watch so that I can be a voice speaking out against all the ills of your shows. I watch so that I can be a voice of change.
MTV, birth is a natural process. Women have been successfully doing it with little to no medical intervention since the beginning of humankind. Our genetic material KNOWS what to do to nourish and bring life into this world. It does not need a doctor forcing his or her decisions on us. It does not need a camera crew creating a very uncomfortable environment for an already stressed mother.
16 and Pregnant portrays a very one-sided view of birth. It is a rare episode when a mother is “allowed” to go into labor naturally. 90% of the pregnant teens are given a cutoff date long before the 40 week mark of pregnancy then hooked up to an IV with a hefty dose of Pitocin. You are so casual about it as well. Your funky little lettering pops up with the message that Pitocin is a drug to kick-start labor. Do you see this as “natural?” I mean, would it be so horrible to show young pregnant females that Pitocin is NOT necessary? Do you have any interest in educating women about allowing their bodies and their babies to decide when it is time to birth? Or are you being paid off by the medical community?
In addition to the rampant use of Pitocin, I take issue with your portrayal of labor. These poor girls are clearly not informed about their options when it comes to labor positions. They all just lay there, in bed, in agonizing pain, being told to get an epidural and relax. There is never any discussion of all the very effective labor positions. You never see a birth ball. You don't see the girls getting into a birth tub. That's probably because they are too doped up to move. And yes, I take issue with your casual inclusion of narcotics to “numb” these girls and make them unaware of the feelings of labor and birth. I am not suggesting that every woman can handle a drug-free birth. But again, you make it seem like drugs are just par for the course.
Now I could go on a looooong rant about your portrayal of birthing positions. These girls are all flat on the back, legs being held by squeamish fathers or hyped up family members. Many times the babies “get stuck” an indication that these girls were not allowed to listen to their bodies and are being forced to push when indeed they are not ready. You never see a girl squatting. You certainly do not see a birthing stool and as I mentioned before, there is never a birth tub in sight. MTV, giving birth on your back is the WORST position to effectively deliver a baby in and yet it is the only one you show. Geez. Can you not use your billions of dollars to help these girls get a doula who can educate them and advocate for them?
Clearly I feel that you have a LOT that you can improve upon if you continue to
exploit feature pregnant teenage girls. However, there is one area that I am absolutely heartbroken that you do not spend more time addressing and educating your viewers about. Breastfeeding.
Breastmilk has successfully sustained life for over 250,000 years. It is natural. It offers complete nutrition. It is tailored made for the individual needs of each baby. It has hundreds of positives. And yet, you ignore it. Yes, you have shown a couple of moms attempting to breastfeed but then you cut right to the scene where baby gets home and a bottle is shoved in her mouth. You are not helping pregnant girls make good decisions about the future health of their child. You are not supporting them in doing what women have done for ever. You are surely paid off by formula manufacturers but come one MTV…step it up. What do you think breasts are for anyway? Oh yeah – flaunting in all your disgusting music videos.
Now, all of my above concerns are serious and I implore you to aid these girls in becoming informed about pregnancy, the birth process, and nourishing this new life. Give them a chance to take control of their birth experience. Empower them to have the most beautiful birth story ever shown. Show them that there is more to birth than what our “medical professionals” claim is the norm. Remember, birth is not about the convenience of the medical staff, it is about the mother and her child. And most importantly, help them find the support they need to establish a strong breastfeeding relationship so their child can get the best nutritional start in life. You devoted an ENTIRE episode to a couple who made the difficult decision to abort a baby. If you can show THAT, why can't you air a special about the birth process or breastfeeding? That is much less controversial than abortion. And in my opinion, it trumps a special about abortion because more young girls will choose to give birth and parent than abort their babies.
MTV, you are better than this. Make a resolution today to start fresh. Provide a holistic look at pregnancy, birth, and nurturing children. Commit to more than what is considered the mainstream norm. Please prove to the world that you have a soul and are willing to help change the way that women of all ages view pregnancy and birth. Your voice is strong. Use it.