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Keywords:

  • birth;
  • media;
  • midwife;
  • midwifery;
  • midwives;
  • obstetricians;
  • obstetrics

Abstract:  Background:  The media both creates and reflects public opinion. The way in which health professionals are depicted in the media is likely to influence views held by and about different health professions. The aim of this study was to examine how midwives and obstetricians are reported in English language web-based news reports from around the world.

Methods:  News alerts from the Internet search engine Google were created to search for the terms “midwife,”“midwives,”“midwifery,”“obstetrics,” and “obstetricians.” These alerts were received over a 12-month period (May 1, 2006–April 31, 2007), downloaded, and analyzed using quantitative content analysis.

Results:  A total of 522 web-based news reports for midwifery and 564 for obstetrics (= 1,086) were found. Dominant categories for midwives were: “mainstreaming midwives” (models of care/rise of midwifery) (28%); “the Cinderella of the maternity care” (workforce/industrial) (27%); “delivering the baby with your hands tied” (funding, insurance, and legislation) (21%); “ask the expert” (education, research, and health advice) (8%), “recognizing midwives” (awards and announcements) (7%), “unsafe midwives” (litigation) (6%); and “the art of birth” (books, film, and photographs) (2%). Dominant categories for obstetricians were: “ask the expert” (research and advice) (26%); “doctors are heroes amongst us” (awards and announcements) (19%); “obstetric workforce woes” (workforce/industrial) (19%); “new frontiers” (trends in care and new technology) (17%); “the disappearing obstetrician” (insurance and litigation) (10%); and “human-interest news reports” (9%). Obstetricians were more likely to be recognized as experts on pregnancy and birth and receive public recognition compared with midwives. Midwives were more likely to be depicted as struggling to be a mainstream option while being hampered by lack of funding, insurance, and legislative barriers.

Conclusions:  Although midwives have rising acceptance, they still struggle with recognition. Obstetricians have both acceptance and recognition. Countries where midwifery is a mainstream option have more news reports related to midwifery than obstetrics. Different issues appear more dominant in some countries, such as work force in the United Kingdom and funding, insurance, and legislation in the United States. (BIRTH 39:1 March 2012)