Lifetime‚Äôs new reality show is delivering some controversy before it‚Äôs even been born. The network announced Wednesday a new series titled Born in the Wild that chronicles pregnant women giving birth outdoors, unassisted by doctors. ‚ÄúWhat happens when the craziest experience of a woman‚Äôs life becomes truly wild, and soon-to-be parents decide to take on an unassisted birth in the outdoors?‚ÄĚ asks the press release. ‚ÄúBorn in the Wild will document the journeys of young, expectant parents who have chosen to give birth ‚Äėin the wild.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
It‚Äôs certainly a head-turning TV hook. But one obstetrician says we already know what happens when women give birth in the wild, and it isn‚Äôt good. ‚ÄúI understand everybody wants to believe we overmedicalize pregnancy and that it‚Äôs a natural process. But it‚Äôs a natural process that historically has caused an extraordinary loss of life,‚ÄĚ says Ron Jaekle, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. ‚ÄúThere is not a single piece of literature that we had to read growing up that didn‚Äôt talk about somebody‚Äôs mother or wife dying in childbirth, it was part of the national vocabulary. In the 1900s, a women died for every 1,000 babies born in the United States. Today it‚Äôs .1 for every 1,000.‚ÄĚ
The Lifetime series is taking precautions to help ensure the safety of the mother and child. No first-time mothers will be allowed to participate on the show and all participants will have a clean bill of health. A trained emergency professional will be on site. And while the couple will choose the birthing location, the production will remain within a certain radius of a hospital should complications arise. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm not surprised an OB-GYN would say that [but] we‚Äôre taking extreme precautions to make sure the mothers and the babies are safe,‚ÄĚ says Eli Lehrer, Lifetime‚Äôs senior VP and head of nonfiction programming. ‚ÄúOur presence at these births is going to make them far safer than if they were doing it on their own.‚ÄĚ
The series itself was inspired by a viral video showing a birth in a forest that racked up 20 million views (photo above). Lehrer says he has a personal connection to the show‚Äôs concept himself as his second child was born at home via midwife. ‚ÄúThis isn‚Äôt [Discovery Channel's] Naked and Afraid and we‚Äôre dropping people in the woods and saying ‚Äėgo have the baby,‚Äô‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúThese are all people who have already had babies in hospitals who had unsatisfying experiences and who are choosing to have different experiences. This is something people are doing and we set out to document it.‚ÄĚ
Even with the safety measures in place, however, Jaekle insists Born in the Wild‚Äúdoesn‚Äôt make any sense.‚ÄĚ He contends that even with modern medical care, just giving birth at home ‚ÄĒ let alone in a forest ‚ÄĒ is demonstrably more risky. ‚Äú[The number of children impacted] is a small number ‚ÄĒ until it‚Äôs your kid,‚ÄĚ Jaekle says of home birth complications. ‚ÄúThey can‚Äôt possibly make it safe enough to not [eventually] have a problem that will need a medical intervention to save the day. And then [the producers] won‚Äôt interview the docs in the ICU who will say, ‚ÄėThis would never have happened if she had been in a hospital.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
Another possible concern is the show inspiring couples not protected by the production‚Äôs safety net to try this more extreme ‚Äúnatural‚ÄĚ route, something that‚Äôs particularly unsafe for first-time mothers (which the show will not allow to participate). ‚ÄúI‚Äôm not worried this is going to spark a trend,‚ÄĚ Lehrer says. ‚ÄúI truly don‚Äôt think this is something people would enter into lightly. This is a very specific subset of people doing this.‚ÄĚ
The series was one of four new unscripted shows the network announced Wednesday. The network also ordered Girlfriend Intervention, a racial twist on Bravo‚Äôs classic Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, about ‚Äúfour wise, poised and stylish African American women, who, in each episode, help a white sister seeking a complete makeover to restore her confidence and inner glow.‚ÄĚ There‚Äôs also Threads, a ‚Äúcompetition series showcasing America‚Äôs most talented young fashion designers,‚ÄĚ and Kosher Soul, following a stylist and comedian who converts to Judaism to please his wife.