Women reserve the right to opt for whatever delivery method they feel best suits their personal situation, but throughout the United States there has been an unprecedented shift from natural vaginal childbirth to medicalized delivery, despite there often being no health advantage for mother or child. A recent study has found that persuasive magazine content may be largely responsible for the shift.

In order to measure just how much the media influences women’s choice of childbirth, a team of researchers from Monash University and Queensland University of Technology, both in Australia, had women who had never given birth read various magazine articles promoting the benefits of non-medicalized births.

"We wanted to look at how women's decisions might be influenced by communicating the alternative benefits of non-medicalized birth," the lead researcher Kate Young explained in a press release.

After reading the articles, the female volunteers then spoke to the researchers about their personal opinion on childbirth and the team’s theory was confirmed. Women who were exposed to a magazine article endorsing childbirth with no medical intervention were more likely to show a more favorable opinion toward all-natural childbirth.

"Women's expectations and attitudes about birth are shaped by various sources of information long before they become pregnant, with one of the most popular being the media, and in particular, magazines," Young said.

The problem is, although women have the right to choose how they give birth, medical data show that some medicalized delivery techniques, such as C-sections and the use of epidurals, are simply riskier than natural delivery. Despite this, medicalized deliveries, especially C-sections, are higher than ever before.

A 2014 investigation by Consumer Reports found that although C-sections are sometimes necessary to ensure the health of the mother or the baby, the rates of this procedure in America are vastly higher than what is considered “normal.” Based on the report, the number of C-sections performed in the U.S. is up by 500 percent since the 1970s and continues to rise.

The problem, however, is that C-sections are often reserved as a last resort for a reason: They are invasive and can lead to preventable maternal and infant injury and even death. According to the Consumer Reports review, this operation puts mothers at a higher risk for developing severe bleeding, blood clots, heart attack, kidney failure, major infection, and take much longer for recovery than vaginal delivery.

The researchers hope that the same media outlets that have created a trend for medicalized births also use it to counterbalance bias. Exposing women to articles endorsing natural child birth will likely help change their opinion on the issue. A move toward more natural childbirth will not only decrease the number of complicated childbirths, but it will also provide a monetary relief on the health system. According to the Center for Healthcare Quality & Payment Reform, if the number of C-sections performed in the U.S. were halved, about $5 billion could be saved each year in health care spending.

Souce: Young K, Miller YD. Keeping it Natural: Does Persuasive Magazine Content Have an Effect on Young Women’s Intentions for Birth? Women & Health. 2015.