Famous movie scenes of women giving birth.

What women really think about news, politics, and culture.
April 23 2010 12:47 PM

I Don't Know Nothing 'Bout Birthin' Babies!

A video slide show of famous scenes showing women giving birth.


Not all that long ago, giving birth was not a subject fit for television and movies … or polite conversation. Lucille Ball was the first visibly pregnant woman shown on TV—except none of the actors on I Love Lucy were allowed to utter the word "pregnant." "Lucy was expectant," Randi Hutter Epstein points out in her engaging history of childbirth Get Me Out. But all that had changed by the '70s, when women were "marching for civil rights, joining feminist rallies and demanding a patients' bill of rights." In 1975, All in the Family showed one of its main characters, Gloria, giving birth with mussed hair while doing Lamaze with her husband by her side.

Now we are back to an age in which mussed hair will not do, and birth seems reserved for the glamorous (see Angelina Jolie, Demi Moore). One trailer for  Jennifer Lopez's new movie,The Back-up Plan, which ran during the Super Bowl, showed Lopez witnessing an at-home water birth. The bongo drums compete with excessive animal noises coming out of the mom-to-be, and J. Lo cringes with overblown horror. "What is THAT!" Lopez shrieks as the baby emerges. "Look at all that hair," the water-birthing mom moans as she watches herself deliver in a hand mirror.


Movies have always depicted and influenced current motherhood trends, Epstein argues, and TheBack-up Plan is no exception. J. Lo's character, Zoe, decides to get artificially inseminated because she hasn't met "the one." (Of course, because this is a romantic comedy, she meets "the one" immediately after she is inseminated.) Even the fact that a romantic comedy features a pregnant lady as its love object might count as a great leap forward from Lucy.

From the perfectly coiffed Mary Tyler Moore giving birth off-screen on the Dick Van Dyke Show to a sweaty Katherine Heigl's baby crowning in Knocked Up, the following clips offer a cinematic history of births since the '30s. Warning: Some of these clips include profanity or nudity.

Click here  to see a video slide show of famous scenes of women giving birth.

Like  DoubleX on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Jessica Grose is a frequent Slate contributor and the author of the novel Sad Desk Salad. Follow her on Twitter.



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

iOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.


Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

My Father Was James Brown. I Watched Him Beat My Mother. Then I Married Someone Like Him.

  News & Politics
Sept. 17 2014 12:02 PM Here It Is: The Flimsiest Campaign Attack Ad of 2014, Which Won’t Stop Running
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 17 2014 1:46 PM A Salute to Defiant Scots on the Eve of Their Possible Secession
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 1:26 PM Hey CBS, Rihanna Is Exactly Who I Want to See on My TV Before NFL Football Games
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 1:01 PM A Rare, Very Unusual Interview With Michael Jackson, Animated
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 12:35 PM IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.