Graphic Childbirth Reality Show Sparks Controversy in China

Shenzhen Satellite TV
Shenzhen Satellite TV's "Come on Baby"

Some viewers have praised the show's honesty, while others say they were disturbed by it, tweeting under the hashtag "#Are you brave enough to watch a mother give birth?"

A new reality show, Come On, Baby, which shows the process of giving birth, has caused a sensation in China, with some viewers saying the documentary is too graphic and others hailing its intimate depiction of labor.

The first episode of the show, produced and put out by Shenzhen Satellite TV, aired on May 9, right before Mother’s Day in the world's most populous nation. It showed the process of three ordinary mothers-to-be, Gu Yanqing, Chen Xuejun and He Jiamin, from waiting to give birth until delivery.

“The mom uses her own flesh in exchange for the baby, which is the most realistic aspect and also the most powerful side,” said Yi Hua, who produced the show for Shenzhen Satellite Television network.

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“Most of the people watching this show are women, some of them in love, married, or who are at the age where they want to get pregnant,” said Yi.

In China, a deeply conservative society where there are 16 million births a year -- around 40,000 a day -- attitudes toward childbirth are complex. Most women will only give birth once because of the One Child Policy, which limits most families to a single child as a means of population control. But as recently as the 1970s, Chinese women gave birth to an average of six children each.

Also, roughly 50 percent of women opt for birth by cesarean section, as hospitals tend to be overcrowded and midwives in short supply.

Yi did not say whether he thought the show was suitable for children to watch, but he said that the coverage of the birth was discreet and censored some of the more graphic scenes.

There was much discussion of the show before it broadcast, and it was originally intended for families to watch with children, but after the first episode, some parents were worried.

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“I wanted my child to know how he came to this world, but some of the scenes scared him,” one mother said on

Comments on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, were grouped under the hashtag "#Are you brave enough to watch a mother give birth?"

A commentator with the title "a moment like this" said: “After watching the episode Male OB-GYN Doctor, are you brave enough to give birth to a baby? It’s just too terrifying. It’s even more horrifying than a horror movie. There’s a splatter of blood; seeing that knife cut into the abdomen scared me half to death.”

"Yelu baobei" said: “Watched a bit of the Shenzhen documentary Come On, Baby and was a bit horrified by it. I don’t suggest anyone to watch it. Everyone’s situation is different, but to watch this show will only to add to your psychological trauma, and it won’t match the perfect, happy way you imagine it to be.”

However, some enjoyed its realistic celebration of motherhood. 

"Ruan Mei"  said: “Really, to be a mother is the greatest role of all. Mother’s Day is the most meaningful festival ever.”

Twitter: @cliffordcoonan