'My Teen is Pregnant and So Am I' premieres Tuesday: 5 gripes about reality TV pregnancy shows

ssorich@ledger-enquirer.comJune 10, 2013 

For four years, I spent my lunch hour in the labor and delivery room.

It worked perfectly. I had in and out privileges, easy access to alcohol and the ability to turn off a baby's crying with the flip of a remote.

That's because I wasn't in a real labor delivery room. I was watching TLC's "A Baby Story" from the comfort of my college dormitory.

The reality TV series -- which chronicles pregnancy stories -- was a lunchtime ritual. The daily episodes were comforting. Each episode followed a standard format: we met the pregnant woman, she gave birth and she talked about how her life changed post-pregnancy.

This week, the network that gave us "A Baby Story" offers "My Teen is Pregnant and So Am I." Yes, really.

The show joins a reality TV culture where pregnancy is often accompanied by "teen" or "train wreck."

Are we done yet?

It's hard to argue these shows are increasing teen pregnancy rates because, well, they're probably not. A recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics highlights "evidence of a decline in teen pregnancies across the nation," according to NPR.

But that doesn't mean reality TV should continue its love affair with pregnancy programming. In fact, I'll gladly offer five reasons why these pregnancy shows need to stop ASAP.

They breed too much legal drama. The names Amber Portwood and Jenelle Evans should say enough, but I'll say more. Many of these show's stars seem to attract a deluge of legal drama. Google "arrested 16 and pregnant" and you'll see what I mean. Unsurprisingly, a featured clip from "My Teen is Pregnant and So Am I" is titled "Felony charges and drugs."

The bottom line? Many of these people should be focusing on issues deeper than a fleeting shot at fame.

They've turned childbirth into a battle of extremes. Remember when Honey Boo Boo's niece was born with three thumbs? How about when Kourtney Kardashian pulled a baby out of her body during delivery? And did anyone catch that recent "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant" marathon?

I doubt real women are trying to have babies with extra fingers. I doubt real women dream about unknowingly giving birth on a toilet and being featured on reality TV. But perhaps more than any other life milestone, pregnancy has become a caricature of itself on reality TV.

They've reinforced stereotypes. Recent poll results suggest 2 in 5 women would consider parenting solo.

Women are the primary breadwinners in a record 40 percent of U.S. households with children.

Motherhood has transcended all sorts of previously imposed social limits. By depicting pregnant women in a way that fails to encourage meaningful dialogue, we're promoting the alien-like qualities that previously surrounded perceptions of mothers and pregnant women in the public sphere.

I'm guessing "Pregnant & Dating" isn't the key to this social revolution.

What about the babies? There's something creepy about centering a show around a child incapable of agreeing to the process.

History sometimes repeats itself. Needless to say, we don't want THIS happening again.

But I totally won't judge if you still want to watch "My Teen is Pregnant and So Am I." The show airs 10 p.m. Tuesday on TLC.

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