The Power of Early Morning Nightmares: The consequences including even death at home for expectant mothers of BBC Scotland’s reporting of one stillbirth

scream power2

I’ve already written today about BBC Scotland’s report on the death of a baby in the most awful circumstances. I cannot describe the actual nature of that death. I’ve condemned the report in terms of its inappropriateness for our public service broadcaster.

However, there’s more to say about this. To tell the story of this single, very rare case, as they did, has consequences. It will have been seen by midwives, by expectant mothers and their relatives. Might this cause even one expectant mother to decide to dangerously give birth at home? The only demonstrable media effect is that of depression and anxiety. Researchers have already shown the strong correlation between high negative news consumption and levels of depression and anxiety.

Not proven scientifically is the notion that personalised, extended reports of trauma such as stillbirth, with images of the baby scan and interviews with a teddy-clutching grief-stricken mother will demoralise midwives and create fear in the minds of expectant mothers and their relatives. I don’t think we need to do this research, do you, just in case? For purely political gain, BBC Scotland have exploited a broken woman and caused many of their viewers to illogically fear childbirth procedures in hospitals.

Scandalously, Reporting Scotland did not tell us in the report or at any other time:

‘In the Nordic countries – Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland – the rate of stillbirths and deaths of babies within 28 days is 4.3 per 1 000 live births. This is the lowest in the world. In the USA, it’s about 10. The Scottish figure has now fallen to just 4.72 with the rate for the UK at 5.61.’

This is from a BBC website!


That’s the real news about childbirth in Scotland. It’s safer than its ever been and safer here than elsewhere in the UK. Shouldn’t the BBC inform us rather than just scare us? Their royal charter makes no mention of scaring.

I’ve admitted already that I cannot prove that the broadcast made people more anxious and fearful of childbirth in Scottish hospitals but there is some evidence that such reporting, especially in the early hours of the day is strongly associated with fearful responses. I wrote this last year:

‘The ‘baleful habitual practices of the miserable mind’ are strongest in the early morning’

Dr R Fletcher, ‘Surgeon to the Lunatic Asylum near Gloucester’ 1833 (p.206) wrote this in 1883. I know it’s not a recent and reliable source, as we used to say in Higher Education, but I think it shows that we’ve known about this effect for some time. It was no accident that medieval monks and more recently, private school boarders, got started with their religious indoctrination before dawn so as to catch them anxious, fearful and absorbent of the required sense of superiority and deep racial prejudices necessary for the conquest of lesser peoples.

Making these early hours particularly effective for indoctrination, they often follow on from nightmares:

‘Nightmares tend to occur during the early morning, as opposed to late evening with night terrors, and patients usually have good recall of the events of the dream.’ (Science-based Medicine, 2014)

Does the above matter? Well perhaps it does:

‘I would like to re-emphasise the importance of “bad news” in the genesis of psychopathology, as this does not seem to be generally recognised. Bad news, of deaths and other disasters, is not available to our primate cousins who are not equipped to exchange gossip but has been available to our ancestors over the last few million years since language evolved. Since these ancestors lived in groups of about 150 individuals, the amount of bad news they could generate was limited, even if we add in bad news from neighbouring groups. Now, we have available the bad news of many billions of people.’




9 thoughts on “The Power of Early Morning Nightmares: The consequences including even death at home for expectant mothers of BBC Scotland’s reporting of one stillbirth

  1. Ludo Thierry September 27, 2018 / 12:15 pm

    Well spotted likeness between La Bird and Munch’s ‘The Scream’.

    Interestingly Munch was born in The United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway – but saw the re-emergence of Norway as an Independent nation. A fabulous artist.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ludo Thierry September 27, 2018 / 4:35 pm

    Yep – ‘fraid you’re right John and that us Scots folk tend to munch a bit too much (self included).Well – at least we learnt from yesterday’s Scottish Health Survey info that although we Scots are – typically – munching rather more than is good for us we have started, small stuff but a start nonetheless, to munch a few more of the daily fruit and veg that can do us all a lot of good in the long term. Water on stone as you often remind us.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Alasdair Macdonald September 28, 2018 / 9:04 am

    There was an interesting letter in yesterday’s (27, September) Guardian from a professor of statistics at Oxford University with regard to the report on cancers and obesity. He appears to specialise in the kind of statistics relating to the various forms of cancers and the associated factors such as smoking and obesity. His view (based on my understanding of his argument) was that the improvements in cancer survival rates are mainly due to the reduction in numbers of people who are smoking and, because of this reduction, the relative importance of obesity as a factor is increasing. However, his view was that the emphasis given by the reports to obesity were unwarranted and that present policies should continue. He was NOT saying obesity should be ignored, because for a variety of reasons – as well as for reducing predispositions towards particular cancers – reducing obesity is a sensible idea for all of us. But he was indicating, as you have been doing, that the way in which this has been presented and reported is unnecessarily alrming.


  4. Ludo Thierry September 28, 2018 / 12:54 pm

    Small piece of good news anent a miniscule reduction in the daily torrent of anti-Scottish bilge appearing in the ‘Scottish’ msm print media. According to report from former Labour MP Eric Joyce (link below) the Daily Wrecker has dispensed with Kezia D’s services as a columnist forthwith. Interesting timing.

    Kez must really be feeling that britnat love-bombing right now.



  5. sam September 29, 2018 / 4:18 pm

    I hope this might be of interest.

    “Obesity in European children is strongly related to the socioeconomic status of their
    parents (3). Also, in European countries, the higher the level of income inequality, the
    more overweight children are (3). Mothers in lower socioeconomic groups are more
    likely to be overweight and less likely to breastfeed. Infants who are not breastfed and
    who are born to obese mothers with low socioeconomic status are more likely to have
    poor eating habits and become overweight and, if they fall behind in their cognitive
    development before the age of 3, they will never catch up again.

    Click to access obesity-090514.pdf

    Guidance for addressing inequities in overweight and obesity
    increasingly related to poverty and is likely to be passed on to subsequent generations.


    • Alasdair Macdonald September 30, 2018 / 9:26 pm

      All the more reason for focussing the pupil premium on , post natal, preschool and early years primary. If we can arrest the effects then, more children will cope better when they enter primary school and move through the stages.

      The recent publicity on childhood traumatic incidents might well make the political case and gain public support for spending more (in addition to the education budget) on tackling the effects of childhood poverty and violence.


  6. sam October 2, 2018 / 6:53 am

    Thank you, Alasdair, for your comment. I expect you know, our former Chief Medical Officer, Sir Harry Burns, thinks the way to break the cycle of poverty is by giving all children the best start in life Here is a link to his KIlbrandon Lecture.

    I asked Professor Walsh of GCPH to come to our town and do a talk on health inequalities. I had a video made of the talk and when I get over this flu I will have it edited and ask John to put up a link. Professor Walsh does a lot of these talks if you are thinking of your own locality.


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