What to Expect When You’re Expecting is basically a 1980s frat film, complete with busty girls in bikinis, golf buggies crashing into swimming pools, and vomit and fart jokes – all window dressed with attractive career women to pretend to educate about pregnancy.
It’s unclear who will want to see this film – it won’t sit well as a date movie since it features an unplanned pregnancy from a one night stand; young men won’t want to see themselves portrayed as incompetent and; women thinking about having children are unlikely to want to see images of pregnant women farting uncontrollably and losing control of their bladders and lives.
The film features pregnancy stories of five vaguely intertwined couples. Holly, a baby photographer, and Alex, are trying to adopt after unsuccessful infertility treatment. Rosie, a fast-food truck operator, becomes pregnant to Marco after a one-night stand. Jules, a fitness coach for a “biggest loser”-type program is unexpectedly pregnant to Evan after believing she was infertile. And Wendy, the owner of a breastfeeding store with rather romantic ideas, is finally pregnant with Gary after many years of trying – only to find herself in competition with Skyla, the blonde bimbo married to Gary’s racing-car champion alpha-Dad, who conceives twins.
It portrays the pregnant women as crazed, irrational children, despite the fact that they are quite successful prior to becoming pregnant. The demands of pregnancy override any expectation of being able to retain control in their previously well-organised lives.
Jules is advised by her partner not to travel for work, for instance, and when she does, complications occur. The doctor tells her firmly “You don’t have a choice.” If only she’d taken the sensible (male) advice initially, she could have avoided this problem! Things get worse still for poor Jules when her labour starts dramatically during a live television cross and she loses control and swears.
Pregnancy-related hormones are exposed as the messy culprit when the women become so frustrated that they attempt to hit out at their partners or leak urine on the floor – evidence that a normal life is not an option for pregnant women.
The men are even more infantile as they struggle to understand the changes to their once ordered lives. A “dudes group” provides the chance for them to bond in their shared misery as they struggle to do their bit. Together, they denigrate their situation as they offer advice to new members joining the group. Their attitude leads to such gems as the family car being described as a “vagina on wheels”, with discussion about the number of seats in the vagina and people who’ve been there.
The film is based on a very popular eponymous book about pregnancy, so does it actually have any useful information? It certainly presents different pathways to childbearing. Characters experience infertility, pregnancy loss, adoption, unplanned pregnancy and surprise pregnancy.
And all the women make appropriate decisions regarding eating a healthy diet, minimising weight gain and avoiding alcohol intake.
A miscarriage is handled sensitively and could help others understand the reactions of those involved should they find themselves in the same situation. But an international adoption experience is overly simplified and made to seem like a realistic option for infertile couples.
As health professionals, we found ourselves wondering about who provided medical advice to the scriptwriters. Some aspects were simply not practice in Australia, such as having all newborn babies in nurseries away from their mothers (“rooming in” is almost universal here). While others were clearly fanciful. The ultrasound providers, for instance, seemed to have astonishing skills not widely available here. Gender determination is usually inaccurate at the 12-week scan, but it was easy in the film – even with the ultrasound image revealing only the head and body with not a genital tubercle in sight!
There’s also some variation in delivery – one character practically sneezes out her babies in what appears to be a pain-free labour; another endures without the help of an epidural and a third opts for an epidural but ends up having an unplanned caesarean section followed by a serious complication.
As required in a Hollywood movie, everything ends happily – women who want babies get them and the “dudes” realise that fatherhood is all about true love and fulfilment. So a very important cautionary note to young women and men – this film shouldn’t be considered a reliable source of information on what to expect when you are expecting.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting opens in Australia today