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Towards a better life. A better way of birth.

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Credit: Towards a better life. A better way of birth. Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

About this work


A film about how the NHS helps women through pregnancy and birth. The film centres on antenatal care in Oxford, where birth is treated 'not as an illness but as a natural event'. Various expectant mothers are met, their care is discussed, home visits from midwives seen, and two births are seen; a normal birth and a caesarean section.


UK, 1985.

Physical description

1 encoded moving image (27.40 min.) : sound, color.



Copyright note

Crown copyright, managed by BFI.

Terms of use


Language note

In English

Creator/production credits

Made by London Television Service. Researched by Susan Goodman, filmed by Erika Stevenson, sound by Marianne Dane and Ray Beckett, edited by Liz Ledward, directed by Philip Draycott and produced by Annabel Olivier Wright.


This video was made from material preserved by the BFI National Archive


Segment 1 Opening credits. Still photographs of a pregnant woman making her way by bus to a maternity unit are shown as various expectant mothers and new mothers are heard talking about their birth experiences. The city of Oxford is seen; the male narrator says that Oxford is trying to take a less-hospital based approach to its antenatal care system. A GP, Dr Gordon, sees a small boy in his surgery. Dr Gordon's midwife, Jean Bowen and her pupil, Claire Baker, go to visit a pregnant woman at her home. They take her history and discuss her first birth and her plan for this birth. Back at the doctor's surgery, Dr Gordon is seeing a pregnant woman. Nurses take her blood pressure and urine samples and Dr Gordon examines her stomach and listens for the foetal heartbeat. Time start: 00:00:00:00 Time end: 00:05:07:19 Length: 00:05:07:19
Segment 2 He hands her the medical notes; Oxford women look after their own notes. He next sees a woman who is expecting twins. He examines her abdomen and shows her where the two heads are. The narrator mentions that the two women both gave birth to healthy babies. Dr Gordon refers a woman with high blood pressure to the maternity clinic in the local hospital. The hospital unit is seen, where consultant Mark Thornton works. He examines the mother-to-be and explains that her blood pressure is not very serious but that they will monitor her. The narrator mentions that she gives birth with no complications. A woman who has entered the first stage of labour is brought in to hospital. Dr Gordon and nurses attend to her. Time start: 00:05:07:19 Time end: 00:10:13:12 Length: 00:05:05:18
Segment 3 The mother gives birth sitting up. The baby is born and placed on her stomach; both parents cry and hold hands. The umbilical cord is cut. Midwife Jean Bowen visits a new mother in hospital and discusses exercises for her to do 'to get your figure back'. The new mothers keep their babies in cots by their beds. Dr Gordon visits one mother and examines the baby and tests her reflexes. Time start: 00:10:13:12 Time end: 00:16:38:06 Length: 00:06:24:19
Segment 4 Consultant Mark Thornton does a ward round. He meets a mother who gave birth to twins with jaundice. He talks to another woman who will give birth by caesarean section the following day; they are planning this as she lost her first two babies at birth. Mr Thornton discusses the next day's plan with her. The operating theatre is prepared and the mother is brought in, accompanied by her husband. She is conscious and is given an epidural. The caesarean section takes place. The baby is born and the cord cut. Time start: 00:16:38:06 Time end: 00:21:51:11 Length: 00:05:13:05
Segment 5 The baby is cleaned and handed to the father. Later, the mother and baby are in bed together, breastfeeding. The narrator explains that in Oxford, breastfeeding is encouraged from birth. A new mother receives a visit from Jean Bowen, who collects excess milk stored in the domestic freezer. She takes it back to the hospital where it is tested and pasteurised and refrozen. This milk is given to babies whose mothers cannot produce enough, and to premature babies. The premature baby unit is seen. Dr Gordon visits a mother whose baby suffered severe damage to its lungs at birth but who is now recovering. End credits. Time start: 00:21:51:11 Time end: 00:26:40:12 Length: 00:04:49:01



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