Jennifer Lawrence plays a woman who's pregnant in Mother! Picture: Niko Tavernise, Paramount Pictures- Protozoa Pictures

Washington - In retrospect, Mother! wasn't the best movie to watch while pregnant.

I had just gotten over my first-trimester morning sickness last September when I went to see it. Details were scarce about Darren Aronofsky's drama, except that it was so bonkers, it was creating critical rifts on the festival circuit. None of that prepared me for - and this will be the first of many spoilers - Jennifer Lawrence's character giving birth to a baby boy, then helplessly watching a cult of wackos tear him to pieces and eat him.

And just like that, the nausea was back.

What I didn't realise at the time was that Mother! was just the beginning. Over the months that followed, I was destined to watch similarly disturbing scenarios involving pregnant women and mothers.

I didn't realise just how bleak the outcomes could be for childbearing women on screen until I got pregnant. Had pop culture always been this way, and I wasn't paying attention? Whatever the case, movie and TV moms have had a rough go of it recently. One positive pregnancy test is all it takes, apparently, for a woman to be at heightened risk for agonizing death or terrifying misery.

By contrast, men - the good guys anyway - are nearly impossible to kill, regardless of their parental status. In Dwayne Johnson's upcoming blockbuster Skyscraper, he's already short a leg when he manages to outrun machine gun fire, then leaps roughly the length of a football field from a crane to a massive building. (He's doing it for his wife and kids who are in peril, of course.) 

The trailer turns his survival into a cliffhanger, but we instinctively know he'll be safe. Just like he always lives through the crashes and conflagrations in the Furious franchise. During the last installment of that series, all the main players lived - except for the mom in the crew.


Murder is, in fact, one of the top causes of death for pregnant women. But if you're judging by movies and television, you'd start thinking that just about every expecting lady is at risk, given all the homicidal maniacs on the loose.

Sarah Gadon in Netflix's Alias Grace. Picture: Jan Thijs, Netflix

The plot of the recent Netflix series Alias Grace hinges on the murder of a pregnant woman. Top of the Lake: China Girl kicks off with the image of a pregnant prostitute being stuffed into a suitcase and dropped off a cliff into the ocean. And a pregnant detective in Liar gets drugged and raped by a man with a dangerous history; at least she survives.

I realise I'm in a peculiar (and often charmed) spot. I'm paid to keep up with pop culture, so I can't simply ignore it. Most other moms-to-be can just tune out. But, as a viewer, you can't always predict what's coming.

The Washington Post