Let me take you back a few years when I found out I was pregnant. I was way past my first trimester and the little darling growing inside of me had missed out on the benefits of folic acid for four months. But what swallowed me whole was the constant worry that things could go wrong. What's more, the often conflicting advice I got from my close ones and friends was enough to induce nightmares.

The only times I felt better were during my check-ups when the obstetrician reassured me with a big smile that the little one had ten fingers and toes, a big head, a pair of eyes and a strong beating heart.

I've been constantly reminded of that wonderful but worrying time in my current job at BBC Media Action. Since Christmas last year, I've been the script co-ordinator on a TV drama we’re producing in Bangladesh called Ujan Ganger Naiya (Swimming Against The Tide).

Power of drama

The show aims to not just entertain people but also to improve family health in Bangladesh.

It sets out to provide information and advice about antenatal care, postnatal care, birth preparedness and how delaying early pregnancy can improve the health of a mother and her children.

This is done, for example, through female characters who, having ignored key danger signs, suffer an obstructed delivery, experience potentially fatal bleeding, or lose their child. 

Many of the characters survive their journey, like boatmen rowing against the tide. 

Based in fact

To make sure our drama reflects our audience's own experiences, our research team have been gathering data and insights to inform our project.

Their findings include some of the most harrowing accounts of young pregnant mothers in rural areas of Bangladesh - shocking enough to curl my straight hair.

Suddenly, my own experience of pregnancy doesn't seem so terrible.

For example, our research team met girls who have had to marry young – and are just not physically ready to be pregnant and give birth.

"Only five months ago, I got married," one young girl from Brahmanbaria told our researchers.

"Although I had no wish to have a baby so early, I had to because of pressure from my in-laws. I feel severe headache and discomfort."

To address this reality, therefore, we've created a character in our drama called Mou, who is only 14 when she gets a marriage proposal.

Under the pressure of an influential person in their community, her parents cave in to the proposal. They don’t consider the consequences, or the life-threatening risks involved with early pregnancy. For them, struggling to make both ends meet, Mou is just one less mouth to feed.

Busting myths

Our research team has also helped us identify where the audience just doesn’t have access to the right information.

For example, one traditional birth attendant told our researcher that the thread that's used to clamp the umbilical cord is "a thread only. It’s not used for cutting, only for tying. For that reason it doesn’t need to be sterilised."

Such a lack of hygiene poses a serious threat to lives every day in Bangladesh.  

Acknowledging barriers

Our drama is careful to recognise the significant challenges that are faced by mothers and their families who are trying to ensure a safe birth.

For example, the bad roads or lack of transport in remote areas means it’s often difficult to travel for antenatal care appointments.

But sometimes husbands and parents-in-law can also act as barriers.

By using emotionally engaging drama and compelling characters, we’re encouraging the whole family to be part of the solution, and take their loved ones for antenatal check-ups at least four times during pregnancy. 

The whole family

As I well remember from my own pregnancy, people listen and trust their close ones and friends’ advice.

So how can we make friends with our audience? The key is to have a simple yet interesting story to tell.

If we get that part right, we might be the kind of friend who reaches out with a helping hand.  

Related links

BBC Media Action's work in Bangladesh

BBC Media Action's health work

Follow BBC Media Action on Twitter and Facebook

Go back to BBC Media Action

Tagged with:


More Posts