Why More Women Are Sharing Images And Video Of Childbirth

Like Ashley Graham, Laura Riddell documented the birth of her child.

Amber Allen; YouTube

by Laura Riddell |
Updated on

Her mouth is agape and you can almost hear the scream and feel her pain as she musters all of her strength to push her baby boy into the world. When Ashley Graham recently celebrated International Women’s Day by sharing a photograph on Instagram of herself in the throes of labour, her followers and fellow celebrities were in awe.

‘This is the face of my greatest strength,’ she captioned the picture. ‘On this International Women’s Day, understand that despite whatever pain or trial we have all experienced as women, we are also strong, powerful and capable of accomplishing greatness.’

The post quickly received supportive comments and the model was praised for sharing such a ‘candid’ and ‘powerful’ image. Comic Amy Schumer wrote, ‘This post made me cry.’

But it’s not only celebrity mums who have taken to documenting the intimate moments of their baby’s birth. When my eldest son was born in 2015, I insisted my husband film the birth on his phone. It wasn’t something I’d planned, but as I sucked on gas and air, a midwife recounted her own birth story and told me how she was in so much pain she blacked out. I felt terrified of the same thing happening to me, and not being able to properly remember. 

When we returned home from the hospital with our baby boy, we were able to watch the video and take in all the details that would otherwise have been lost in the hazy memories of giving birth.

Months later, I wrote an article for a national newspaper about how I’d filmed the birth for my own personal viewing, and the response surprised me. Many of the online comments began, ‘Each to their own, BUT...’ followed by something really negative. Other comments displayed blatant misogyny, jumping straight to mentions of sex and porn. So, almost five years on, I find it heartening to see Ashley Graham’s post receive a mostly warm response.

Our concepts of privacy are shifting all the time. Half a century ago, most dads didn’t witness the birth of their own child.

Birth photographer and videographer Hannah Palamara says there has been a huge increase in women looking to document their child’s birth in this way. London-based Hannah was working as a doula when she developed a keen interest in photography. Taking her camera everywhere, clients started to ask her to take pictures of them as they gave birth. Spotting a gap in the market, she set up a birth photography and videography business.

Hannah says demand is now so high she could make a living from doing nothing else but photographing and filming births. ‘In the past five or six years, the industry has grown massively. I get a few more enquiries every week.’

Hannah believes this growth in people wanting to capture these intimate moments, and even share them online, is in part influenced by changes in the way childbirth is being represented on TV and through media. ‘There’s this real shift in how “real women” are represented,’ she says. ‘It’s an exciting time.’

The mum-of-three is passionate about documenting women’s transition into motherhood. ‘People think you’re nuts. All they can imagine is you taking pictures of vaginas. But there’s so much more to it. It’s telling a story through the images. Although, 90% of the time, clients do want that vagina shot.

‘It’s empowering to women in so many ways,’ adds Hannah. ‘When they’re going through the birth, they often have their eyes squeezed shut and miss so many moments. The photographs or the video help to tell the story of the birth as a whole.’

But what about births that don’t go to plan? ‘Clients may want a home birth and end up being transferred to hospital, they may tear badly or lose a lot of blood,’ says Hannah. ‘What I’ve found in these situations is that the photographs or the video help the couple to later debrief and heal from the experience. They help women look back and see how strong and brave they can be.’

While mums like Ashley Graham might be considered brave for posting pictures taken during their childbirth online, other mothers are taking things a step further. After losing a lot of blood and barely remembering the birth of her two sets of twins, Amber Allen (main picture) decided that her third childbirth experience would be different. That’s why Amber, 31, from Folkestone in Kent, and her partner Kirsty made the decision to hire a videographer.

‘The footage captured so many incredible moments,’ she says. ‘Like my reaction to finding out it was a girl, our baby’s first cry, and my partner holding her for the first time. It’s tastefully shot with beautiful music. But it’s still real and raw.’

Amber, who runs an LGBTQ+ parenting blog, decided to share the intimate video on YouTube. ‘It’s not that big a deal these days. I share so many important moments in my life and people supported my IVF journey, so I knew they were excited to see her come into the world. My children have seen it and my sister’s boyfriend watched it to prepare himself for my sister’s baby’s birth.’

But the video, which has been viewed 15,000 times, has also received some negative comments. ‘Some people say it’s “horrible” and “attention seeking”. A lot of the negativity seems to be around the thinking that birth should be a private thing, not something shared on the internet. But most of the comments are kind and positive.’

Our concepts of privacy are shifting all the time. Half a century ago, most dads didn’t witness the birth of their own child, but now mothers are sharing their most intimate of experiences with thousands of strangers online.

The actions of women like Ashley Graham and Amber Allen challenge the rest of us to ask ourselves why we so often feel uncomfortable with women posting pictures and videos of this incredible and empowering moment.

Some might ask: ‘Why share this?’ But maybe the question should be: ‘Why not?'

READ MORE: Things You Only Know If

Gallery

Things You Only Know If...

Claire Moruzzi1 of 19

Things You Only Know If You've Experienced Post-Adoption Grief

When Claire Moruzzi, 39, gave birth to her son, it unlocked unpacked painful feelings about her own adoption.

Jessica Evans2 of 19

Things You Only Know If You have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Jessica Evans reflects on the condition that affects one in 10 of us but is rarely talked about.

Jen Brister and Family3 of 19

Things You Only Know If You're The Other Mother

If your partner carried your children, what does that make you? Jen Brister tells Grazia about life in a two-mum family.

Miley and Liam4 of 19

Things You Only Know If Your Marriage Lasts Less Than A Year

The wedding was amazing but a Band-Aid Big Day couldn't save the relationship – and so an embarrassingly short marriage ensued.

Lil Caldwell5 of 19

Things You Only Know If You Walk Away From A Six-Figure Salary Job

As new figures reveal that record numbers are now 'overeducated' for their jobs, Lil Caldwell, 37, explains why swapping the law for floristry was her best decision yet.

Ayisha Malik6 of 19

Things You Only Know If: You're The Only Muslim In The Village

When Ayisha Malik moved to Dorset, she braced herself for reactions to her hijab. And was surprised at what she found.

menopause7 of 19

Things You Only Know If: You're Going Through The Menopause At 30

A medical breakthrough now means the menopause could be delayed for 20 years. It's come too late for dancer Lindsay McAllister.

Catherine Renton8 of 19

Things You Only Know If: You've Finally Conquered Your Alcohol Problem

When Catherine Renton chose to end her damaging relationship with booze, she lost friends, too. She reflects on the decision that changed her life.

Things You Only Know If You've Been On 100 First Dates9 of 19

Things You Only Know If You've Been On 100 First Dates

Charly Lester, 35, challenged herself to go on 30 blind dates before turning 30. Then things snowballed.

Things You Only Know If: You've Gone From Committed Singleton To 'Basic Bride'10 of 19

Things You Only Know If: You've Gone From Committed Singleton To 'Basic Bride'

'Suddenly, I want all the things I used to roll my eyes at: the dress, the flowers, the inexplicably expensive cake. There is a new and very loud voice in my head, it insists that this is my special day, I'm a f**king princess and I should have exactly what I want'

Things You Only Know If You Don't Have A Girl Gang11 of 19

Things You Only Know If You Don't Have A Girl Gang

As a child, Amy Jones looked forward to the day she'd find her squad. No 29, she's still wondering where it is.

Things You Only Know If Your Babies Arrive 10 Weeks Early12 of 19

Things You Only Know If Your Babies Arrive 10 Weeks Early

After her twin daughters arrived at 29 weeks, Francesca Segal spent 56 days with them at the neonatal intensive care ward - an experience that changed her forever.

Things You Only Know Ifu2026 You Live With Your Parents At 2913 of 19

Things You Only Know If… You Live With Your Parents At 29

Anna Behrmann, 29, moved back home to save money. It's had its ups and downs.

Things You Only Know If You Earn Significantly Less Than Your Friends14 of 19

Things You Only Know If You Earn Significantly Less Than Your Friends

After losing her job 31-year-old Olivia Foster found out the uncomfortable truth about what it means to be the broke friend.

Things You Only Know If You're Living With M.E.15 of 19

Things You Only Know If You're Living With M.E.

When Hollie Brooks found herself so weak she couldn't even dress herself, she knew something was desperately wrong. To mark the end of ME Awareness Week, she tells her story.

Things You Only Know If You're Plus-Size And Online Dating16 of 19

Things You Only Know If You're Plus-Size And Online Dating

From men who think they're doing you a favour, to feeders who fetishise your body.

Things You Only Know If You Gave Up Your Job To Follow Your Partner Abroad17 of 19

Things You Only Know If You Gave Up Your Job To Follow Your Partner Abroad

'On bad days it could feel a bit 1950s'

Things You Only Know If You've Chosen To Have A Baby Alone18 of 19

Things You Only Know If You've Chosen To Have A Baby Alone

Aged 37 and single, Genevieve Roberts decided to become a mum with the help of a sperm donor.

Things You Only Know If You're An Adult Orphan19 of 19

Things You Only Know If You're An Adult Orphan

Emily Dean lost her parents and sister in the space of three years - and changed her whole life as a result.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us