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Maryland Hospital Bans Photo Use During Childbirth

By Danielle Sullivan |

childbirth video, video of childbirth, labor and delivery

How important was it for you to capture the first five minutes of your child's life on video?

Would you sacrifice the photo memory of your child’s first minutes of life for your doctor or hospital? Some moms may have to do just that if they deliver in hospitals with photo restrictions.

A hospital in Maryland has imposed a photo and video ban for expectant moms during delivery. At Meritus Medical Center, photos can be taken leading up to delivery, but the actual birth cannot be taped and no photos can be taken until five minutes after the baby is born.

You can imagine, it has many area moms up in arms, and forced to make some tough decisions, especially if their obstetrician only delivers at that hospital.

Meritus Medical Center maintains that the policy was created to protect the well-being of mom and baby. After five minutes, once the baby is stable and the doctor approves, photos and videos can be brought out again. The hospital says this new protocol helps staff do their job without becoming distracted in the vital moments when immediately accessing a newborn. Nearby Frederick Memorial Hospital had the same ban enacted in 2001 after a doctor had to push a relative out of the way to aid in a difficult delivery, but the rule was ultimately overturned after a protest.

I have to confess I don’t have any of my children’s actual births on tape. I had natural childbirth and I’m also way too self conscious to have my screams and shrieks documented. But I do have photos from the moments immediately following. My mother took the pictures and stayed in the background (out of the medical staff’s way) the entire time. Our midwife encouraged the photos and didn’t feel that the safety of the baby was being compromised by taking pictures.

One has to wonder how much legalities (or the repercussions surrounding them) have enacted the change and more importantly, if the regulation might become a standard, rather than an exception at hospitals. If safety is truly the issue behind it, I’m all for it, but I think there are other possible ways to keep mom and baby safe, yet still capture the moment. With technology so integrated in our daily lives, and newborn photos immediately posted to Facebook and Twitter, it’s a concern that the old school doctors and lawyers just haven’t had to address until recently.

With overzealous families who come in droves, I can see how too many people in the room snapping flashing lights might interfere with medical procedure. Perhaps that should be judged on a case-by-case basis, rather than become a blanket rule. In fact, most hospitals politely give visiting family and friends the boot when the delivery takes place, and request only one or two people to be allowed in the room during birth, which is a good way to narrow down the distractions.

Many moms want to film and keep the entire birth on video for memories, or to show to distant relatives who couldn’t make it, or just simply a memento for the family. I think it’s a reasonable enough request when it doesn’t compromise medical procedure.

Would you boycott your local hospital if you could not take video or photos of your actual delivery?

Image: Wikipedia

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About Danielle Sullivan


Danielle Sullivan

Danielle Sullivan writes for Babble Pets. She is also an award-winning parenting writer, who authors a monthly column for NY Parenting and ASPCA Parents blog. You can read more of her work at her blog,Some Puppy To Love. Read bio and latest posts → Read Danielle's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Maryland Hospital Bans Photo Use During Childbirth

  1. Ariel says:

    The whole impulse to document document document I think takes away from the actual experience. I mean, these days, people experience the world through a lens, rather than, you know, actually living their experiences. It wouldn’t bother me at all to not have a pic immediately. When my son was born, we were so busy actually experiencing the process that it didn’t even occur to us to take pics. We took his first pic a few hours later when things had calmed down!

  2. laura says:

    My delivery nurse was really bossy about no pictures/videos of the baby actually being delivered. I.e, nothing below the waist. I wasn’t planning on taking any pictures like that (obviously I wouldn’t be the photographer, but you know) but being told not to just made me get all, who are you to tell me what to do?? I ask my friend who is an OB and she said they have that rule in the hospital she delivers at too. I don’t know if it is a state law (I’m in Texas) or just a common policy for avoiding issues that have come up a lot. Like I said, I didn’t even want to in the first place. But I feel like I’m the one pushing the baby out, I should be able to decide how I want the event commemorated. Not some hospital administrator. But I’m about to deliver number two and have a feeling this hospital has the same policy. So it won’t affect my delivery decision. It will inexplicably annoy me though.

  3. PlumbLucky says:

    A local hospital (middle sister delivered there along with several friends; I did not) has a similar rule – with video only, not with still camera. Half of me figures its the “overzealous in the way” and the other half thinks “potential liability”.

    We were encouraged by our nurses and my Dr. to take pics as we saw fit. We also told our nurses that since none of the family was in the room when we conceived them, there was no real reason for them being in the room when the baby arrived, either ;-)

  4. JEssica says:

    I think it is to protect the hospital from legal liabilities; no proof of staff error.

  5. Jessi says:

    I’ve delivered at two different Houston-area hospitals and both had similar rules. I don’t know how pervasive such restrictions are nationwide, but they seem to be the norm around here.

    And, I definitely think it’s more about liabilities than it is about danger to the mother/baby. Call a spade a spade.

  6. anne says:

    I absolutely understand the no pictures or video during delivery, but the ones I have of the very first time I held my daughter? Priceless. I can’t imagine not having that – I know I’d be “fine” without it, but it’s truly one of the most special things to have captured forever, including for her to see someday. If it’s a safety issue, then sure. But I there are ways to set guidelines without restricting the practice entirely.

  7. Sarah says:

    My hospital had a similar ban – pics were fine up until the delivery, as well as right after, but nothing during the delivery itself. Which I was more than fine with. The last thing I want to remember is my delivery!!!

  8. Danielle Sullivan says:

    @Plumblucky: Good point! I didn’t want my entire family in the delivery room either. My mom was the only one there besides my husband.

    @Sarah I agree….the after delivery pics were fine for me but many moms treasure capturing the entire experience on tape. I think as long as the people in the room stay out of the way and don’t interfere, it should be allowed. Tough situation when the hospital doesn’t allow and your heart is set on it, unless you can deliver at another hospital.

  9. Cindiego says:

    I’m sure it’s because of liability issues, which should have everyone REALLY mad. We couldn’t record our ultrasounds for the same reason– they’re worried about pics coming out in a future lawsuit showing the doctor did something wrong. On the one hand, I sympathize with OBs having such high malpractice insurance rates, but OTOH, if they do their job well, they should be proud to have it documented, right? Just another example of mothers losing their rights at the labor and delivery room door… Too bad, because of insurance issues, few women can exert any choice and have a true competitive market for maternity care. Some smart entrepreneur will see this market, and develop for-profit independent birth centers that truly cater to women. If you can skip the epi, birth doesn’t have to be all that expensive and might be worth paying out of pocket to be treated well.

  10. MnMama says:

    I had a nurse that asked not to have photos taken at all while she was in the room during my labor and delivery because of her right to privacy. I told her to get the “heck” outta my room in a very angry “I am in labor don’t piss me off” tone. After a discussion with my OB I had a new and WONDERFUL nurse that I hope to have next time around. If you don’t want pics to be taken find a nursing job somewhere else – L&D isn’t for you!

  11. goddess says:

    To be honest- I don’t think cameras belong in delivery rooms anyway- they are not medically necessary and may pose a risk through distraction, Dad being in the way, etc. And why on earth isn’t Dad EXPERIENCING this, SUPPORTING his wife instead of playing photo-journalist? We took our kids pix in recovery. No big deal, IMO.

  12. Melissa Romano says:

    Have your babies at home and you won’t have to worry about any of this :)

  13. mbaker says:

    I ended up having an unplanned c-section and not only did my midwife offer to scrub in to provide moral support but she also offered to take photos with our camera. Those pictures are one of my most treasured possessions since I didn’t get to see my baby’s delivery or the first time my dh held her. Because she knew what to expect none of the photos showed things we wouldn’t want to see and she knew how to do it in an unobtrusive manner.

  14. CK says:

    I think this is ridiculous. It’s your birth. If you want to take photos, you should be able to do so. If the hospital is worried about liablility, they should put staff safety practices into place, not try to reduce the amount of evidence showing their screw-ups.

  15. Maggie says:

    One of my favorite photos shows my 1972-born son, head out and crying, rest of body still inside my body. His dad took it with one hand while holding my hand with the other. This was the more precious because one of the medical staff had shoved the promised mirror out of the way at the last moment, so I could only watch in the reflection off the doctor’s glasses.

    It’s hard to imagine that such a ban is anything but the hospital pandering to a liability insurer’s attorney … or, I suppose, fearing that someone would think such images pornographic. (sheesh!)

  16. Marlene says:

    I think it’s important to document the moment for the mom, even if she doesn’t want anyone else to see it. When you are working hard to give birth, the precious details escape you. It is wonderful to have pics to help you relive it, and notice all the amazing details you miss actually going through it! I would wonder what people are trying to hide, if they don’t want pics! I’m sure it is just so you don’t get lawsuit ammunition! If someone is really in the way, that’s a different matter, which has nothing to do with whether or not they are holding a camera!
    You couldn’ pay me to deliver in a hospital! Why should I pay them to do things to me & my baby I didn’t want done in the 1st place? I feel a lot safer in my own home, away from MRSA, GBS, and all those “slippery slope” interventions!

  17. Danielle Sullivan says:

    @Marlene Good point, if you have a home birth, you have control over this. I had an awesome and caring midwife in a hospital that didn’t worry about photos, and I feel lucky now after hearing about so many docs and hospitals that ban pics.

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