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Childbirth Videos: Helpful Or Hard To Watch?

Every time I google birth, which is often due to my current blogging lifestyle, several video images pop into frame. One is of a vagina. And from the looks of it a baby is about to come out. It turns out it’s a video from a medical video site.

Now, I’ve gotten pretty used to seeing births. In person. In videos. In illustrations. And I am certainly used to using the word vagina (or “birth canal” in childbirth education parlance). But I find these images quite startling to the innocent googler of “birth.”

When I teach childbirth ed classes, there’s almost always one person– could be male, could be female– who says up front that they do not want to watch “the videos.”

I explain why we show the videos– to help familiarize people with the sights and sounds of birth so that they are prepared and not overwhelmed when their time comes– but I also give people permission not to watch. I tell them they don’t have to watch the birth of their own child, either. Mom and dad can look into each others eyes if that’s preferable. It’s a highly personal choice and I honestly have no opinion on what might be the “right” thing to do.

I personally wasn’t interested in seeing the baby come out, I was pretty aware of what was going on and I was also thrilled to see the look on other people’s faces as they watched the proceedings. I’m not at all squeamish either. I love all the guts of gore of birth and have seen babies come out of other women and been amazed and not at all light-headed. For my own baby, when they handed me a mirror I turned it down. I know it can help some women as they have a sense of progress and I’m all for that. I also recommend feeling the baby’s head in those situations, if visuals don’t appeal.

Videos of births can also be a little crazy in general– there’s the bad early 90s haircuts that never fail to make people laugh. But there’s also the problem of editing. Births are (mostly) long. Videos are short. There’s also the issue of watching birth videos online without a context– some are really weird. They either romanticize birth or make it look absolutely off-the-planet nuts/terrifying.

Mostly, what I like about the good videos is that they show lots of ways women cope during contractions: moaning, rocking, taking a shower or getting in a bath, having an epidural, changing position. The actual moment of birth reminds people that there is a baby at the end of this whole thing.

There can be so much discussion about labor that sometimes we forget that a baby comes out at the end. I know a teacher who loves to say over and over: The baby comes out. The baby comes out. The baby comes out. It’s kind of obvious. But nice to be reminded!

Do you need to see it happen? Well, that’s up to you. You can click past those google videos, cover your eyes during the videos in a childbirth class and look into your partners eyes when your own baby is born and the baby… will… still… come out.

photo:brizzle born and bred/Flickr

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