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Childbirth Videos: Helpful Or Hard To Watch?

By ceridwen |

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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About ceridwen

ceridwen

ceridwen

Ceridwen Morris is a writer, mother, and certified childbirth educator. She is the author of several books and screenplays, including (Three Rivers; 2007). She serves on the board of The Childbirth Education Association of Metropolitan New York and teaches at Tribeca Parenting in New York City. Read bio and latest posts → Read Ceridwen's latest posts →

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11 thoughts on “Childbirth Videos: Helpful Or Hard To Watch?

  1. amber says:

    I watched a lot of birth videos on YouTube before the birth of my first child. When I brought it up with my midwife she reminded me that, many years ago, at my age (30) I probably would have already seen several actual births. Seeing babies birthed used to be a somewhat regular occurrence for women; now the closest we have is online videos!

  2. ceridwen says:

    Amber, That’s such a good point about seeing births and I totally agree that it helps to actually see birth! I wish I’d made that point above :) My feelings about birth changed a lot after having seen some and was doubtless shaped by being there when my mother gave birth to two of my younger siblings. But the videos can be a different experience– some are really great and I show them to people in classes. The scary ones on The Crazy Birth TV Network leave much to be desired however. And it seems like youtube can be a crap shoot.

  3. Chandra says:

    This is a timely post for me, as I’ve been searching this week for good videos to show in my childbirth class! There’s a wonderful one at MothersAdvocate.org – Everyday Miracles. It’s validating and inspiring, and there are no scary vagina-stretched-to-the-absolute-limit visuals. Ceridwen, do you have any good video recommendations for a CB class? (I have Gentle Birth Choices, but it’s almost a little too graphic for newbies to birth, and My Body, My Baby, My Birth, which shows NO actual births – something in the middle would be nice!).

  4. Rosie Peterson says:

    I have been thinking about this subject a lot lately. I think the bulging vulva, the crowing of a baby, is quite beautiful but I object to women being forced to birth in the supine position (on her back) that forces her loved ones to view her spread out filet style JUST for the doctors conviencence! For no other reason than the comfort of the stranger at the end of the bed, who will catch the baby! Argh. It is usually NOT comfortable for moms, who have concieved the baby, carried the baby to term (40 weeks) and will mother this child for the rest of it’s life!!!! The mother is the customer and she should give birth in whatever position she wants. Therefore I favor birth videos of women that are upright or in water, in a position where no one, nobody, not even her midwife, doctor, catcher can see the baby’s crowning moments. Birth is sacred, babies are made in secret, babies should be born with dignity, in secret. Shiloh’s quick and peaceful water birth is one of those, never see the yoni births. Enjoy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TL6GsSb3-4

    Please attend a real live birth. Ask your friend if you may attend, cook, help in any way. Volunteer to take the photos, light the candles, play sweet music… IT IS VERY DIFFERENT TO ATTEND A REAL LIVE BIRTH OF A LOVED ONE THAN WATCHING STRANGERS DO IT.

  5. Rachel says:

    I found the videos very helpful. I’m curious which are the ones you recommend most?

  6. Lisa Leftwich-Kirby says:

    I LOVE Everyday Miracles, made by Lamaze, which you can find at lamaze.org and at mothersadvocate.org, as another poster mentioned. I send everyone to lamaze.org to watch that one. As a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, what I really want is for my classes to know what labor looks like, and for partners to know what unexpected things they might see in the woman they love. For that reason, I love Relaxation,Rhythm, and Ritual by Penny Simkin. It cuts from woman to woman in labor and shows women coping with contractions. It does eventually have birth scenes for each woman but I stop the video before we get there. The video is noisy, though, so I preface it with how tennis players, or those sparring in karate, sometimes make noises that help them perform their sport. Birth sounds are like that, natural noises that help birth proceed. I think the key is not to use videos to teach, but to use them to reinforce the things you’ve already talked about in class. So, I still recommend that everyone who can take hands-on childbirth classes do so. You can find Lamaze instructors in your area at the lamaze website I mentioned earlier also:)

  7. [...] yes or no? 10/21/10 Is it helpful to watch childbirth videos? Should you watch them?I just read Childbirth Videos: Helpful or Hard to Watch and started thinking about it.  Looking back on the first birth I think I was a bit apprehensive [...]

  8. Sheridan says:

    I think it depends on the type of videos you watch. If they are positive videos then it is a great idea. There are come good ones on Enjoy Birth’s You Tube Channel

  9. DeathMetalMommy says:

    They showed a couple birth videos in my Child Development class in high school. They were horrific. I still to this day don’t understand why none of those women felt it necessary to wear clothes. And they all seemed to be fairly unattractive and moaning as though someone were torturing them. I have had three babies and for each one I was clothed and relatively quiet. But, hey, it’s not for everyone.

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