Videoing your birth: thoughts of an OB/GYN mom

Image courtesy CDC

A recent NY Times article that discussed videoing birth generated a lot of comments. (I guess we can’t really say videotaping, because who uses a tape anymore?). The article presented two sides: hospitals that don’t allow videoing the actual birth (recording can start 30 seconds after) and hospitals that do. There was a lot of focus on medico-legal issues.

As an OB, I have no issue with anyone videoing a delivery as long as they don’t get in the way. In my experience most don’t, but I have seen a few overzelous dads get so wrapped up in making their video that they get a bit intrusive. In addition, you can’t hold someones hand or help them push if you are committed to every shot.

Along the way there have been a few dads who made inappropriate comments while filming, almost always related to vaginal size and if I could, you know, “tighten that up after delivery.” I always took those men aside afterwards and explained how they might want to delete that audio and that that I was sure they were caught up in the moment. In my experience, this behavior is the exception by far and the resounding majority of partners are respectful.

When I was practicing OB, facebook and YouTube were not yet conceived. Now, the right video can potentially reach thousands, if not millions, of viewers. In addition, video editing is pretty easy (I can even do it). If I were still delivering babies, I would allow videoing, but no public use of my image without my written consent. No consent needed for my hands.

I  am mindful of that rule myself. If I video my kids at a performance, I only post clips of them. If an instructor is in the shot, I ask their permission to post the video (most are only too happy, especially as I offer to include a link to their business).

Thinking about my own birth, there is no way I would want an video. I was ill with infection, and my 2 surviving boys needed immediate resuscitation. There were 6 pediatrics team members in the delivery room running the resuscitations, an anesthesiologist, 2 OBs, and 2 nurses. My husband was holding my hand as I lay on the operating table. It was his job to comfort me. And I know that each additional person in the operating room increases the infection rate.

The first video we took was when the boys were about 2 months old. The IVs were out and they were just on oxygen. My husband shot the video as the nurse and I gave them their first baths in the NICU. I love that video, because it is celebratory. Birth was not a celebration for our family, it was a life and death struggle, as were many weeks afterwards. Everyone of those sadder images is sadly locked in my brain more efficiently than any HD camera. Personally, I didn’t want videos of CPR, tubes, and breathing equipment, but I appreciate someone else might have a different opinion.

In the end, I don’t agree with banning videos cameras in the delivery room. I think people should be able to video as long as they can stay out of the way and it doesn’t detract from supporting the mom. For those reasons, I think the video is best obtained from a camera on a tripod or shot by someone other than a parent.

Last week I videoed Oliver doing his very first magic performance. It was glorious. His little face, the mistakes, his newly acquired stage presence. But I saw it all on the video monitor, only first hand glimpses once I was sure I had the shot right. It’s an HD camera, so the quality was amazing, but not the same. My favorite videos of my kids are those taken by someone else, because then I have 2 images to love and cherish: my own and the video. The images are unique, but complementary.

So if I ran a hospital, I would allow videoing, but I would have rules. I would have everyone taking video sign a form indicating that they agree not be intrusive and not to put images of hospital personnel on the Internet without written permission of each individual. I might offer a birth-video class for the budding videophile (I think that would be a great marketing point) and even consider offering the services of a professional videographer. In fact, I’m surprised some enterprising L & D nurse hasn’t already started a birth-video business!

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2 Responses to Videoing your birth: thoughts of an OB/GYN mom

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Videoing your birth: thoughts of an OB/GYN mom | The Preemie Primer Guide from Dr. Jen Gunter --

  2. The hospital where I work has a great birthing facility and is open to videoing of labour and birth. However, there is a claus that is signed during admitting that explains that anyone who might appear in the video can legally say, ‘stop filming me’. A good example was during a serious resus that we did post birth. The dad just did not ‘get it’ that things were serious and was happily filming away as we did chest compressions on his newborn. We had to push his camera away and say ‘stop’.

    My husband is a birth photographer (yeah, a dude, I know) and at my delivery he arrived with tripods and flashes and I had to roll my eyes a bit. He took direction from my coworkers very well and stayed out of the way and stayed close to me at the same time. I tend to like the idea of still photography more than filming a birth.

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