Is the sharing of birth stories to social media fuelling a culture of fear about childbirth?

Is oversharing about birth fuelling a culture of fear? [Photo: Getty]
Is oversharing about birth fuelling a culture of fear? [Photo: Getty]

Just yesterday we reported on the mum who is planning on giving birth live on Instagram.

And she certainly isn’t the only parent to share details of their baby’s entrance into the world.

The what-goes-on-in-the-birth-room-stays-in-the-birth-room mentality has been replaced by no-holds-barred accounts of deliveries shared across social media.

But while many women find birth stories, no matter how honest, informative and comforting, one midwifery lecturer has claimed they could be traumatising pregnant women and putting some off childbirth altogether.

Speaking at the British Science Festival on Wednesday, Catriona Jones, senior research fellow at the University of Hull, explained that “horror stories” about birth shared online are contributing the rise of tokophobia: a phobia of childbirth.

She added that she believed oversharing on social media was fuelling a culture of fear around the subject of labour and delivery.

“If you go into Mumsnet forums, women are telling stories about childbirth — ‘it’s terrible, it’s a bloodbath’. I think that can be difficult to deal with,” she added.

A study from last year revealed that approximately 14% of pregnant women suffer from tokophobia and the figure has been steadily rising since 2000.

According to some experts simply hearing about nasty births in the media or listening to an unpleasant story from family or a friend, could be enough to trigger tokophobia.

But not everyone is of the belief that graphic birth stories could have a negative impact on potential mums-to-be.

Sure birth stories aren’t for everyone, but for some, true to life details about how babies were brought into the world, can be a vital not to mention beautiful way to celebrate and educate people about the whole birthing process.

Could honesty about birth have a positive impact? [Photo: Getty]
Could honesty about birth have a positive impact? [Photo: Getty]

Earlier this year we spoke to LA nurse Katie Vigos part of the #stopcensoringbirth movement who believes that the sharing of real posts and photography about birth can actually reduce the fear surrounding the process.

“I started Empowered Birth Project, on Instagram in 2014 just before giving birth to my third child via emergency caesarean,” she told Yahoo Style UK.

Katie believes that the sharing of honest and candid details about birth on social media has many benefits.

“First of all, birth education is not routinely provided in educational settings. People are growing up – and even giving birth – without having ever seen what birth is like and without the knowledge and information that is required to make informed decisions,” she says.

Katie is so passionate about the subject that she has launched a petition urging Instagram to allow uncensored birth images to be posted and shared.

“Since I published the petition and started regularly posting uncensored birth content, so many women have made comments like, ‘I’ve given birth twice and have never actually seen a vaginal birth!’ That really blows my mind. How can we expect people to go into the birth room feeling confident and empowered in their decision making if they literally have no idea what they’re getting themselves into?”

Netmums editor-in-chief, Annie O’Leary, says she’s “disappointed” in the claim that parenting sites are cultivating a fear of childbirth.

“Most mums see it as a positive that we live in an age where we can have discussions about birth that are true, accurate and real without it being shrouded in secrecy,” she tells The Independent.

“Every birth is different and for every ‘horror story’, as Catriona Jones chose to put it, there are stories where women have nothing but good things to say of their experience.”

That’s something Natasha Pearlman agrees with. The mum-of-two and former Grazia editor had a traumatic birth for her first baby and has openly spoken about her experience, believing that honesty is the best policy when it comes to giving birth.

“Telling women that childbirth is great, or shielding them from information about what could actually happen, is much more harmful than a few slightly gory truths,” she tells Sky News.

“It is our duty to inform women – and their partners – about everything that could happen in birth. It’s not a horror story when it is medical information.”

“It has become a “blood bath” for women because we all feel that not being educated about childbirth has wounded us.

“Take that away and you finally have childbirth information that helps us, not hinders.”

Hear, hear.

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