Instagram and Facebook update policies to allow photos of uncensored birth

Posted in Birth.

Content advice: This post features images of babies being born 

Some brilliant news, with social media platforms making changes to their clumsy censorship policies, now allowing images of childbirth to be shared without fear of deletion or other punitive measures.

Passionate campaign

Previously, the social media outlets seemed to categorise birth and breastfeeding images as inappropriate and offensive imagery. A passionate campaign led by Los Angeles-based nurse and doula, Katie Vigos sought to change this. Katie’s initiative resulted in over 23 000 signatures on a petition aiming to budge the ban on birth photos.

Amongst the petition’s recommendations were calls to: recategorise all birth-related content as educational material, in its own unique category if necessary; and allow our community to post graphic images of physiological birth with the images blurred or greyed out, so users can tap to see the images and choose whether to view them.

And – amazingly – Instagram listened! The platform says it’s now aiming to make a distinction between photos showing motherhood in all its glory and images of sexualised nudity – and sister company Facebook have followed suit.

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#IGallowuncensoredbirth ???????? photo by @austinbirthphotos who shares of the birth she photographed while 7 days postpartum: ・・・ At just shy of seven days postpartum, on a lovely Saturday afternoon, Foxe and I helped welcome a sweet little St. Patrick’s Day baby. I was burning up wearing the baby (and Depends), shot the entire thing with my boob out (in his mouth or under his little sleeping head, calm down already), and was super hormonal. I was shaking and all kinds of weepy, I haven’t felt that many feels at someone else’s birth in a very long time! It was hard, I’ll admit. Hell, nearly anything at 7 days postpartum is hard! I had a solid backup (@vanessamendezphotography), but the labor was moving fast and I just didn’t want to gamble with whether she would make it in time. But I mean, this moment right here? Bearing witness to this moment, for me, is 100% worth it. I have z e r o regrets!! ❤️ . . . . . #empoweredbirthproject

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“Educational and celebratory”

Instagram spoke to parenting site Motherly about the changes that are afoot, explaining their “nudity policy is evolving to allow for photos and videos of childbirth.”

“Over the past several months we have worked with birthing advocates and women’s health experts to help craft this policy update that we believe better categorizes birthing imagery as educational and celebratory,” an Instagram rep said.

Read more about birth:

It’s unclear exactly how these platforms are actually going to distinguish between birth imagery and other inappropriate nudity, but it’s a huge step in the right direction and a fantastic result. We’ll be watching on enthusiastically.

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Calling all nurses! RN, LVN, NP, CNM, CRNA… We need you. This country needs you. Our patients need you. I am co-creating a piece of technology– and more importantly, a MOVEMENT– that seeks to revolutionize the way our healthcare system works. Until now, getting nurses on the ground– be it in a home or hospital setting or at ground zero of a natural disaster– has been tedious at best and limited to human staffing capabilities. Until now, technology has not existed to streamline the process of sending mass notifications to nurses on a national level to call them to action. @holliblu has created that technology, and we need YOU to help us take this all the way. __ Think of any recent disaster that has required nurses to mobilize… Hurricane Harvey? The Las Vegas massacre? Imagine future crises that will undoubtedly occur. Do you know what the current system is that puts nurses on the ground to serve people in need? The answer is phone calls, texts and emails. I know this because I’ve been working in this system for a decade and staffing is a nightmare! Not only that, but nurses who show up in a crisis zone are doing so at their own expense. They must take time off their regular jobs and nearly always finance their own way. Very few nurses can afford to do this. From our pool of membership fees, we plan to offer financial assistance to nurses who wish to mobilize in times of need. __ We are a grassroots movement, a tech startup company. We have something incredibly valuable to offer with the potential to affect global change… and we need nurses to download our app so we can reach our goal of 5,000 members this month. We want you to become a part of a passionate community with kindred minds and hearts willing to serve the people and support our nurses. We are available to both iOS and Android users. Download HolliBlu today, complete your profile and please tag all your nurse friends! __ Sincerely, @katievigos Creator @empoweredbirthproject Co-creator @holliblu __ Awesome nurse-in-action photo by @littleleapling of @beautifybirth __ #holliblu #nursesofinstagram #nursesrock #wecanchangetheworld #grassrootsmovement #empoweredbirthproject #RN #LVN #NP #CNM #CRNA

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A hard-fought victory

Change-maker Katie expressed her delight, updating her fellow campaigners and petition-signers with the big news that promises to revolutionise the way society views childbirth.

“Thanks to our collective efforts, Instagram AND Facebook have changed their policies to allow uncensored childbirth,” Katie wrote on 

It’s been a long road for Katie, with a brilliant, hard-won result. Her Instagram account – Empowered Birth Project – has been sharing birth images (with mothers’ permission) since 2013, in a quest to educate, normalise and celebrate childbirth and women. She’d been battling the platform ever since, as they removed images they said violated the company’s community guidelines, almost as quickly as she could post them.

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Sometimes, when it comes to birth, seeing is believing. For myself personally, when I was in labor with my first child, completely overwhelmed with the pain and sensation of it all and feeling doubtful my baby would ever come out, I clung to mental images of women giving birth. At that time, I hadn’t seen very many. Just a few photos in birthing and human physiology texts I’d read. I’m passionate about sharing #uncensoredbirth photos for many reasons, one of them being how helpful and important it is for birthing people to see that it is possible. And in this case, this incredible hands-off breech birth. Breech Birth is an endangered practice, with fewer and fewer practitioners being trained in attending and assisting this variation of normal. Behold— see it. Believe it! Photo: @lelabeltrao spotted on multiple accounts today ? __ Love, @katievigos __ #breechbaby #breechbirth #IGallowuncensoredbirth #empoweredbirthproject

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“A really damaging message”

It’s a pattern that will be familiar to many other birth photographers and women who sought to celebrate these transformative – and completely normal – moments in a woman’s life. 

“Birth is a moment of ultimate power and surrender for women,” Katie told Harper’s Bazaar. “Telling women that that power is offensive and needs to be hidden is sending a really damaging message.”

Here’s hoping that the process that ensures these images are allowed on Facebook and Instagram is refined quickly and effectively. 

“We have literally changed the world,” a jubilant Katie said. “There is strength in numbers; we did it!”

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“This image of me by accurately sums up the first 48 hours. While the birth was mine in every way, the absolute height of feminine power and womanhood, postpartum swung me in the opposite direction, to the darkest depths physically, emotionally, and mentally. Having 4 other children, I was prepared for this. I have support. I have realistic expectations. But these days are fucking hard, there is no getting around it. This day had been long and very stressful. My toddler woke up realizing that the new baby was, in fact, staying. She had cried most of the day. We had unexpected bills due on a very short deadline. An intense hormonal shift had begun, and I too had spent much of the day crying. I was missing my older girls immensely. To compound these struggles, a 72 minute labor isn’t easy to recover from. My hip felt like it was broken and walking was near impossible. I had soreness in muscles I didn’t know existed and pain that radiated down my right thigh like lighting. The cramping was so intense, it felt like I was in transition all over again. As soon as the labor had begun, it was over, before I even had a chance to realize what was happening. My beautiful baby seemed unfamiliar – smaller than my others, and unexpectedly male. He seemed strange and foreign, and I was struggling to bond with him the same way I had when my other children were born. My milk hadn’t come in yet, and he was getting hungry and impatient. In this moment, I just wanted to shower. I was alone only because my partner had taken our daughter out of the house, a needed distraction from the distressing sight of me holding another baby when all she wanted was to be held herself. It was the first time I had put him down—we had been skin to skin since birth. I worried that he would not be content long enough for me to wash my tired, aching body of the horrible day we had endured. As the shower warmed, I sat down to pee, slumping into the weight of all the heavy feelings before pulling it together again. The clock is always ticking. This is postpartum.” ~ shared by mama @austinbirthphotos __ #thisispostpartum #empoweredbirthproject

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