Texting While Birthing: Three Arguments For Social Media In The Delivery Room

There's an upside to social media during childbirth
There's an upside to social media during childbirth

I asked Tina why she thinks that texts, flip cameras and YouTube videos are critical in the labor and delivery room. Here are her top three reasons, edited and condensed.

1. Get Over The "Ick" Factor And Connect

Most people have this knee-jerk reaction to social media during birth. "It's 'ick,' keep it to yourself." But for those on the receiving end of the texts and emailed pictures — grandparents, friends, neighbors — they want to know the details of your birth, how do you feel, who does the baby look like, etc. "It's such an important time for mothers to connect," Tina said. "I understand the compulsion to share. When people run a marathon, they want to post it on Facebook." Why should birth be any different?

2. Hospitals Are Lonely, Strangers Abound

Keep in mind, it's only in the last 100 years or so that women have been giving birth in hospitals, surrounded by strangers. Previously, birth was a big social affair and women were surrounded by other women, their mothers, sisters, family. Now, your spouse might be there, and maybe a hired doula. Otherwise it's hospital staff and medical students. "It's a long time to be isolated and not communicate," Tina says. Social media fills that gap: you can once again be surrounded by your people. "I have no scientific proof of this," she says. "But I'd love to see an experiment, because I suspect that the longer the labor, the more things drag out, the more you feel the need to communicate. " Indeed, new research suggests the experience of social networking is comparable to falling in love, exactly what giving birth is all about.

3. Not Your Grandmother's C-Section

As far as birth goes, we are all products of our culture and history (that's the subject of her last book Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born). Birth customs and practices are largely generational — just remember how Betty Draper gave birth to her third child on Mad Men. (If you didn't see it, think enema, shaved pubic-hair and a hefty dose of Demerol). Or, as Tina points out: "My grandmother wasn't even conscious for the birth of her kids — this [social media phenomenon] brings consciousness to a whole new level to be able to text during your C-section." An aside: the subject of her forthcoming book is a close-up look at Jackie Kennedy in 1975. Jackie, by the way, had four C-sections, none tweeted.

But as far as social media oversharing goes, Tina (who gave birth to her second child in a bathtub at home, with no videos) warns of one drawback: You don't want to be so busy reaching out on social media during birth that you miss the sweet, awe-inspiring moment, which, by the way, can never, ever be captured on tape or text.

This program aired on February 8, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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Rachel Zimmerman Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for WBUR. She is working on a memoir about rebuilding her family after her husband’s suicide. 



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