Birth stock photos – does a picture tell a thousand words?

This blog thing is pretty new to me. I am enjoying it, and I like it when all the fragments come together. The aesthetics of a blog are also important to me. It’s very satisfying to find the perfect image to accompany the piece.

Like my work, my blogs are mostly about birth, babies and parenting – nothing too unusual, and yet the available ‘stock’ photos of birth disturbingly misrepresent normal birth. It is near impossible to find realistic photos that reflect what occurs and what I see at births. I am trying to work out why...

Yes - I do get that birth is a private experience, and most women probably don’t want to put their vaginas on the internet (well, some are quite keen to, but that’s a whole other story…!).

However, with the increasing popularity of professional birth photography, I am surprised that there are not more realistic images of births out there – or even ‘fake’ photos at least trying to fairly accurately mimic ‘real’ birth scenarios.

Instead, when I search for birth stock photos, I find a mass of cheesy couples in pregnancy studio shots, a handful of clinical looking staged hospital shots, and almost no shots that were taken at an actual, real birth.

None of these photos even come close to looking like a normal physiological birth, let alone get anywhere near capturing the strength, vulnerability, power and joy of what I see the birth process looking like when I attend as a doula.

 Congratulations! It's. A. Pineapple!

Congratulations! It's. A. Pineapple!

In the common stock photos the labouring woman is usually on a hospital bed. I feel that these pictures feed our society’s expectation that birth is a highly medicalised event – even though we know that if women are free to move to whatever position they want to in labour, are uninhibited and comfortable to make whatever sounds they want/need to, and they feel safe and well supported, then they will be guided by their own instincts to birth their baby in whatever position feels right for them at the time – whatever that might be.

I can assure you that not all birthing mothers remain perched up lying on a bed for the duration of labour, as you’d expect would be the case from looking at the stock photos – a beautiful birth can take many forms.

Don’t get me wrong, birth certainly does not always go to plan and rarely proceeds exactly as we’re expecting it to. Whilst it is not necessarily a medicalised event as the stock photos suggest, birth IS a primal event. It will take you to the edge. “It was a just a birth” said NO ONE, ever…

So, search as I may, I could not find any stock photos that I wanted to use in my earlier blog posts. After giving up on searching the stock photos I was very fortunate to be given permission to use some images from real births and of real babies.

 Just pat my head and the baby will come out...

Just pat my head and the baby will come out...

 After this we'll be shooting the Big W catalogue, okay?

After this we'll be shooting the Big W catalogue, okay?

Perhaps I am being too self-righteous towards these stock photographs? Maybe I should just enjoy the stock photos for what they are – as ridiculous and disturbing and cheesy as they seem, many do make me laugh.

But hey, if you are reading this and you have beautiful photos from your birth that you would like to share with the world (– or if you’re keen to put your vagina on the internet!) please contact me, because I would love to have some lovely photos of normal birth for future blog posts.