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In 1952, network television executives wouldn’t allow the word “pregnant” to be uttered on the TV show I Love Lucy, fearing it was too explicit for the American public. Today, we can watch newborns crowning and women laboring on the screens of our cellphones and iPads any time, any place. Video-hosting sites such as YouTube are teeming with footage of the water births, hospital births and Cesarean sections of moms willing to share the graphic details of their deliveries.
Type “childbirth” into YouTube’s search box and more than 150,000 results pop up. The popularity of birth videos has flourished due to the strong engagement possible between posters and viewers, says YouTube spokeswoman Kate Mason. “There’s an intimacy about YouTube. It’s a real person speaking to you through your laptop or phone. Many vloggers respond to video requests and engage with commenters, and that creates a lot of trust,” says Mason, who notes that the social validation birth video posters receive makes them feel as if they’re talking to friends, not strangers on the Internet.
Though squeamish and more private-minded viewers may deem the practice “oversharing,” birth videos can provide powerful reassurance for expectant moms, says Pamela Rutledge, Ph.D., director of the Media Psychology Research Center and a professor of media psychology at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology in Newton, Mass. “The more we see people doing things, the more likely we are accept them as normal and desirable,” Rutledge says. “For something such as childbirth, which may cause uncertainty or anxiety, seeing other women give birth successfully and experiencing the joy that follows can reinforce a sense of confidence and optimism in soon-to-be mothers. It reminds them that women give birth all the time and that life can be messy and still be wonderful.” —by Tamara Barak Aparton
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