Sunday, July 17, 2011

Social media, childbirth and midwifery practice

I am giving a short talk to student midwives tomorrow about the effect of social media on childbirth choices and midwifery practice. I have put together a short slide show but to be honest, I am not sure I have really dealt to the questions because I don't think we know if and how social media impacts on childbirth. This is an area that needs a lot more research.

I do know that women look for information on the internet and I feel it is my responsibility to provide quality information about birth online that women can refer to. Social media gives me an opportunity to listen to what women say about birth and maybe align my practice more with what they are saying. I also think social media can bring midwives and women together giving us one voice which in itself gives us an ability to work together to achieve mutual aims. Whether this is impacting on the provision of maternity care, especially in a global way, remains to be seen.

I'd love to hear from anyone who is researching this area, or has ideas about the impact of social media on maternity care. If you are a parent, how much do you rely on social media for information and ability to communicate with other parents? If you are a midwife, how is social media impacting on your practice?


James Hacon said...

My step sister is about to have a baby, she has certainly been utilising social media to help her make decisions on aspects of her birth. I tend to tune out when I see birth questions appear on her Facebook page, although I've just looked back and it looks like she made her decision to have a water birth through the experience of her friends/family all posted on her wall.

Another friend is in the early stages of her pregnancy and talking about the birth on Facebook already. Others have given her advice before she has even asked. A small debate started between her friends on whether you should try and have a completely natural birth.

Interesting stuff.

Rachel Reed said...

I love the presentation! I think that 'social media, childbirth and midwifery practice' should be on every midwifery curriculum. There are so many issues. One of the problems for midwives is that hear-say is rife. They can find themselves or their practice being discussed out of context. Mandatory reporting is also an issue. If a mother or midwife writes about a homebirth that is considered 'high risk' will the midwife then be reported?

Sarah Stewart said...

@James and @Rachel Thanks for your comments. It's interesting to hear that you are experiencing exactly what I am talking about, James. I often think that Facebook is like a small country village - we all stand around talking about the same stuff our grandmothers used to talk about over the garden fence. However, as Rachel said, bad news spreads million times faster than it did back when we were propping up the garden fence. We used to moan about the village midwife back in the "olden days". Now...that moan gets heard by hundreds and thousands of people.

I'm not what to do about that...I don't think there is anything we can do as midwives apart from making sure we do not engage in slanging matches. Rachel: what you're doing with your blog is an amazing example of the positive good that can be done by a midwife using social media.

virtual librarian said...

A bit of a belated comment here, but just thought I'd chime in to say I'm currently undertaking a PhD investigating the information experiences of new mothers in social media. Specifically, I'll be using Grounded Theory to develop a theory that explains how new mothers experience information through media like blogs, social network sites, microblogging and so forth.

In the long term, I'm hoping the research will be useful to people like you, who provide information to women as they seek to make decisions about their pregnancy, birthing, and parenting in the first couple of years of a child's life.

I'm just about to start my pilot data collection and I'll be talking about my research on both my blog ( and my professional portfolio (

Anonymous said...

Hello, Sarah Stewart,
I am a 3rd year student and looking at ideas for my independent study. With One born every minute and call the midwife being aired, I have found women comparing there birth experiences to those on the programs, also they have impacted fear upon them making the their birth experience traumatic before its even commenced. Is there enough evidence out there for me to be able to right 6000 words?

Many thanks