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Mom’s birth photo was just a bit too ‘natural’ for Facebook

Childbirth is as natural as it gets. But it may be too natural for Facebook. One new mom found that out the hard way after Facebook chose to remove a picture of her delivering her daughter at home.

Francie was feeling nostalgic the night before her daughter’s first birthday. Like most of us, she wanted to commemorate and celebrate the wonder of birthing her first child. She understood the image might make some people uncomfortable, so rather than posting it to her timeline, she opted to share it in a NYC Birth group, which has fewer than 900 members. It wasn’t the first time she shared the picture in the group, and she said it received nothing but positive comments when she first posted it in the same group a year ago.

mother giving birth
Image: Leonardo Mayorga

That’s why Francie was shocked when the image was taken down less than an hour later, after it was flagged by a member of the group for violating Facebook’s terms of service. Facebook’s Community Standards prohibit photographs of people displaying genitals or buttocks and some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but they specifically allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring.

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Facebook hasn’t always allowed images of breastfeeding mothers to be posted on its site. The change to the policy came about only after the site came under fire for labeling breastfeeding as obscene imagery and campaigns were organized that centered around the hashtag #NormalizeBreastfeeding. A similar campaign has been mounted to #FreeTheNipple and allow women to post pictures of their naked breasts on the popular site.

Francie has already begun her own campaign to make birth photography a part of the site’s recognized exceptions using the hashtag #HumanBirth. She runs a website called The MilkinMama, which teaches women how to hand-express their breast milk and find empowerment in breastfeeding or pumping, and she views birth as similarly empowering. She’s optimistic that Facebook will decide to include birth photography in its list of exceptions to its nudity policy.

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Facebook’s stance on birth photos is surprising consider that its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, recently created a charity to “advance human potential and equality,” called the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, on the day of his daughter’s birth. Zuckerberg’s vision for advancing human potential and equality relies on technology, but it also focuses on connecting people and building communities. It’s hard to build community when women’s contributions are excluded from the conversation.

Whether you have your baby at home or in a hospital or birthing center, there’s no denying that childbirth is the opposite of obscene. It’s a normal, natural part of human life, and birth photography can demystify an otherwise frightening process and help women to feel empowered. Pregnancy and birth are often messy, but there is still beauty and power in the act of carrying a child and bringing a new life into the world.

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Normalizing birth in all of its messy glory is an important step toward appreciating and valuing motherhood, and moms like Francie are working to see that Facebook rethinks its position on birth photography.

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