When childbirth moved from the home to the hospital, we lost more than just the natural home-birth experience so many are trying to reclaim. As a society, we collectively stopped learning what the process of labor and delivery look like, now that it’s no longer happening in the room or hut next door. Our culture doesn’t always appreciate beautiful, transformational work that brings babies into the world. But maybe — just maybe! — getting an inside look through birth photography could change that.
Birth photography has become an art form so in-demand that there’s an International Association of Professional Birth Photographers, with a robust membership of talented photogs.
The IAPBP’s 2021 Birth Photography Competition winners had their work cut out for them in a pandemic. With everyone but the birthing partner banned from many hospitals, the IAPBP said members lost most of their work. Still, home births have been on the rise, and that is where most of these winning photographs seem to have taken place.
Regardless of what was going on in the outside world, these photos capture intimate, miraculous moments that show human life does go on. We are still in awe of the way families to trust a photographer to document this profound moment in their lives.
This year’s winners comprise the first part of the slideshow, ahead. The 2020 winners follow after those. And because there’s so much childbirth photography can teach people about the utter beauty of birth, whether it happens drug-free in a bathtub or while medicated in operating room during a cesarean section, we’re also including photos SheKnows has previously gathered, along with some great quotes from the photographers who took them.
“Birth photography is such an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to mothers processing their birth stories,” Lauren Jolly, a birth photographer in Winston-Salem, NC, tells SheKnows. “I think my favorite part of my job is delivering a gallery of images to a mom so they can see their strength, support, and love — it’s magical to be able to see that in photo form. I also love being able to share birth, in all its forms, with the world.” Why? Because “normalizing birth for women in our society is so important,” Jolly adds.
Please note: The following images show childbirth in all of it’s beautiful, messy glory. If you are uncomfortable seeing all parts of the female anatomy, do not click through.
A version of this story was originally published in June 2019.