These Powerful Photos Show What Childbirth Really Looks Like

Yes, yes, we love looking at photos of cute snuggly newborns just as much as anyone. But why is there such a dearth of raw, honest birth imagery out there? Because you know those babies don’t come out all clean and Anne Geddes-photoshoot-ready, right?

Our culture doesn’t always appreciate the many hours of labor that brought those babies here. But maybe — just maybe! — getting an inside look into the birthing process could change that. Enter the beautiful world of childbirth photography, which has become an art form so in-demand that there’s an International Association of Birth Photographers, with a robust membership of talented photogs.

The IABP’s 2020 Birth Photography Competition winners honestly leave us in awe — of the beauty of these pictures, the actual reality of childbirth, and the ability of some 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.

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.