Call to overturn hospital birth photography ‘ban’

Queensland hospital bans birth photography

Professional photographers claim they’re being banned from taking images during birth at a Queensland hospital, saying it’s ‘taking away women’s rights’. But the hospital says while birth partners and dads can take snaps during birth, it’s never been the case that professional photographers could document births.

Photographer and Birth Doula Selena Rollason and her colleagues say the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) ‘banning’ professional photographers from the birth is, “yet another way that rights are being taken from women and their families wanting to positively remember the day their baby is born.

“Difficult conception journeys, pregnancy loss and birth trauma are all incredibly real things and families that wish to have photos should have a right to enjoy and celebrate their triumphant moments and heal from their difficult experiences. IVF families, surrogate families, women who have suffered (or suffer) birth trauma, stillbirth, birth after loss, young mums, mums that need caesareans and more … all of these are people who need these precious images,” Selena explained.

Queensland hospital bans birth photos

She says it was only brought to her attention two months ago that the hospital was banning photography during birth, and it’s her understanding this extended beyond professionals.

“It also includes photography by dads, mums, sisters, aunts, grandparents, friends, doulas, midwives and any other birth support person you wish to have in the room with you. Management at the hospital have been approached by myself and Australian photography industry representatives to discuss this in private first. Initially, they refused to meet with us to come up with a resolution and whilst talks have been underway for a couple of months, they are not being resolved in a timely manner. Instead, thousands of families are being impacted by this decision and no resolution appears to be in sight any time soon.”

Hospital claims no change made to processes

Birth photos banned at hospital

However, RBWH Executive Director Amanda Dines told Mum’s Grapevine in a statement that there has been no change to photography processes at the hospital.

“We have always encouraged parents to document what is one of the most remarkable experiences they will ever have, however, we have also always asked that this is done in a way that supports the important job our midwives and doctors do,” she said.

“Professional photography and digital recording of births before and after delivery are supported, provided they do not interfere with the important role of our clinical staff in ensuring both mother and baby are safe. While we make every effort to make our birthing suites as warm and homely as possible, they are clinical procedural areas. They are still highly technical areas with a range of emergency equipment on hand, so having additional people with additional equipment can potentially get in the way of the work our clinicians need to do.”

Starting the process

The Queensland photographers have started a petition calling on a lifting of the ‘ban’, which has already attracted almost 9,000 signatures.

“A birth story cannot be documented without the images of your baby entering the world and the emotions experienced by your self and your birth team,” photographer Michelle Palasia said. “Seeing these images and reliving the moment you met your baby, floods the body with oxytocin which not only enhances your relationship with your baby by triggering nurturing feelings and behaviours but also assists in the release of milk in breastfeeding. Oxytocin is crucial during postpartum because it’s the “feel good/love” hormone and if we’re able to induce the natural production of this hormone, then we should be encouraging this by any means.

“A documented birth story can also act as a therapy tool after a traumatic birth. I know of psychologists that have requested clients take their documented birth story with them to their appointment to help process what they’ve been through.”

Birth photography in hospital ban

The hospital maintains that some photography during birth is allowed. “There has been no change in photography processes at RBWH, and mums and dads are more than welcome to take personal photos of their baby’s journey into the world,” said Ms Dines.

The photographers say they’ll be approaching relevant ministers for help in resolving the issue.

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(Images: Selena Rollason via Brisbane Birth Photography)