Even vague posts may violate privacy.
You may have followers or mutual friends with your couple that you are not aware of. If you post that you are headed to a birth, and others know a couple have hired you and are due around then, you could be alerting family and friends of the arrival of a baby before your clients are ready. I have been able to easily figure out when my students or friends have birthed based on very vague details from other birth professionals. So even if you are just snapping a quick pic of the entrance of your favorite birth center, you may be revealing a lot more than your clients are comfortable with. In a society that puts everything on the internet for display it can be easy to forget that birth work needs to remain sacred.
Your experience may not be your client's experience.
Maybe for you this was an amazing birth to attend and you are buzzing on an early morning birth high, but that might not be how your client feels. Maybe she is mourning an aspect of her birth that didn't go as she imagined, but she isn't ready to talk to you about it. This birth could have been harder or faster or in some way, not what she expected. Seeing her trusted midwife, doula, or photographer post that her birth was wonderful may cause her to doubt her feelings about her birth. She deserves time and privacy to process her birth.
Tragic outcomes sometimes happen.
A military spouse once shared with me several instances where because of social media, military spouses found out their their loved one had died overseas before they could be formally contacted. I don't like comparing birth to war, but in both tragedies do sometimes happen. This is not for the couple to dwell on, but it is an aspect of birth that birth workers should always keep in mind. So if you post that you are off to a birth that ultimately ends in loss, not only is there is issue of possibly violating the privacy of a couple as I covered above, but if people ask how the birth went then you are put in the awkward position of trying to not reveal more than you should. You also deserve this time to process and heal in privacy.
It can be boastful.
Birth work is humbling, and I admit the vast majority of birth posts I see show the birth worker's humility and gratitude to be doing the work that they do. I love those posts, so that is one reason I had a hard time with my friend's perspective. But there are times when a birth worker seems to be posting every time they are at a birth to show how popular and busy they are. Sharing how many births you have that month or that every couple who attended a recent event hired you may cross the line between sharing your life and bragging. I admit this is a very fine line and I need to assess whether I do it too often as well. I want to see childbirth education, midwifery, and doula work talked about and promoted, but consider your true intentions before you share.
I hope that like me, these points will make you think and consider what you, or more importantly, what your clients feel is an appropriate way to share your birth work on social media. What is right will likely look different for different professionals. This is a great dialogue to keep going in our community, so what do you think as a birth professional? Moms, how would you feel about your birth being posted about? I'd love to hear from you.
May 2017 Update
Three years later, I don't feel differently about anything I shared here, however, social media is an important marketing tool, so we should be thinking about how we can use it effectively while protecting the privacy of our clients. I have discovered some excellent compromises:
Take pictures, keep notes... and wait. Do your postpartum visits and hear your clients experiences. Include in your contract that you may share on social media, but you will do so after a period of time, like 1 month, and with permission. This way they have had time to process their experience. People don't need to know that you are attending a birth in that moment that you are, but I do think it's powerful for images of birth workers supporting their client as they have their desired birth experience is a great way to change our culture's perception of birth, and to show that you are effective at your job.
Instead of posting yourself, include in your contract that if your clients do share about their birth on social media, they please tag you and/or your business page. I feel this is even more effective than you posting yourself.
Provide links to your yelp, facebook, and google review pages and ask your clients to post there. I provide a birth summary form for clients to fill out with their thoughts and I provide a place for them to choose whether I may or may not share their reviews.
Sharing our images is really an essential part of marketing. I do feel this is a totally different category, however, I do think leaving time between the birth and posting is important.
If you have found a way to both honor your client's, give them space to process their birth experience, and share your work on social media, please share in the comments section!