Social Media and the Childbirth Educator: What’s all the Buzz About?

Last week, I accompanied Cara Terreri (Community Manager of our sister site, Giving Birth With Confidence) in delivering a Lamaze-sponsored webinar* on social media for the childbirth educator.  During the webinar, we discussed common social media platforms and the question of why on earth would a person want to commit time and energy to this form of communication and interaction with others.   Because, after all, most of us working in the childbirth education arena are people-persons, right?  We love the time we spend in class with expectant parents—maybe we even enjoy taking part in a couple community awareness raising campaigns or other in-person normal birth advocacy events each year.  So, why would we want to hide behind our computer screens and “interact” with other birth professionals & pregnant women (and their partners) in lieu of face-to-face time?  Avoiding my gut reaction to respond, “Because everybody’s doin’ it,” in a nut shell, that wouldn’t be a half-bad answer.

Yes, social media is the wave of both today and the future and, as Dr. Klein et al. recently published findings to this same tune, more and more women are turning to the internet—including social media sites—to dig up information on pregnancy, birth and parenting issues.

But if you haven’t made your way into the social media scene as of yet, (okay, you’re reading this, so you must be somewhat comfortable with social media) the prospect could feel daunting.  “What is Twitter and how do I start tweeting?”  “What’s the difference between Linked In and Facebook?”  “Do I really have the time or money to sink into maintaining a blog or website—and furthermore, do I really want to?”  Those sorts of questions were addressed in our webinar, and will be addressed further in tomorrow’s post by social media gurus Hillary Boucher and Jeanette McCulloch.

But other questions remain—those I continue to grapple with:

*Does online advocacy equal real-life advocacy?
*Do online conversations and debates amongst like-minded and opposing individuals create changes in thought, opinion and practice? (Or do they just get people fired up without any real change in sight?)
*What is it about the psychology of online interaction that prompts the type of human behavior you’re less likely to see and expect when people are interacting with each other face-to-face?
*How has the use of social media improved the work of normal birth advocates?  How has it detracted from our work?

I will be addressing these topics and more at the 2011 Lamaze International conference in Fort Worth, TX.  I hope to see you there!



*If you attended this webinar and would like to receive a copy of the slides, contact Kacy Reams at kreams@lamaze.org

Lamaze Annual Confernce, Uncategorized, Webinars , , , ,

  1. avatar
    Walker Karraa, MFA, MA, CD
    July 25th, 2011 at 15:42 | #1

    Great, thought-provoking questions. There is a sadness that came when I read them, and reflected on my “work”. In many ways there are parallels to our relationships, our external world. I remember a family systems professor telling someone once, “If you knew today, that your relationship was never going to change, would you stay?”

    If we knew today that systems weren’t going to change, no matter how hard we read and comment on blogs, do we stay?

    What would I tell my daughter if she wanted to become a childbirth educator or doula?

  2. July 25th, 2011 at 16:22 | #2

    Kimmelin, you pose excellent questions about social media, ones I have been debating as well. I look forward to the upcoming posts about it.

  3. July 25th, 2011 at 20:59 | #3

    As a birth professional (doula, CBE and IBCLC) who actively uses social media I have to say, I love the questions you pose. I have an active face-to-face practice in my community and I also have more anonymous followers out there in the cyber world – who I treat and love with equal respect *and* boundary setting(s).

    It is a very interesting wave of the future, this Mom 2.0 demographic. And one that requires a different (140 characters or less) kind of support. But support just the same!

    Interesting stuff! Looking forward to hearing more about your findings as you prepare for Texas! And with a shout out to Hillary and Jeanette, don’t forget to include in your discussion the childbirth educator hashtags … #birthgenius #birthpro #birthedu signed, @BreastfeedingNY

  4. July 26th, 2011 at 08:59 | #4

    Those are great questions Kimmelin and I found myself discussing similar topics this past weekend with conference participants at DONA in Boston.

    The reason I’ve become an advocate for using social media for birth work is because I’ve seen firsthand the way it has activated my work and community.

    There are a lot of unknowns that continue to unfold because it is new, but I also think that is part of the excitement–it brings a new hope because at this point we’re dealing with possibility and extended reach.

    In work that can end in burn out–new, easy to access tools feels like a breath of new life. Social media simply fans the flames that advocates and practitioners have been steadily burning for so long.

  5. avatar
    Walker Karraa, MFA, MA, CD
    July 26th, 2011 at 13:17 | #5

    Hi Hillary, I love your work, and am wondering what your thoughts are regarding social media, doulas, cbe’s, DONA and mom’s mental health. Seems to be a lacking component from all fronts–as DONA’s conference had 30 sessions, but none regarding mental health. Wouldn’t it be great if DONA and others actually talked about how to incorporate referral sources in SM? Like reaching out to PSI (postpartum.net) and getting the 1 in 7 women with perinatal mood or anxiety disorder a resource via social media in addition to birth sources? @Hillary

  6. July 27th, 2011 at 00:09 | #6

    I began using social media three years ago, and since then I’ve seen the use of social media by birth pros really explode. What I’ve enjoyed is meeting other birth pros all over the world and learning what birth practices are like where they are.

    By networking with birth pros in other parts of the US and abroad, women are learning about successful efforts others are making, and they are in turn implementing similar programs in their own communities.

    In addition, in recent months I’ve observed how social media has helped new moms with breastfeeding and postpartum depression. This “village” of support is now accessible to anyone with a social media account. It’s a very exciting time.

    I have lots of thoughts around your other questions that would take too long to write about here. Social media is truly re-shaping the way birth professionals can reach out to one another and to potential, current and past clients. It will be interesting to see how certifying organizations incorporate social media into their scopes of practice and support their members in using these outlets in their businesses.

  7. July 27th, 2011 at 16:45 | #7

    I know that my blog has helped moms change their birth. They e-mail or tweet me or facebook me and tell me so! I just had a mom post on my Enjoy Birth Facebook wall that my posts helped inspire her to have a VBAC!

    So the hard work we do online is VERY valuable!

  8. July 27th, 2011 at 17:42 | #8

    @Enjoy Birth
    These are the stories that keep us going…thank you for sharing, Enjoy Birth! Who else has a success story in which the use of social media effected real change in the labor and birth arena?

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