Making Healthy Birth Go Viral: Why Birth Professionals Should Be On Social Media

July 26th, 2011 by avatar

“Young women these days may not need a book to get answers to their questions about pregnancy. After all, they have the Internet for that.” – NPRs Lynn Neary onWhat to Expect When Youre Expecting


Birth activists, professionals, practitioners: take note.  Women –of all ages and socio-economic levels—are turning to the Internet to answer their questions about pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.

Widespread, meaningful influence of birth information available to women used to require a book deal, a publicist, a book tour, a NY Times bestseller.  Now all it requires is a laptop, an Internet connection and the savvy use of low-cost, easy-to-learn tools.

These tools are game changers for those of us who want to spread evidence-based information, influence birth policy, and build our business.


Social Media Helps Mothers Influence Birth Policy

Not sold yet? Hear how social media has organized mothers:

In New York State, homebirth access was at risk without the passage of new legislation.  The statewide midwifery advocacy group, the New York State Association of Licensed Midwives, hired a lobbyist and went to the capitol.  The legislators’ response?  We need to hear from moms, not midwives.  A small group of homebirth mothers in central New York got out their laptops and, working at night after day jobs and child rearing, organized thousands of moms into the homebirth advocacy group, Free Our Midwives.  All through one blog and Facebook and Twitter accounts—with a budget of less than $500—more than 14,000 mothers were educated and thousands were mobilized into quick action, including a last-minute effort that flooded the governor’s office with calls in less than an hour. ACOG came out strongly against the legislation, but social media effectively leveraged the power of a few women in upstate New York and gave them the ability to mobilize large groups of constituents through the sharing of a simple Facebook status update.  Freeourmidwives.org was honored by the statewide midwives for their key role in passage of the bill.


Social Media Helps Educate Mothers

Still not sure? Learn about how social media is educating mothers:

Increasingly, research is showing us that women are turning to the Internet to research health care questions.  According to one survey, nearly half say they research health questions on the Internet first before calling their own health care provider.

The amount of information about pregnancy and birth on the Internet is astounding – googling “pregnancy” delivers more than 300 million results.  Is all of the information credible, evidence-based, or empowering to women?  Surely not.

But don’t discount the sophistication of the 2.0 mom.  When searching for credible information on any topic, they are making complex choices about accuracy, source reliability, and compatibility with their personal goals and philosophies.  The same is true when seeking out health information—while one in three adults report they or someone they know have been helped by medical advice on the Internet, only three percent report any harm.

Not since the printing press has there been a similar revolution brought on by the amazing proliferation of information access.  It is no coincidence that the rapid access to health care information in all areas is happening in parallel with significant changes away from the top-down thinking of “doctor is always right” to a shared decisionmaking model.

So how do we counter inaccurate or disempowering information?  By increasing the spread of accurate information that we know will educate and empower women.  By learning the tools we need to make *our* web pages come to the top of Google.  By making healthy birth go viral.

This is critical—current research shows that, despite access to information, women are still, on the whole, not educated about birth.1  The recent Amnesty International report, Deadly Delivery—and our own common sense—tells us that educating women with evidence-based information will improve maternal and infant health outcomes.

The spread of smart phone technology means that Internet access is no longer confined to those with a nice computer and Wi-Fi.  Eightyfive percent of all Americans own a cell phone, and seven in ten send or receive text messages. Text4Baby, a program of the National Healthy Babies, Healthy Mothers Coalition where women receive evidence-based health care information via phone texts, was built on the premise that low-income women, most in need of good health care information, are best reached through mobile technology.


Social Media Helps Build Your Birth Business and Grow Your Organization

The effective spread of great information is a win-win situation. It not only helps women, it also helps you build your business.

Social media is not really just about the spread of information.  It is about engaging with your audience, not doing all the talking, but being a good listener.  Sound familiar?

The best social media practitioners are just like the best midwives, lactation consultants, and childbirth educators.  They listen to their audience, hear their needs, and deliver evidence-based information in the style best suited to the mother’s personality and learning preferences.  Social media was made for us!

Women are increasingly turning to the Internet, not only to find information and camaraderie with others experiencing a similar stage of life, but to find providers.  By being out there, spreading evidence-based, empowering information, you are also finding the women who are the best possible fit for your practice.

None of this means that you need to live your life at a screen.  Or that you need to launch the next leading birth blog to influence the information landscape.  With 15 minutes a day, you can maintain a social media presence that has the power to spread evidence-based information, influence maternal health policy and build your business.

The beauty of social media is that it is not one size fits all. You can customize a web presence that fits your speed, style and needs.

Not sure how to get started?  The good news is that you are not alone.  You can get involved in ways big and small. If you sit on the board of your local birth non-profit organization, or are a decision maker at a birth business, support efforts to engage with social media, even if you don’t plan to build your personal presence online.

Nearly every birth conference these days has a workshop on social media—attend it! Participate in webinars like the one recently sponsored by Lamaze and delivered by Science & Sensibility’s Kimmelin Hull, and Giving Birth With Confidence’s Cara Terreri. Together, we can provide women with what they most need – high quality, evidence-based information about birth.




1  Klein, M.C., et al. (2011). Birth technology and maternal roles in birth: knowledge and attitudes of Canadian women approaching childbirth for the first time. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, 33, 59-608.




Authors’ biography:

Hillary Boucher and Jeanette McCulloch are birth activists and professionals
and co-moderators of #BirthGenius, a Twitter chat designed to build a community
of birth professionals working together to make healthy birth go viral.
Learn more at their new blog, www.birthswell.org.








Guest Posts, Midwifery, Research for Advocacy, Science & Sensibility , , , , , , , , , , ,

  1. | #1

    Brilliant article, really inspiring and love the story of Free Our Midwives. We want to use all the skills talked about in the article for our ONE WORLD BIRTH film project ( http://oneworldbirth.com)

    Our project features many of the “big” names in birth – Sheila Kitzinger, Ina May Gaskin, Michel Odent, Sarah Buckley, Debra Pascali-Bonaro, leading academics, midwives, doulas, birth educators and especially:

    We interviewed Marilyn Curl, the President of Lamaze International – who was fantastic! Can’t wait to use all the social media tools you talk about in this article to share her wisdom!!

  2. | #2

    “Creating and Marketing Your Birth Related Business” (2009) offers a basics on social media for birth professionals.

  3. | #3

    @Toni Harman
    Go, Toni! Love what you’re doing!

  4. | #4

    Toni’s project is so exciting! I’d love to hear from others–what projects are you working on? We want to be inspired and spread the word about amazing birth projects.

  5. avatar
    | #5

    I agree with the theme of this article, and, working on maternal health overseas, these kinds of social networking are happening all over the world in an effort to improve maternal health and decrease maternal mortality. However, my big disappointment is that when I looked at Text4Baby, is that it is sponsored by Johnson & Johnson (who does a lot of good work as part of it CSR), partnered with a host of other big pharmaceutical industries. And I am disappointed that thse so-called evidence-based messages that they are sending are with corporate money – so they are, by default censored to a certain degree. We need objective messaging, from sources that receive government grants or that are independent with broad membership that funds them, or that are repositories of information like cochrane. I don’t know that I would trust information “pushed” by a corporation that sells baby products about what is best for my baby.

  6. | #6

    Thanks, Kimmelin, for creating a space for birth professionals to learn about tools for spreading evidence based information.

    Everyone should check out the video at http://www.oneworldbirth.com to learn more about Toni’s project – great example of using technology to connect those who are inspired by birth and spread evidence based information.

    @Rachel – I couldn’t agree more that we need to look critically at the source(s) of information and the motivation behind each project. We also need voices like yours that ask all the right questions about what research is tapped and how projects are funded.

  7. | #7

    My blog post in which I share ways to promote via free media!

    We can make Empowered Birth Consciousness go Viral– together!


  8. avatar
    Walker Karraa, MFA, MA, CD
    | #8

    What about Lamaze? We all take part in corporatocracy…@Rachel

  9. avatar
    Walker Karraa, MFA, MA, CD
    | #9

    Hi all, so amazing to hear such good work being done. You guys rock! Very excited to see where your energy and passion lead. And I would love to know what your thoughts are regarding birth social media, and mom’s mental health. Even Text-4 baby addresses it, as does the new CDC texting service.

    Seems to be a lacking component from all advocacy fronts– One example was DONA’s conference had 30 sessions, but none regarding perinatal 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?

  10. | #10

    Walker, I know when I’m researching social media and maternal health as it relates to mental health I find there is an active community. Katherine Stone’s blog (postpartumprogress.com) is well established, there is a woman in our community reaching out on social media (ppdtojoy.com) and an active twitter chat (#ppd). The WEGO health blog (http://blog.wegohealth.com/) might be another smart place to start planting seeds as their health activism community is growing and continues to be a place of resources for health activists of all kinds.

    I’m thankful that you continue to raise these important questions as we move towards creating better health for moms–mentally, physically and emotionally.

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