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Why Was This Mind-Blowing Birth Photo Banned on Social Media?

Photograph by Marijke Thoen

When I saw this photo of a water birth while scrolling on Instagram one night, I gasped out loud. It's that striking. And it's been going viral for another striking reason: Instagram is insisting it's too offensive to be shown.

Professional birth photographer Marijke Thoen of Belgian snapped the photo at a Ostend, Belgium, hospital. She explains that the hospital has clear birthing tubs, which is how she was able to capture the incredible image. The parents of the baby planned on having big sister, who is 2 1/2, be present at the birth. The moment when she met her little brother for the first time was captured forever in one beautiful photo.

"The photo was taken seconds after the baby is born, he is still underwater, cord attached and the placenta has not yet been born," Thoen explains to Mom.me. "His big sister was there the whole time but she was playing in another larger labor bath (kind of like a jacuzzi) with her grandmother and she came to look closer when the moment the baby arrived was finally there."

As a birth photographer who has witnessed many births, even Thoen knew she had taken a photo that showed something extraordinarily special. There are just so many amazing emotions in the picture, from big sister's wonder to the mom's birthing concentration to the cycle of life all in one moment. And it gets even more poignant—Thoen explains that the doctor who delivered the baby is actually the baby's grandfather!

"I love how she ‘meets’ her baby brother, I love the face and hand of the baby, as if he’s saying, 'Hi there,' I love the relief on the mother's face and I love how the older woman holding the toddler is the grandmother of the baby and the obstetrician (with the socks and sandals) is the grandfather of the baby," she says.

After Thoen posted the photo on her Instagram page and Facebook, many people had the same reaction I did: complete awe at the tremendous power of birth captured in one photo. Not surprisingly, the photo quickly made waves across the internet, but Thoen was taken aback when both Facebook and Instagram removed the photo from their feeds for being too "explicit." Thoen immediately shared the news with her followers, asking everyone to help her show the social media platforms that there is nothing about birth that needs to be hidden from the world.

"It is time to look at birth as something natural and not to be censored," says Thoen. "Birth is not pornography. It is really time for Facebook to acknowledge that and change their policy on the censorship of birth photos."

Facebook has since reposted the image and even issued Thoen an apology via email, but so far, Instagram is still insisting the photo is far too scandalous for its feed. To help get it reinstated and to spread awareness about the censorship of birth, Thoen is encouraging any fellow birth photographers or parents who have had similar problems on social media to share their stories with the hashtag #stopcensoringbirth.

All images courtesy of Marijke Thoen Birthphotography

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