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Uncensored birth: Instagram updates their policy around childbirth photos 👏

This story contains embedded images of real births.


It's one of the most beautiful, inspiring moments in the human experience. Birth is an incredible moment for a mother and all who witness it. While often portrayed in the media as a waist-up shot of a fully clothed woman sweating and screaming on her back in a hospital bed, real life images of the birthing process are more diverse, more beautiful and more complicated, and until recently, more likely to be censored on social media.

If you've ever had a snapshot of your delivery removed from Instagram or Facebook, you know what we're talking about. Luckily, times are changing as #uncensoredbirth just delivered a whole new era of social media.

A spokesperson for Instagram tells Motherly the social network's "nudity policy is evolving to allow for photos and videos of childbirth. Over the past several months we have worked with birthing advocates and women's health experts to help craft this policy update that we believe better categorizes birthing imagery as educational and celebratory."

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Instagram admits its policies have sometimes been more blunt than they would like "which results in restricting content that is shared for legitimate purposes," but the people who power the popular social network have been listening to the moms and photographers in the birth community in hopes of refining technology and processes to make them more discerning.
Basically, the future of social media involves defining policies that keep birth and breastfeeding photos up, while still taking pornography and other images that violate terms of service down.

Katie Vigos is a mama, nurse, doula, and the influential Instagrammer behind the popular account @empoweredbirthproject. She has played a pivotal role in the evolution of how we share birth stories on social media, and her popular change.org petition was likely a factor in Instagram policy change.

"People are tired of being silenced and having all these really raw and real aspects of motherhood pushed into the shadows," says Vigos. "That doesn't service anyone, that doesn't do us any good. Definitely, over the last several years people have just been more and more hungry for reality and accepting of it. It's now basically culminated in uncensored birth."

Above: Postpartum doula and mother Lauren Archer made headlines last year after her birth photos (captured by Brian Archer) were removed from Instagram. The photo at the centre of the controversy was posted to Katie Vigos' @empoweredbirthproject and prompted a change.org petition.

Still, Vigos says she was hardly the David in a fight against a corporate Goliath. She credits the folks at Instagram (especially the women and mothers on staff) with recognizing the power of realistic birth and breastfeeding imagery and fighting with her, not against her, for years. "I started the Empowered Birth Project in 2014 because I wanted to show people what birth actually looks like, or at least present a real-life portrayal of birth, because it's always bothered me, the portrayal of birth in film and television," Vigos tells Motherly.

She says she was aware of what lines she shouldn't cross in order to avoid having photos removed, and while she "would push the envelope" from time to time, she really did try to play by Instagram's rules.

Above: Showcasing diverse birth stories is an important part of the @empoweredbirthproject.

"I was trying to comply but it was frustrating because they would still censor it when it didn't actually show genitalia, just like the suggestion that it's there. Or one time they took a photo down for a sliver of areola," Vigos recalls.

That's why some were surprised when, in 2015, Vigos says Instagram contacted her not to discuss removing her work, but to actually celebrate it in a very public way. "They hand-selected a few dozen people, Instagram users, to display a photo at a gallery in LA, and they selected a photo from my page of me breastfeeding my son. It was like you could see my whole breast, except for the nipple in his mouth, so it was a very bold statement on their part," she recalls.

Above: Instagram selected this picture for a gallery exhibition at a time when #normalizebreastfeeding and #freethenipple were trending and breastfeeding photos were frequently removed from various social media platforms.

She says once at the gallery, she met with Instagram's then Director of Public Policy, Nicole Jackson Colaco, and the COO, Marne Levine, "and they conveyed to me how much they support the birthing and motherhood community on their platform."

Shortly after that, Vigos says she was informed Instagram had added "an extra layer of protection" to her account, that would keep her photos (many of which are not hers, but rather photos from other mothers and photographers whose work she is amplifying) from being removed. "I would still occasionally get censored," she says, noting that she still expects some photos to get removed or flagged as Instagram moves forward with new network-wide protections, as that requires perfecting processes and basically teaching technology how to tell the difference between a photo of a nude person in the context of birth, and a nude person in the context of pornography.

Vigos believes her petition helped tip the scales in favor of the change, but credits a lot of the work to those behind the scenes—the women who've been working in the Instagram offices for years—bringing her cause up at meetings and in boardrooms. "I think what people don't realize is how much these powerful women in positions of influence at Facebook and Instagram—and most of them mothers themselves—what people don't realize is how much these women have been advocating for this change all this time."

In a statement to Motherly an Instagram spokesperson says, "We are always working to create better policies for our global community and we believe this update is a great example of that."

We believe it's an example of what happens when women, and mothers, are allowed to both be in positions of power, and tell our own stories.

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As if new mamas don't have a steep enough learning curve already, one event takes most of us off-guard: that first postpartum period. After what was probably a hiatus of a year or longer, the return of your menstrual cycle isn't just back to business as usual. In most cases, it's initially less predictable and stronger than when Aunt Flo used to come calling.

The good news? By preparing yourself for what is to come, they don't have to be so intimidating — especially if you also stock your drawer with THINX underwear, made specifically to absorb menstrual flow. Every pair of THINX undies is created with their signature 4-layer technology that is super-absorbent, moisture-wicking, odor-fighting, and leak-resistant. Translation? You never have to worry about leaks or stains, even when your period is a surprise.

Here's the DL on those first postpartum periods:

1. When your period will return varies from woman to woman

The biggest factor that affects your period's return is whether or not you are breastfeeding. "If a woman is not breastfeeding, then the first menses usually returns at six weeks postpartum to three months postpartum," says Elizabeth Sauter, MD, Fellow of The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Among exclusively breastfeeding mamas, Sauter says it can be harder to predict when menstruation will return in full force: It's rare for your period to return until at least six months postpartum (at which point you've probably introduced some solid food to baby's diet), but it may not return at all until you are done breastfeeding a year or more postpartum.

Before you get back to it, whenever that is, it can help to add some new undies from THINX, to your dresser drawer. We especially love the chic and practical Hi-Waist undies for postpartum—or any—bodies.

2. Your first postpartum period will probably be heavier than ever

Whenever your period does return, it will likely be in full force as it's not only the shedding of your uterine lining, but also the shedding of any clots or blood from the delivery process. (And you thought you got past that during the initial round of postpartum bleeding!)

While this can be a less-than-pleasant experience, Sauter says that many women eventually enjoy less painful and intense periods as they get farther away from baby's birth.

Because you are probably already getting up enough during the night, waking up to change a pad or tampon probably isn't high on your list of things you want to do. We love (like, love) that the most absorbent THINX undies can hold up to two tampons' worth of blood.

3. Your menstrual cycle may not be as easy to track

Again, whether or not you are exclusively breastfeeding has an impact on how reliable your period will likely be for the first year or so. As Sauter explains, mothers who had regular periods before pregnancy and do no breastfeed often fall back into that rhythm within a few months of baby's arrival.

For breastfeeding mamas, even once your period returns, it may not come back in exactly 28 days (or whatever frequency you were used to). However, for some women, this is a silver-lining.

"Many mothers who had irregular menses prepregnancy in fact start more regular menses postpartum," says Sauter, adding the disclaimer this isn't always the case, especially for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome.


Like everything motherhood, soon enough you will be right in the normal routine of life with a period again — only now, with period-proof underwear by THINX, you'll find it's easier than ever to take on your period with confidence.

This article was sponsored by THINX. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Deciding to start a family is a huge, life-altering decision, and for couples who need to use in vitro fertilization, that decision all too often comes with a huge, life-altering price tag.

As a same-sex couple, Texans Ashleigh and Bliss Coulter knew they would need to turn to IVF to start a family, and thanks to some new developments in reproductive technology, they were not only able to both carry their baby at different stages of pregnancy, but also save money and time in the IVF process.

The Coulters made international headlines this fall when news broke that they had both carried their son, Stetson (now 4 months old) thanks to a procedure called effortless IVF, and the INVOcell device, a small medical device that basically uses a woman's vagina as an incubator.

"I wanted to have a child that was biologically mine, but I didn't want to carry the child," Bliss tells Motherly. Her wife, Ashleigh (seen above holding Stetson), did want to be pregnant.

It's common for same-sex couples to turn to reciprocal IVF (also called "shared motherhood") when one woman wants a biological child but her partner wants to be the one to be pregnant. Reciprocal IVF sees one partner's eggs fertilized and then implanted in her spouse's body.

It doesn't come cheap (costs per IVF cycle range between $16,000 and $30,000, according to WinFertility), but for some couples, it is the perfect way to start a family.

The Coulters knew that's what they wanted, but when they heard about the work Drs. Kathy and Kevin Doody of the Center for Assisted Reproduction (CARE Fertility) were doing, they wondered if the method the Doodys pioneered, effortless IVF, could allow them to add a layer to their reciprocal IVF plan—and remove the need for a laboratory incubator by using Bliss' own body.

When the couple met with Dr. Kathy Doody to inquire about whether effortless IVF with the INVOcell device could be used in reciprocal IVF, they were thrilled to hear the doctor say she couldn't see why not. "We've done close to 200 effortless IVF cycles with heterosexual couples," Dr. Doody tells Motherly. "But this is a special opportunity that same-sex couples can share in."

Dr. Doody and her husband are passionate about helping more couples (both same-sex and heterosexual) access IVF by reducing the costs associated with the procedure. The effortless IVF method makes things more affordable by reducing sonogram and monitoring appointments and by using the patient's health, age, and weight to determine the dosage of medication (which reduces the costs of the medication and eliminates the need for appointments for medication adjustments).

"I think the onus rests on us as physicians, it is our obligation to figure out ways to help as many patients as we can rather than just stick to a very confined model of what we think IVF should be," Dr. Doody says.

"The way the cost is less is just not with the device. There are fewer visits, there's no blood work during their IVF cycle, [and] they have a fixed dosing protocol," she explains.

For the Coulters, having fewer costly appointments than are required with traditional IVF was a great bonus, but the fact that Bliss got to carry the embryo that would be implanted in Ashleigh was even better, and actually easier than they expected.

Regarding the INVOcell device, Bliss tells Motherly "there was no side effects, it didn't hurt at all. I continued to ride my horses like I do, and so that was pretty cool. That kind of took me by surprise in a good way."

After the embryo that would become Stetson was done incubating in Bliss and moved to Ashleigh, another welcome surprise came along. Although Dr. Doody seemed super confident about the likelihood of success, somewhere in the back of her mind Ashleigh has worried that it wouldn't work. "It was something that had never been done, honestly," she tells Motherly. "I was so shocked that it happened on the first try. I think that was the biggest thing for me."

The first time she felt Stetson kick, it all became more real. Finally, she and Bliss were going to be parents. A shared conception experience followed by an uncomplicated pregnancy and the birth of a healthy baby boy. It was an absolute dream come true.

Both the Coulters and Dr. Doody tell Motherly they hope the story of Stetson's conception not only helps same-sex couples share in the IVF experience, but that it also makes IVF more accessible to all couples who are working within a budget or live far from an IVF clinic.

As Dr. Doody points out, there are places in America where there isn't an IVF clinic in the entire state, and Bliss says that with the minimal appointments she and Ashleigh experienced, she could see effortless IVF being a good option for people who live far from a clinic and need to keep out-of-state appointments to a minimum.

"The concept of effortless IVF is to make IVF more accessible to more patients," says Dr. Doody. Whether that means making reciprocal IVF a more shared experience for two mamas or reducing the burden of the investment on couples in general, she's keen to help more families experience the life-altering results of IVF with a less life-altering price tag.

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Chrissy Teigen is a social media force to be reckoned with. She's like the queen of Twitter at this point, thanks to her quick wit and perfect timing, and her Instagram is just as hilarious.

So when an internet commenter mom-shamed Teigen in the comments section of her husband's Instagram, Chrissy showed up quickly to shut the shaming down with humor.

It all started when John Legend posted a sweet pic of Chrissy and the kids hanging out with Chrissy's mom, Vilailuck Teigen, in a trailer on the set of The Voice. In the snapshot 2-year-old Luna is cuddling with her grandmother and Chrissy is seen giving baby Miles a bottle.

Obviously, John took the picture and posted it on his account, but an Instagram user replied to the photo with a question that was meant for his wife and touched a nerve.

The commenter (a Romanian journalist, according to her IG bio) asked, "You no longer breastfeed?"

At that point Chrissy slid into John's comment section to respond, writing "[J]ohn never breastfed Miles."

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It may seem a bit snarky, but we can totally see why Chrissy felt the need to sarcastically comment on the comment.

While she has been very open about breastfeeding, whether or not she's still doing it really isn't anyone's business. It could be formula in that bottle, or it could be pumped breastmilk. But the contents of the bottle are no one's business but hers.

We need to stop asking mothers about infant feeding choices 

Celebrities are used to getting intrusive questions about a lot of personal issues, but Chrissy's hilarious comment illustrates a problem all moms deal with.

Expecting and new moms are often asked if they are breastfeeding or plan to. The question may be well-meaning, but a lot of moms find it invasive or anxiety-inducing for those whose infant feeding experience isn't going as they expected.

Even if the question is asked without ill-intent, it puts parents in a position where, if the answer is anything but yes, they have to defend themselves. A 2016 study published in the journal Maternal & Child Nutrition Maternal & Child Nutrition found that the majority of mothers who don't breastfeed feel mom-guilt over it, and more than 75% feel the need to defend their reasoning.

By sending the message that this question isn't welcome, Chrissy Teigen is sending the message that asking mothers to defend their infant feeding choices is not okay. Questions that invite guilt or shame are not okay.

Instead of asking a mother if she's breastfeeding, maybe we should just ask her how she's doing. That way, if she wants to talk about breastfeeding, she can, but just like infant feeding itself, that decision should be hers.

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We would never call Jennifer Garner a fun-killing mom. After all, her annual "Yes Day" (where she says yes to everything her kids want to do) sounds pretty fun. But, apparently her nine-year-old daughter Seraphina disagrees—at least for the purposes of a pretty funny joke.

Seraphina (Garner's oldest) recently left a note for her mom, writing: "When I grow up, I want to be a fun-killing mom, just like you!"

"Is this a nine year old burn?" Garner captioned the shot when she shared the note on Instagram. "Or the ultimate compliment?"

Garner has admitted being pretty strict about junk food (at least 364 days of the year), but honestly, she looks like a pretty fun mom. It seems likely that Seraphina knows this, but is messing with her mom in the funny way that only our own kids can.

This isn't the first time Garner has shared a note from one of her kids. Back in January her then 5-year-old son Samuel left a less sarcastic note in for the next random reader of a library book he'd checked out and the sweetness melted our hearts.

"Hello, You are loved. I believe in you," Garner's son wrote to the book's next reader.

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Samuel is so sweet, and so is Garner. There's a lot of photographic evidence of her being a fun mom. Like when she wore a 12-foot long scarf her daughter made for her, out in public, in front of paparazzi. Garner owned the look and seemed to have as much fun wearing the scarf as Seraphina had making it.

Clearly, Garner is doing a lot right when it comes to raising her kids.

Her son's note demonstrates empathy and kindness, and, even though it contains the phrase "fun-killing" her daughter's note does the same.

When a 9-year-old says they want to be just like you when they grow up, it really is the ultimate compliment. In a way, Seraphina's note to her mom is sending the same message that her brother sent in his library book: "You are loved."

Congrats, Jen, you've got some amazing kids (and are obviously setting some limits for them, too).

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Kate Upton is a mama! 🎉

Upton and her husband, baseball player Justin Verlander, welcomed a baby girl last week and just announced her name to the world.

Genevieve Upton Verlander was born on November 7, according to her parents' Instagram posts.


Upton and Verlander both posted black and white shots of special moments with their new baby girl.

"Welcome to the world Genevieve Upton Verlander. You stole my ❤️ the first second I met you!" Verlander captioned a photo of his baby girl's tiny hand in his own.

This is hardly the first time Verlander has served up sweet social media comments about becoming a dad.

When Upton announced her pregnancy via Instagram back in July, her husband was quick to show up in her comments.

"You're going to be the most amazing Mom!! I can't wait to start this new journey with you!" he wrote. "You're the most thoughtful, loving, caring, and strong woman I've ever met! I'm so proud that our little one is going to be raised in this world by a woman like you! I love you so much."

Too sweet. 😍

The name Genevieve

According to the Social Security Administration, the name Upton and Verlander chose for their baby girl has been on the rise since 2000. That year, the name Genevieve was ranked 509 in terms of popularity (Emily was number 1 that year). By 2015, 1772 American babies were names Genevieve, bringing it up to 182 on the SSA's list of the top 1000 baby names.

It seems Genevieve peaked in 2015, as the name fell a couple places last year, but with Upton and Verlander choosing it for their baby girl it may see a resurgence.

Congratulations to baby Genevieve on her beautiful name, and to Upton and Verlander on her arrival. 🎉

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