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Exploring undisturbed birth through art and social media: An interactive project with student midwives

02 February 2016
Volume 24 · Issue 2



To facilitate exposure of student midwives to images of undisturbed birth by engagement with the YouTube Series of images created by artist Helen Knowles (2015).


Although birth in the Western world is a relatively safe process, there is a culture of fear around the process of giving birth. Women search for ‘realistic’ accounts from other women, as indicated by the number of hits on the YouTube videos on which Knowles’ YouTube Series is based.


As part of their midwifery education, midwifery students from a range of groups were shown the YouTube Series screen-print images. The associated videos were then played to the students, followed by a class discussion.


Themes that arose from the discussions included tensions around using social media in the curriculum, and the educational value of viewing undisturbed birth.


It is important for midwifery educationalists to engage with technology and social media to be able to appreciate women's and students’ perspectives. It is also necessary to be aware of potential difficulties inherent in the use of social media, such as in relation to professional behaviour, the possible exploitation of women and ownership of the material. The study raised important issues for further investigation and analysis, and suggests that the videos and artwork have significant potential as tools for learning.

Student midwives in the UK are often learning the skills of midwifery in institutions where the physiological process of birth is disturbed by technological intervention and lack of privacy. The aim of this study was to share with students representations of unmedicalised, undisturbed birth, to capture their reactions and encourage discussion of issues raised. The authors were also interested in the students’ views on the value of YouTube as a learning tool. In this pilot study, midwifery students from a range of groups were shown artist Helen Knowles’ screen-print images from her YouTube Series (Box 1). The associated videos were then played to the group, followed by a class discussion. This paper explores the students’ interactions with the material and opinions on the use of social media in the curriculum. It raised important issues for further investigation and analysis, including the significant potential of social media as a learning tool.

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