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crowdbirthing also crowd birthing or crowd-birthing

noun [uncountable]

giving birth to a baby in the presence of a large number of close relatives and/or friends

crowdbirth also crowd birth or crowd-birth

noun [countable] verb [intransitive/transitive]

'Crowd birthing – or inviting throngs of people into the delivery room and/or documenting the experience on social media – might be the latest trend among pregnant women.'

ABC News 30th July 2015

'Tell me lovelies – did you have a crowdbirth? How many people were at your baby's birth? Do let me know – I'm fascinated to hear about this new trend!'

Childcareisfun 29th July 2015

Recently watching a period drama in which an expectant father paced the hallway as his wife gave birth, some moments later to be miraculously presented with a perfectly scrubbed bundle of joy to the soundtrack of happy music and clinking of whisky glasses, I reflected just how different this was to my own experience of childbirth, in which my long-suffering husband was with me throughout the entire arduous, time-consuming and, let's face it, pretty messy, process. In 2015 however, it seems that the support of OH alone is not deemed to be sufficient, the media awash with reports of a surprising trend towards wider spectatorship which has been dubbed crowdbirthing.

according to a recent survey, it seems that the 21st century obsession with showcasing every aspect of our lives has begun to infiltrate the labour ward

According to a recent survey, it seems that the 21st century obsession with showcasing every aspect of our lives has begun to infiltrate the labour ward. Popular among younger mothers in their twenties, a craze known as crowdbirthing sees as many as eight family members or friends ostensibly giving moral support (i.e. chatting, drinking, and doubtless periodically checking their mobiles) as a woman goes through the process of giving birth. Mothers who've invited this carefully-selected posse into the delivery room are correspondingly said to crowdbirth, or to have a crowdbirth.

This surprisingly widespread trend is thought to be yet another consequence of the social media fuelled 'sharing culture' so characteristic of contemporary life. Those expressing enthusiasm for the concept have argued that giving birth is possibly a woman's biggest achievement, so it's only natural that she'd want to share it with a number of people who are important to her. Sceptics, on the other hand, might consider crowdbirthing to have entered the realm of oversharing and even be unhelpful in potentially making the birthing process 'competitive' as mums compare notes on levels of pain relief.

Speaking personally, my own recollection of giving birth was of such an intense experience that frankly I couldn't have cared less who was in the room, though I'd have been grateful for the 'crowd' in those first weeks of having a newborn, where any folks offering to fill my fridge with food or get up several times a night instead of me would have been made very welcome indeed!

Background – crowdbirthing

Though the practice of having several people in the delivery room has been becoming popular for some time, the expression crowdbirthing abruptly emerged in the summer of 2015 following a survey of 2000 mothers by video blogging website Channel Mum. It follows two other childbirth related coinages popping up since the turn of the new millennium – freebirth which first appeared in the mid 2000s to describe the process of giving birth without the presence of a medical professional, and hypnobirthing, referring to the process of giving birth with the aid of hypnosis techniques rather than conventional pain relief – an older term which enjoyed a renaissance in 2013 thanks to its alleged popularity with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Formation of the expression crowdbirthing takes inspiration of course from the recent terms crowdsourcing and crowdfunding, where the prefix crowd- represents the concept of inviting a large number of people to collaborate towards a particular goal.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 7th April 2016.

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