Record Your Birth
The Georgia Birth Advocacy Coalition’s #RecordYourBirth project urges birthing people to audio-record their births to document their experiences and provide evidence if they ever need to file a complaint. Birthing people should not be afraid of abusive providers. Abusive providers should be afraid of birthing people.
It’s against the law to force a person into medical interventions without their consent. That doesn’t change just because the person happens to be pregnant or in labor. But medical providers routinely violate this law. How can this be? It’s because they can get away with it. Our culture sees women as hysterical, as inherently unreliable—especially when they give birth. Medical providers and hospitals routinely lean on this stereotype, dismissing complains of abuse as hyperbolic, or due to the birthing person’s inability to understand their own experience.
Recording your birth levels the playing field. It arms you with the evidence you need to support your claims against a provider. Here’s what you need to know about recording your birth.
Why should I record my birth?
No matter how much you trust your provider, recording your birth offers an additional layer of protection. If everything goes smoothly, you’ll cherish the recording—which will likely contain your baby’s first cries—forever. If something goes wrong, here’s how your recording can help you:
It can serve as evidence in a lawsuit, complaint against the hospital, or medical board complaint.
It can help you understand what happened during your birth. Abusive providers sometimes attempt to gaslight patients by denying the reality of their experiences.
It can be a useful tool if you want to confront a provider who says you are lying about what happened.
It can alert you to birth interventions or complications you didn’t know about. Some birthing people may not even realize they had a procedure to which they did not consent until they hear a provider discussing that procedure on the recording.
It can help you process your birth. All birthing people deserve a chance to understand the transformative experience of birth. Whether your birth brought you to soaring heights of ecstasy or was the most traumatic experience of your life, a recording allows you the chance to understand the experience in your own time.
It can protect you against claims of defamation. Some abusive providers try to intimidate patients out of leaving bad reviews by threatening lawsuits. Your audio recording proves that what you have to say is true.
It can be a useful tool for warning other women. Particularly if a provider is charming or popular, other birthing people may find it difficult to believe they are abusive. Your recording proves it.
Is it legal to record my birth?
Yes, but as with all legal issues, you should consult a lawyer if you have specific concerns or an unusual situation.
“Georgia, like most states, is a single party recording state. This means that you can record a conversation you participate in without the consent of other participants. The key here is that you must be a participant in the conversation. You can’t surreptitiously record other people when you’re not a party to the conversation,” said Jennifer Hickey, an Atlanta attorney.
So it might be illegal to continue recording when you leave the room.
Limit yourself to audio recording unless you have your providers permission. Video recordings without permission may not be legal.
Some people worry that recording their birth violates medical privacy laws. That’s not true. You’re the patient; you can’t violate your own medical privacy.
Should I tell my provider I plan to record my birth?
It’s common practice for patients to record conversations with doctors. Indeed, many medical websites suggest that doing so can help patients better understand medical advice and ask intelligent questions. So doctors and other providers should not be surprised when patients want to record your birth.
Consider telling your provider early in your relationship that you intend to record your conversations and your birth. If they express reluctance, this could be a red flag. You do not need your provider’s permission to record your birth. However, getting into a fight with the hospital or doctor about recording could raise complex legal issues and create needless disputes and stress. If you are already in conflict with your provider, it’s reasonable to assume that they will oppose recording. So in this scenario, don’t ask permission. Just start recording.
Tips for Recording Your Birth
To be useful, your recording must be audible and the context must be clear. Begin each recording by stating the date and time, and naming who is in the room, if possible. Choose a recording program that date-stamps everything. Then follow these tips:
Test your recording program ahead of time. Some recorders work less well than others. Ensure the program can record for many hours, that the recordings are easily replayed, that you can email the recording to another person or upload online, and that the recording program does not crash. Smartphone recording apps are often appropriate, but small handheld recorders may be more effective.
Record all interactions with your provider, hospital, and care team—not just your birth. Sometimes the most important conversations happen well before the birth.
Keep the recording device near you so that you remember to take it with you. Remember, it may not be legal to keep recording when you are no longer in the room.
Consider asking multiple people to record. This ensures a quality recording, and offers insurance in the event that one recording device fails. Ask your partner or other birth attendant, your doula, or your birth photographer if they can record your birth.
If you are concerned about the potential for abuse, video-recording your birth may be helpful. You can’t video record without the permission of the provider or hospital. Many providers are willing to let birth photographers video record births.
Use a recording device that can back up your recording to the cloud. This ensures you still have it even if something happens to your phone.
Disclaimer: The law can suddenly change due to new legislative activity or court cases. Further, the information in this post applies only to Georgia. Laws vary in other states. The above information should not be construed as legal advice. The Georgia Birth Advocacy Coalition is not a lawyer, a law firm, or your lawyer. The only person who can offer decisive and reliable legal advice about recording your birth is a lawyer licensed to practice in your state who knows the facts of your case.