Sex Education in the age of social media

Image Source: picsea

By Anna Day | @anna_day_

In an increasingly popular trend, social media influencer Sarah Stevenson, a.k.a. Sarahs Day, recently uploaded a YouTube vlog documenting the birth of her first son.

With over 1.3 million views, Sarahs Day’s birth vlog adds to a growing pool of influencers who have found an audience that are fascinated by their pregnancies, and lives as mothers.

From pregnancy pads, to stitches, to what a post-partum body can look like, social media content like Sarahs Day’s is changing the way both expectant parents and young people understand pregnancy and childbirth.

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(Image Source: Colleen Ballinger’s Instagram @colleen)

A big part of these videos’ popularity comes from influencers’ pre-existing audiences who are connecting with honest and realistic accounts of pregnancy, which go beyond the realm of high school health classes.

Adelaide-based Midwife, Hypnobirthing Practitioner, and Childbirth Educator Hannah Willsmore said the popularity of this content could be because the pregnancy and birth education that teenagers receive in schools is “absolutely inadequate”.

“I think birth is something that is so censored from our society, so perhaps women and young women are wanting to know more about how their bodies work,” Ms Willsmore said.

“For most women the first time they will see a baby being born will be their own baby.

“I frequently work with women and their birth partners who were never taught about the physiology of labour and birth or breastfeeding.”

The discussions and content sparked by these YouTube videos could go a long way in cracking open taboos around pregnancy.

“I one hundred per cent believe that we need to completely overhaul the way that we approach pregnancy and birth, including discussion with the general public,” Ms Willsmore said.

“Normalising pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding will go a long way in supporting future mothers.

“Up until recently Facebook and Instagram were banning photos of birth, or that were deemed ‘inappropriate’, including many images of mothers breastfeeding… I worry what kind of message this sends to young women.

“Fortunately Instagram has recently lifted this ban and I believe Facebook too, which I think will help.”

Most of the social media influencers who upload these birth videos don’t have healthcare qualifications.

While Ms Willsmore said it’s “definitely a concern”, content that shares purely personal experiences are unlikely to pose problems.

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(Image Source: Sarah Stevenson’s Instagram @sarahs_day)

 

Last year, however, Sarahs Day came under heat for presenting an unrealistic portrayal of her health journey, after claiming she naturally healed her high-grade cervical dysplasia, a condition characterised by abnormal cells in the cervix.

In a News.com.au article, Dr Brad McKay from East Sydney Doctors said it was “narcissistic” to believe the condition can be healed “with positive thoughts and green smoothies”.

“Declaring that you’ve healed your cervix ‘naturally’ is not only ignorant, but it’s also insulting to those people who have been diagnosed with cervical dysplasia or cervical cancer,” Dr McKay told News.com.au.

“It implies that if you require treatment, you haven’t prayed hard enough, haven’t thought positively enough, or haven’t eaten the right nutritional supplement.”

In regards to pregnancy and birth videos, there is a concern that the skewed nature of YouTube and Instagram content could leave expectant and new parents vulnerable to an ‘I’m not good enough’ mentality.

Even if social media influencers claim they are keeping it real and honest, Ms Willsmore thinks there is a potential for negative takeaways to occur.

“[It] is one of the reasons why I share so many real birth stories from women on my social media accounts and website,” Ms Willsmore said.

“I think the benefits of women sharing their stories outweigh the potential negatives, and it is up to each person who is using social media to understand that everything that is presented is essentially a ‘filtered’ version of someone’s life.”

 

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