Dear Doulas: Please Get Off Facebook

Yes, this is a huge pet peeve of mine, but I also think it gets into a gray area of HIPAA.

Here’s what HIPAA says (bolded part at the bottom is my emphasis):

Protected Health Information. The Privacy Rule protects all “individually identifiable health information” held or transmitted by a covered entity or its business associate, in any form or media, whether electronic, paper, or oral. The Privacy Rule calls this information “protected health information (PHI).”12

“Individually identifiable health information” is information, including demographic data, that relates to:

  • the individual’s past, present or future physical or mental health or condition,
  • the provision of health care to the individual, or
  • the past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to the individual,

and that identifies the individual or for which there is a reasonable basis to believe it can be used to identify the individual.13  Individually identifiable health information includes many common identifiers (e.g., name, address, birth date, Social Security Number).

I do not want to see a status update that you’re at a birth. Or heading out to a birth. I feel a liiiiiiiiittle sketchy reading that you’re just home from a birth — but I will give you the benefit of the doubt. I’ll assume that you asked the client if you could talk about it on Facebook and she gave you her blessing.

I will not give you credit for not mentioning the client’s name because COME ON NOW. Birthy people all know each other, especially in areas where homebirth isn’t legally recognized. If I know that three women are due around the same time, and are having homebirths and I happen to see that two of them recently updated their Facebook statuses and one hasn’t updated in a day or two, or I run into one at the grocery store… it’s just not that hard to figure out where you are and who you’re with.

I’m totally stalking you right now (Flickr: Simply.Jessi)

And yes, I’m a total stalker.

How did I learn to keep births off social media? Oh, you know me: the hard way.

I posted — not on Facebook, this was before Facebook, probably even before MySpace — once about a birth I was at where something REALLY weird happened. Nothing to do with the birth itself, just a weird thing happened. And a midwife saw my post and totally nailed me about sharing private information that was not my place to share. By sharing what had happened at the birth I’d shared the following

1. I was at a birth

2. It was a homebirth

3. This weird thing happened

Most of my doula-Facebook-friends are smarter than me. They do not post that they’re in the middle of a birth and something weird (or totally normal) is happening. But I do occasionally see a status about a great birth or a beautiful laboring mama or something birth-related. STFU, please! I don’t want to know! It’s not my business! (Which seems weird, right? Isn’t everything my business?!?!?) Let the mama post and let me hear it from the horse’s uterus.

Yes, I was at a birth. When “at” means, actively participating (although kind of against my will).


8 Responses

  1. A). I’m so happy every time someone spells HIPAA correctly.

    B). I have been guilty though I’m more careful nowadays. I will blog months after the fact with permission.

    C). While we’re making requests, will doulas please stop posting pics in which they hold up a newborn like a trophy? Why are you holding the newborn anyway? I sometimes snuggle placentas but the mama gets the newborn.

  2. Ha! I read the title as DOUGLAS…… most of it before relishing poor Douglas is innocent!

    Completely agree….let the proud momma show of on FB…..

    Love ,love love the blog 🙂

  3. REALISING!! Bloody auto correct!

  4. Oh, man. My doula totally FB’ed she was en route to my birth. Ruh-roh! Now that I have this whole community of doula-mamas on my Twitter, my time line is swarmed with tweets such as this. It honestly bothers me more that they’d be tweeting *at* the birth rather than generally tweeting about it.

  5. stumbled on this via Google search.. curious, are Doula’s bound by HIPAA laws? They are *generally* self employed, independantly hired, non-medical professionals.
    Not that I don’t agree with your sentiment, but it’s the sad reality of social networking, I guess, and the culture/society we live in.

    • I don’t think doulas are bound by HIPAA *at this point* although I hope that changes eventually. But it’s just so easy to let excitement get in the way and just slip… doulas need to be held to a higher standard.

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