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When to Contact Your Birth Photographer

If you're expecting a baby, it's completely normal to feel anxious and have questions about the onset of labor. You might have thoughts racing through your head like:

How do I know if I'm really in labor? What if it’s just Braxton Hicks contractions? What if my water breaks but nothing happens? What if it's a false alarm?

Now imagine you've hired a birth photographer and on top of the normal anxiety that often surrounds childbirth, add in needing to communicate with a birth worker so they show up on time. Now you might also be thinking:

When should I call? What if my past labors took 24 hours? How do I know if it's important enough to call right now, in the middle of the night? I'll feel so bad if they send us home from the hospital...Maybe I should wait.

Knowing when to contact your birth photographer is extremely important. Lots of communication prior to labor starting and updates during labor will ease your anxiety and ensure your photographer doesn't miss the birth.

Meet with Your Birth Photographer beforehand to Discuss Labor History & Preferences

A good birth photographer will include a consultation as part of the onboarding process for birth photography. During this consultation you and your photographer should discuss your past labor history. You'll want to talk about how long you were in labor, what type of delivery occurred, and if there were any special circumstances. Understanding your history will help your photographer know when to arrive at the birth.

Birth history matters big time. Your birth photographer will treat the situation differently if your first labor lasted 36 hours and your second lasted 24 hours than if your first baby arrived 30 minutes after your water spontaneously broke. Subsequent labors tend to go faster. For example, for my first baby I arrived at the hospital at 9 p.m. and he was born at 2 a.m. My second labor was three hours start to finish. So while every birth is different, understanding what happened during previous labors will help your photographer at least know sort of what to expect.

There's No Such thing as Inconveniencing Your Birth Photographer

It's only natural to feel like you're bothering someone when you call or text between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. Especially as a Minnesotan, you're all about not inconveniencing someone!

The average midwesterner will avoid inconveniencing someone at all costs.

Your birth photographer will not be inconvenienced or bothered by a midnight phone call, even it's a false alarm. This is part of her job. She expects to be contacted in the middle of the night. And she does NOT want to miss your birth. If you contact her with an update she will thank you, not be annoyed by you.

Update Your Birth Photographer as Soon as You think You MIGHT Be in Labor

The goal is for your birth photographer to arrive while you're still in labor, not after the baby is born. In order to ensure your photographer arrives in time, early and frequent updates are a must. If you think labor might be starting, call or text your photographer! You will not bother her.

Early and frequent communication helps her be able to continue to live her life normally. For example, your photographer could be thinking of heading out to dinner that night and might want to rethink her plans. An early update helps your photographer. She can proceed with any plans with caution. Maybe she brings all her gear with her somewhere and can leave right away if she needs to instead of heading home first. She can adjust her plans so she can arrive at your birth faster and with less stress.

But what if it's a false alarm? Even if it ends up being a false alarm, odds are labor is near and communicating frequently helps your birth photographer be prepared.

A lot of birth workers have children themselves and need to be prepared to contact their on-call childcare. I have two kids and need to reach out to people on my on-call childcare list before heading to a birth. Giving these folks a heads up helps with arriving to the birth on time.

A Note about Precipitous Births: In some cases a mom can have her baby in under an hour from the first contraction. If you have a history of precipitous births, report any changes in how you're feeling, even slight to your photographer.

There's also No Such thing as Over-Communicating with Your Birth Photographer

You will not bother her. You will not bother her. You will not bother her. I repeat, you will not bother her.

So what if you already texted 10 times that day. Updating your birth photographer frequently eases her stress. It's kind, not annoying! Lots of communication helps her know when to arrive.

Must-Tell Events

If ANY of these things happen, contact your birth photographer right away.

  • You meet with your provider and they schedule an induction

  • Your talking about driving the hospital

  • You're driving to the hospital

  • Your water broke or you think your water broke (Note: Water breaking isn't always a ginormous gush. Sometimes it's more of a slow trickle that increases over time. If you think you peed yourself, it's still best to tell your photographer.)

  • You've been having contractions every 10 minutes for the last hour

You will not bother her.

When Should Your Birth Photographer Be at the Birth?

In general, your birth photographer should arrive at the birth when you're in active labor. Typically this is when mom can't talk through her contractions. (Obviously if you have an epidural this won't apply since you'll be in a lot less pain.)

What is Active Labor?

You're in active labor when you have to focus through contractions, you're at 6-7 cm dilation, and your contractions are about 5-6 minutes apart lasting one minute each and they are happening consistently.

When updating your photographer she will likely ask you about dilation, baby's station (a number that indicates where your baby is at in the birth canal), and efacement to gauge when to arrive at the birth. You can ask your nurse or midwife for an update on these to report to your photographer. This helps ensure that she will arrive at the birth when you're in active labor.

Lots of communication and providing answers to the questions she asks will help make sure she doesn't miss the birth. You will not bother her. You won't be annoying. You are helping her.

If your photographer hasn't received any updates from you and you call her saying, "It's go time!" expect it to take her two hours to arrive at the birth.

Texting vs. Calling

If it's during the day, it's okay to text your photographer with updates. But if it's the middle of the night, I recommend calling with any updates, even if it isn't "go time" just yet, just to be safe.

So when should you contact your birth photographer? Communication prior to the onset of labor will help your photographer prepare. Don't wait until you're in active labor to contact your birth photographer! Early and frequent updates with any baby-about-to-escape signs will ensure your photographer doesn't miss the birth.

Minneapolis Birth Photography

If you're on the hunt for a birth photographer, I would love to talk to you about birth photography! I'm located in Maple Grove and will travel up to 30 miles to a birth. Send me an email at or call/text 612.599.8349 to reach out!


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Located in Minneapolis, Kara Joy Photography is a lifestyle & documentary photographer who specializes in newborn & family photography. She's known for capturing raw emotion & authentic expressions through a laid-back approach. Her unforced images have a glaze that is natural yet polished. The cherry on top? A quick turnaround time.

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