Photos Show What Childbirth Really Looks Like

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Giving birth is a beautiful experience for so many reasons—but that doesn't mean it isn't messy, painful and completely overwhelming. It does not look the way it does in the movies and it certainly doesn't feel the way most people do while watching those sugarcoated scenes.

It's uncomfortable. It's raw. And we've finally discovered the photo series that presents the experience for what it really is.

The photos comes courtesy of the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers. The association held a contest urging photographers to submit pics they'd taken of childbirth, and in 2016, it had over 500 submissions. Talkshow host Ricki Lake and co-producer of her documentary The Business of Being Born, Abby Epstein, judged the competition, choosing one first-prize winner, three bests in categories and three honorable mentions.

Take a look at the amazing photos they selected:

Best in Category Labor Birth Photo.jpeg

Best in Category Delivery Birth Photo.jpg

Best in Category Postpartum Birth Photo.jpg

Honorable Mention 1 Birth Photo.jpg

Honorable Mention 2 Birth Photo.jpg

Honorable Mention 3 Birth Photo.jpg

"It's important to be able to bring the parents right back to that moment when they view their photographs," Stradtner said. "Those moments are so fleeting and it makes sense that people want to remember and capture those precious moments to hold onto for a lifetime."

Lyndsay Stradtner, the photographer behind the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers, told Today Parents that she started the contest as a way to highlight other birth photographers.

"There are many challenges unique to birth photography," Stradtner said. "Being on call, difficult birth experiences…and it's becoming much more mainstream as consumers realize it's not all about the crowning moment, but about the entire birth experience—what the room looks like, who is present, the details, the baby, the siblings, the dad's support and, of course, those precious moments after birth."

Some parents have chosen to have their deliveries shot by professional photographers—after all, maternity photos are a thing; why shouldn't images that capture the moment a woman becomes a mother be as well? The photos are so, so detailed and truthful. They show the moments most people have never seen: the final push before a baby is born, the contraction that makes a woman double over in pain, the moment when a doctor guides a baby out of his mother.

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