Laurie Shifler, pregnant with her eighth child, assumed that family members would again be able to film her giving birth, but hospital officials said no.

On Nov. 1, Meritus Medical Center implemented a policy prohibiting video, film and still photography of deliveries until five minutes after birth. The change is intended to protect patient privacy and reduce potential staff distractions, said Jody Bishop, administrative director of the department that includes the hospital's birthing center.

"Five minutes after the birth, if everybody's well and the physician approves, they can go ahead and start videotaping and taking pictures," Bishop told The (Hagerstown) Herald-Mail.

But Shifler and husband Michael, of Cascade, say they'd like to capture the entire delivery.
"You can't get back those first moments," Mrs. Shifler said. "There's no redo."

Meritus spokeswoman Mary Rizk said Monday that the policy is in line with those at regional medical centers in Baltimore, Annapolis and western Maryland.

"The intent is for the physicians and midwives and staff to be able to focus on the delivery itself and on the safety of the mom and baby," Rizk said.

Officials at hospitals in nearby Martinsburg, W.Va., and Waynesboro and Chambersburg, Pa., said they allow delivery room cameras.

American Hospital Association spokesman Matt Fenwick said the group doesn't track the number of hospitals that allow delivery photography. He said such decisions are up to individual hospitals.

Rachel Seeger, a spokeswoman for the U.S. office of Civil Rights, said birth photography by a family member or friend doesn't violate privacy laws, but that some hospitals prohibit the practice out of a fear of lawsuits.

Frederick Memorial Hospital in nearby Frederick, Md., implemented a similar ban on delivery room cameras in 2001 after a doctor had to push a photographer aside to assist with a difficult delivery. The hospital reversed the policy after several women's groups gathered about 200 signatures protesting it.