New postpartum recovery ad is poignant and real — and major network refused to air it

Feb. 11, 2020

It’s not until a woman gives birth that she typically learns about the unseen world of postpartum peri bottles, frozen menstrual pads and mesh underwear. Though birth recovery is a major feat that often involves stitches and weeks of bleeding, it’s not something many people talk about, and it’s certainly not something we’re used to seeing on TV. Frida Mom, a brand that makes postpartum products for women, recently tried to change that with a moving ad that shows the reality of a mom’s first days after birth. Instead, the ad was rejected by a major network, and now frustrated moms are demanding a change.

The Frida Mom ad opens with a woman waking up to her newborn’s cries. She carefully climbs out of bed with her still-swollen tummy on full display, and waddles to the bathroom in her mesh underwear. She cleans herself with a small squirt bottle as she sits on the toilet and sucks in a sharp breath like she’s in pain. The ad is breathtaking in its raw portrayal of a typical mom’s postpartum routine.

Frida Mom says that their ad was “rejected by ABC & the Oscars from airing during this year’s award show” on February 9, 2020. And according to HuffPost, the commercial was rejected for being “too graphic with partial nudity and product demonstration.”

The brand posted the ad on YouTube instead with a message explaining why they disagree with the network’s rejection. “It’s just a new mom, home with her baby and her new body for the first time. Yet it was rejected,” the message reads. “And we wonder why new moms feel unprepared.”

Since the ad was shared on YouTube, it’s been viewed over 1.8 million times and sparked a major backlash against ABC. “‘Nudity’ is not a woman in her underwear,” one commenter writes. “We need to stop glamorizing pregnancy and childbirth and show the realities that having children is not all sunshine and rainbows.”

Even celebrities have spoken out. Actress Busy Philipps shared the ad on her Instagram account, along with a caption that takes media companies to task for upholding a double standard in advertising.  “You probably don't even flinch when an Erectile Dysfunction ad comes on but this ad is rejected,” she writes. “I think this is an incredible piece of advertising that accurately represents something millions of women know intimately. And I'm so f**king sick of living in a society where the act of simply being a woman is rejected by the gatekeepers of media.”

Advertising aimed at women is often held to absurd standards of propriety. Until 2017, ads for menstrual products notoriously featured blue liquid in product demonstrations, as red liquid has typically been considered taboo. In 2010, the tampon brand Kotex was told by three broadcast networks that they couldn’t use the word “vagina” in a menstrual product ad. Social media  advertising comes with double standards, too. Last year, Facebook was called out for blocking ads about lubricants for women going through menopause but not ads selling erectile dysfunction medications for men.

Despite the pushback from social media platforms and broadcast networks, people really do want more honesty and accuracy in advertising and media. When Care.com asked real moms for their takes on the Frida Mom postpartum ad, they overwhelmingly said they think it’s important, and they want to see more commercials like it.

“We definitely need more ads like this out there,” says Becky Jochim, an Omaha, Nebraska, mom of one. “It’s real life. It’s raw. It’s powerful, and it lets us moms know we’re not alone.” 

Angela Bailey, an Ohio mom of two, tells Care.com, “This brought tears to my eyes. I had no idea postpartum was like this until I was experiencing it. Every piece of media I've seen up to this has depicted postpartum as just losing sleep and feeling exhausted, always making it somewhat comical. This shows the truth.”

No two birth stories are alike, but every woman who gives birth goes through a recovery period. Every woman has postpartum bleeding, has to wait for her uterus to shrink back to its normal size and has to deal with discomfort while her postpartum body heals. The Frida Mom ad doesn’t depict something inappropriate; it depicts a nearly universal reality for postpartum women. Maybe it wouldn’t seem so “graphic” if people and brands were actually allowed to talk about it.

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