'Too graphic': the raw postpartum ad the Oscars didn't want you to see

Photo: YouTube / Frida Mom
Photo: YouTube / Frida Mom 

Once upon a time, nude pregnant bodies were considered taboo.

Demi Moore changed all that in 1991 when she posted naked and gorgeous for Vanity Fair. Public breastfeeding was also frowned upon, until women fought back with the #freethenipple campaign forcing Facebook to change their stance on removing images of women breastfeeding their children.

There is one area of motherhood that has remained out of sight, however, hidden behind images of new mothers blissfully holding their newborns - the messy reality of the postpartum period, replete with mesh undies, giant maternity pads and painful toilet visits.

It's a situation that Frida, a company who make mother and baby products, wanted to change, in a new ad for their postpartum recovery kit.

It features a woman gingerly making her way to the bathroom at night-time, her baby softly crying in the background. She changes her pad and sprays water on her perineum -  an experience all too familiar with new mums who have experienced perineal grazes or tearing during childbirth (approximately 49 per cent).

With the dim lighting and an actor still with the soft curves of a postpartum mum, it's all real enough to make you wince.

While the ad had the aim of normalising the after-birth experience, it seems that TV executives aren't ready for reality. Although the ad shows no blood or other bodily fluids, it was deemed 'too graphic" to show during today's Oscars, which plays to an audience of 29 million.

Frida founder and chief executive Chelsea Hirschhorn told media she was "incredulous" at the ban, adding that it was a shock "because over the past 18 months we'd done so much evangelizing and forwarding the conversation over the delicate transition women's bodies go through--I thought we'd reached a cultural momentum on the issue."


Frida have now updated the commercial to include news of the ban, hoping that the video will gain traction online.

"The ad you're about to watch was rejected by ABC & the Oscars from airing during this year's award show It's not "violent, political" or sexual in nature. Our ad is not "religious or lewd" and does not portray "guns or ammunition". "Feminine hygiene & hemorrhoid relief" are also banned subjects. It's just a new mom, home with her baby and her new body for the first time.

Yet it was rejected. And we wonder why new moms feel unprepared. So spray it forward and share this video with every new mom. She deserves to be prepared."

So far the strategy seems to have paid off, with over one million views on YouTube and supportive comments from men and women who had no idea that many women faced such challenges after giving birth.

"As a man who has never sired a child, this ad has actually taught me something. I didn't even know women go through this after childbirth, " reads one such comment on YouTube.

"I'm one week postpartum and this is wayyyy too real. I'll survive, but I really wish someone had given me some sort of heads up on what to expect," reads another.

It may take a while until maternity pads are deemed mainstream enough for TV, but in the meantime, new mums are doing their part to normalise the post-partum stage by posting their own images on Instagram. Under hashtags like #meshundies and #postpartumbody, women are sharing beautiful and intimate images from those heady days after birth, replete with swollen tummies, breast pads and disposable underwear.

Jean Wang, a blogger, received overwhelming support when she posted an image of her postpartum body on her popular Instagram account. She explained why she decided to do so in the caption alongside her photo.

"One of the first comments I got after leaving the house again was that I still looked quite pregnant. It just showed how there's a lack of candid info about the birth and recovery process. These weeks have brought some of the most extreme highs and lows, as I'm learning how to care for both my little one and for my new self - physically, mentally and emotionally."


A post shared by Jean | Extra Petite Blog (@jeanwang) on

Seeing more of these kinds of images might just make some new mums feel less alone as they come to grips not just with a new baby, but with a sore and rapidly changing body.

Indeed, there is a beauty and strength in these images which perfectly portray the power of our bodies to nurture life and to recover. That's worth celebrating - and worth putting on the telly.