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Real-Life Ad Rejection at the Oscars: Why We Should Be Outraged

Theater like at Oscars

I’m puzzled. I cannot figure out why the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences thought the Frida Mom commercial was “too graphic with partial nudity and product demonstration” for broadcast during the Oscars. Am I missing something? I wasn’t aware that “product demonstration” was unusual on a TV ad. And I didn’t see any nudity. I saw only a woman who had birthed a baby a few days earlier. She looked exhausted and miserable.

Reality reflected

In the Frida Mom commercial, I saw a woman clad in mesh underwear with a thick peri pad that explained her wide-legged waddle as she made her way to the bathroom while her baby cried in the background. And I saw a woman holding items given to women for perineal pain after a vaginal birth. (Still, no nudity, however.) I saw the reality of what it’s really like for real women. Did I say “reality” and “real” enough here? Look, as a staff nurse for many years, I’ve helped many women walk to the bathroom. Nearly every one of them looks just like the one in that video.

This isn’t a movie

Oddly, the Academy is in the business of showing make-believe characters demonstrating real-life events. Yet, they deemed it “too graphic” for viewers to see a real-life mom demonstrating real-life postpartum pain. The Academy apparently wants to pretend this doesn’t happen.

The Academy has no hesitation to allow attendees at the Oscars to expose political issues. So, what are they afraid of exposing here? Are they afraid that that viewers — parents or professionals — will witness the pain and misery that is fairly typical after a vaginal delivery?

For sure, the Academy has influence on societal norms. Why would it want to miss this opportunity to advocate for women? Airing the Frida Mom commercial during the Oscars would do that. To positively influence social norms, I would think the Academy would jump at the chance to make healthcare providers look inept. This commercial shows that healthcare professionals give new mothers no mental preparation to deal with this, and few “treatments” to deal with the physical sequelae of birthing a baby. But apparently in this situation, they opt to help maintain the status quo.

Birth practices no one is talking about

This “graphic” video shows a reality that no one talks about.

As a labor nurse, how many women have I seen instructed to hold their breath and push until their faces turn purple, despite the fact that they have no urge to push? How many hundreds or thousands of women have I seen end up with an assisted delivery (e.g., forceps or vacuum) because they were forced to lie flat on their backs — the most UN-physiologic position for pushing out a baby? Likewise, how many times have I witnessed the excessive use of the episiotomy, which is a major contributor to the pain and misery that demonstrated in this video? Despite lack of evidence, these practices persist in US hospitals. (Note that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends against episiotomies, yet this is a common practice here.)

I, for one, see this Frida Mom commercial as highlighting the practices that American mothers are routinely subjected to, despite the lack of evidence for their efficacy — and their resulting perineal pain and/or hemorrhoidal pain.

The ad highlights how the healthcare system has totally missed the mark in embracing evidence-based birth practices like Dancing for Birth™, and then offers few options to help women with the resulting perineal pain.

The American healthcare system has created a medically-normalized form of torture to women. In what might arguably be the most vulnerable moments of their lives, we expect laboring women to put up and shut up with these screwed up, antiquated practices, with not a clue about the pain they will experience for days or weeks thereafter — and other possible life-long consequences. (Elsewhere, I have addressed the influence of the media and the empowerment of women, and such empowerment should extend to birth practices.)

We need to do better

If we refuse to see the painful results of our “routine” birthing practices, the least we can do is raise awareness so that women can choose how to deal with their pain. If there’s a product out there that’s better than what doctors currently recommend, let’s advertise that product everywhere so that women can use it if they so choose.

Have you seen the Frida Mom commercial rejected for broadcast during the Oscars? Was it too graphic for television? Or was it a needed dose of reality? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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