When Gillian Brockell returned home from hospital "with the emptiest arms in the world", she found no escape or solace in her social media accounts.
The Washington Post staffer who delivered her stillborn baby boy earlier this month has penned an open letter to Facebook and other tech companies, asking them to stop inundating her feed with ads promoting maternity and baby products.
In her open letter, Gillian details how quickly Facebook was to deliver her targeted ads based on her internet history;
It's my fault, I just couldn't resist those Instagram hashtags — #30weekspregnant, #babybump. And, silly me! I even clicked once or twice on the maternity wear ads Facebook served up. And I bet Amazon even told you my due date, January 24th, when I created that Prime registry. But didn't you also see me googling 'braxton hicks vs. pre-term labor' and 'baby not moving'?
Gillian then describes how blind to the tragic outcome the advertising algorithms really are;
Did you not see my three days of social media silence, uncommon for a high-frequency user like me? And then the announcement post with keywords like 'heartbroken' and 'problem' and 'stillborn' and the 200 teardrop emoticons from my friends? Is that not something you could track?
In Gillian's case, her tweeted open letter received more than 20,000 shares, enough to reach Facebook's vice-president of advertising, Rob Goldman.
He tweeted back saying Facebook was working on it.
I am so sorry for your loss and your painful experience with our products.
Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident, here at Tommy's we often hear that women and families are haunted by advertisements congratulating them on their presumed safe delivery, which is especially traumatic following a loss.
How to change your Facebook Advertising Settings
Once logged into your personal Facebook account, locate and click on the downward arrow in top right hand side of your page. This should drop down a menu. Scroll right down to the bottom of this menu and select 'Settings'.
You should now be in a page with the heading 'General Account Settings'. On the Left hand side of the page you should see a menu. If you go down to the last section, there is an option called 'Ads'. Click this.
Here you can customise your settings. This is all the information Facebook as ever stored against your profile. In each tab, you will find boxes with more specifics on what advertisers think you would be interested in. If you hover your mouse over each box, you will find a small cross in the top right hand corner appear. Click this and remove any/all interests that you don't want against your name.
Continue this process for each of the following tabs, including Advertisers you have interacted with and then proceed to the 'Your information tab'. Here you can turn off the ability for Facebook and Advertisers to target you based on your personal information using the toggles.
In the next section, Ad Settings, you can see three options, in which you can opt out of ads from Facebook's partners. Here you can go through and select 'Not allowed' on each section.
The final step, is to hide ad topics permanently from your page, or for any period of time you prefer (the options are 6 months, one year or permanently). Here you should see parenting as the second option here.Click on parenting and use the toggles to block ads for your preferred period of time.
We also recommend clearing your internet cache, which is a temporary storage of information from websites you have visited. This will ensure re-marketing advertising from shopping websites does not follow you.
Tommy's work on stillbirth
Research is vital so that we can understand which women are likely to go into labour early, and help them carry their baby for as long as possible. Tommy’s support cutting-edge work on the causes and prevention of premature birth through our centres in both London and Edinburgh. Clinics at both centres care for mums at risk of preterm birth.
Over ten years, our London research clinic has reduced premature birth both locally and regionally by more than 10%, against a national and international rise in premature birth. Despite increasing referrals of high risk women, we are pleased to report a 21% reduction in preterm births at St Thomas’ Hospital in the last year.
We are also making huge strides towards our overall goals.
- In St. Mary’s Hospital, we lowered the average number of stillbirths by 19% from 2012 to 2017. This is equivalent to 12 fewer babies dying every year.
- In Edinburgh, obese women attending our antenatal clinic were an astounding 8 times less likely to have a stillbirth than women receiving standard care.
- We have developed a new way of looking at the placenta using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). This will help doctors tell which women have healthy pregnancies and which babies may be struggling
- The AFFIRM study is looking at whether a package of care and information for women with reduced fetal movements can lower the number of stillbirths. When a similar package was introduced in Norway, stillbirth rates fell by 30%.
Support after a stillbirth
Stillbirth is one of the most devastating experiences any family can go through. We are here to support families who are going through this very difficult time. We have worked with women who have experienced stillbirth, their families and professionals who have supported them to develop supportive information below to help parents who have suffered a stillbirth.
Emotional support for parents
If you would like to talk to a midwife about any aspect of stillbirth or afterwards, the midwives on the Tommy's advice line have experience in talking about pregnancy loss and have had bereavement training. Phone 0800 0147 800. The line is open Monday to Friday, 9-5pm.
Tommy's has a breadth of experience and information to help support you during this time. Find more stillbirth support here.