Why this mum's heart-wrenching open letter about advertising to pregnant women is going viral.

A journalist has penned a heartfelt open letter to tech companies urging them to change the way they target advertising to pregnant women.

Late last month, Washington Post video editor Gillian Brockell lost her unborn son, Sohan, who she announced on 30 November would be born stillborn.

The grieving mum was upset to find that she was still being targetted with ads surrounding pregnancy, and then newborns, on social media.

In an open letter to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and data company Experian, she begged the companies to update their algorithms to allow for women who lost their babies through miscarriage or stillbirth.

“I know you knew I was pregnant. It’s my fault,” she began, citing the Instagram hashtags she used like “#babybump” and the maternitywear ad she clicked on.

She also guessed that Facebook noticed tagged photos from her baby shower, or her googling things like “holiday dress maternity plaid”, based on the number of pregnancy-related ads she was seeing.

“I bet Amazon even told you my due date, January 24th, when I created an Amazon registry.”

However, Gillian couldn’t understand why the companies couldn’t also take note of the signs that her pregnancy had ended in stillbirth.

“Didn’t you see me googling ‘is this Braxton hicks’ and ‘baby not moving’?”

“Did you not see the three days of silence, uncommon for a high-frequency user like me? And then the announcement with the keywords “heartbroken” and “problem” and “stillborn” and the 200 teardrop emoticons from my friends? Is that not something you could track?”

Instead, when Gillian picked up her phone for a moment of distraction “before the next wail” she “crushingly” saw the same maternity-related ads as if her son were still alive.

She said ticking ‘I don’t want to see this ad’, followed by the response to why: ‘It’s not relevant to me’ only made things worse.


Instead of the algorithm realising she didn’t want to see baby-related things at all, it concluded she must have given birth to a healthy baby.

“It decides you’ve given birth, assumes a happy result and deluges you with ads for nursing bras, tricks to get the baby to sleep and strollers,” she said, explaining how each item was a painful reminder of what her son would never experience.

She said Experian was, however, the worst offender, for sending her a spam email to “finish registering your baby” even though she never started, “to track his credit through the life he will never lead”.

“Please tech companies, I implore you, if you’re smart enough to realise that I’m pregnant, that I’ve given birth, then surely you’re smart enough to realise that my baby has died, and can advertise to me accordingly, or maybe just maybe, not at all.”

In the four hours since it’s been posted the tweet has been retweeted more than 3000 times and liked more than 7000 times.

Twitter users shared their sympathies with Gillian for the loss of her son and her experience with “cruel” social media ads.

Other parents shared their own heartbreaking and frustrating experiences.


Gillian shared the devasting news on November 30 that she and her husband Bobby had lost their son earlier that week in a statement on Twitter.

“Unbeknownst to us, something went wrong a few weeks ago, he stopped growing and passed away sometime Tuesday or Wednesday,” she said.

She decided to tell her friends, family and followers while she was in the process of delivering him stillborn.

She said while she and her husband were hopeful they could conceive again “right now, we are devasted”.

If you have experienced pregnancy loss, stillbirth or the loss of a newborn and would like support, you can phone SANDS on 1300 072 637 or visit their website.