Is There a Facebook Ads Bias Against Women’s Health Products and Treatments?

Facebook often rejects ads related to women’s health, but you can get approved if you understand how to format your ads to their rules. Let’s discuss the so-called Facebook ads bias, what it means for your business, and how you can cater your ads for faster approval and results.

*Please note: As of the date of this publication, Facebook announced they are reviewing their ad approval process to ensure that there are no gender/sex biases against women’s health devices and procedures. Please also learn about how they train their employees about unconscious bias in the workplace.

facebook ads bias against breast cancer in 2012In 2012, our marketing team was hired to create Facebook ads to help educate women with breast cancer about their options for breast reconstruction after mastectomy.

The plan was to run ads during October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month. With a budget of $300 per day, the ads would target women in the United States to:

  1. raise awareness of breast reconstruction options
  2. inform women that they have choices in their breast reconstruction
  3. direct women to surgeons who would honor their decisions and provide breast reconstruction
  4. educate about new methods that improved outcomes

Facebook Told Us Breast Cancer Was Pornographic?

For the entire month, we were pulling our hair out as each ad was rejected by Facebook as violating their community standards. The ads were flagged as pornographic, despite not featuring bare breasts or even women wearing visible bras, showing a clear Facebook ads bias.

Facebook did not explain why the ads were removed. Through our own trial and error, we learned that the word “breast” was triggering the Facebook ad rejection. Once we removed the word “breast” from our Breast Cancer Awareness Month ads, our Facebook ads were finally approved.

Vaginal Rejuvenation Rejected as Genital Mutilation?

facebook ads bias

Around 2016, clients began coming to us for assistance in promoting their non-surgical vaginal rejuvenation procedures. These treatments help women who, due to pregnancy or menopause, experience:

  • Urinary incontinence
  • Vaginal pain, itching, and discomfort
  • Painful intercourse
  • Sexual dysfunction

We attempted to run several ads and were even careful to replace “vaginal” with “feminine”, as we had learned our lesson from the “breast cancer is pornographic” debacle.

Despite these procedures being FDA-cleared and provided by board-certified gynecologic surgeons and other medically licensed providers in the United States, Facebook rejected the ads as “female genital mutilation,” a phrase most often used to describe illegal and abusive female circumcision, displaying another Facebook ads bias against women’s health.

It took several attempts to finally get our ads approved using very careful wording, imagery, and links.

Women’s Health Advocates and Companies Also Get Rejected due to Facebook Ads Bias

The advertising team at Total Social Solutions aren’t the only ones experiencing this problem. Numerous reports of rejected ads and deleted Facebook posts are reported in the news as a Facebook ads bias against women’s healthcare.

Vaginal Dryness vs Erectile Dysfunction

As reported in Business Insider, Facebook was accused of rejecting ads focused on helping women with vaginal dryness while simultaneously allowing erectile dysfunction ads to run on their platform.

This led to women’s health and rights advocates to draw the conclusion that Facebook sees female genitalia as offensive, while male genitalia is not.

Additionally, the company attempting to promote their products on Facebook was a startup, which suffered a loss of business due to Facebook’s strict advertising rules related to women’s bodies.

Pelvic Floor Muscle Device

In 2015, another company who wished to promote their pelvic floor strengthening device was rejected by Facebook because their website also sold adult toys.

How to Advertise Women’s Health on Facebook

Facebook has said they are reviewing their procedures and advertising guidelines surrounding women’s health devices and procedures; and while their advertising guidelines routinely change, there are ways to promote women’s health services and devices on the Facebook platform to avoid rejection and get results.

We recommend enlisting the assistance of a Facebook advertising expert, such as our team at Total Social Solutions. However, if you prefer to run the ads yourself or have a smaller budget, try the following tips:

  1. Avoid words that refer specifically to body parts. Avoid words like vaginal, labia, or breast.
  2. Do not address the reader directly. Describe the benefits of the device or treatment, and do not refer to the reader as “you” or “your”.
  3. Focus on the health benefits and avoid discussing the cosmetic benefits. If you’re linking to a web page on your site, make sure the content focuses only on the health benefits and not the cosmetic benefits.
  4. Choose images and videos wisely. It goes without saying that before and after photos are not recommended. In other cases, use care when using photos or videos to promote the product or treatment. Avoid showing the device, if it can be mistaken as looking like an adult toy. Avoid images that allude to sexual activity or show women’s undergarments. Instead, choose photos of empowered women of all ages and mothers with their children.
  5. Make sure your ads are properly targeted. Make sure you are not delivering ads to people who will be offended. Be especially certain to only target ads to users who are over 18.

You Can Get Your Women’s Health Ads Approved on Facebook

Facebook is reportedly investigating and adjusting their treatment of women’s health on their advertising platform. In fact, we do not believe that Facebook is intentionally excluding women’s health products on their advertising platform. We believe the Facebook ads bias is caused mostly by strict guidelines, algorithms, and lack of education surrounding women’s health issues.

That being said, you can still advertise your services on their platform and get results! By following our above tips, or enlisting the assistance of our advertising professionals at Total Social Solutions, you can promote your feminine wellness treatments and products to help women in your community.

Want to learn more? Contact us to have a conversation with one of our team members about how you can get started with us using Facebook and Instagram advertising to promote your services.


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