Express & Star

Oh baby! Backlash over 'sexist' NHS teen pregnancy ads

An NHS poster campaign warning teenagers against unwanted pregnancies has been branded as ‘sexist’ and ‘outdated’.

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One of the posters released by Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust

Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust ran a bus poster highlighting sexual health services available to young people.

But the ad, which showed the phrase ‘would you give up this?’ next to a pair of high heels and a red lipstick followed by ‘for this?’ next to a pink dummy, has been called ‘misguided’.

Parents have criticised the ad, saying it suggests women have to give up lipstick and fancy shoes if they want a baby.

Another of the posters referencing a PlayStation controller

Another ad shows the same phrase, but pictures a PlayStation controller next to a blue dummy.

Walsall NHS Trust has apologised for causing any concern with the posters.


Kirstie Young, aged 29, from Stourbridge, spotted the poster while travelling home from work on a National Express bus – and said she was ‘gobsmacked’.

She said: “It suggests that if you accidentally become pregnant you have to leave the lipsticks and heels behind. I couldn’t believe it, it’s so irresponsible.

“It’s sexist because it doesn’t understand women, it implies if you are a mother you have to give up certain things.”

One of the tweets about the poster campaign

The posters also caused outrage on social media.

Mother Samantha Brenneman said: “Because I have kids am I supposed to not wear heels or have a fulfilling career? Missed the memo on that one.”

Maria Marz added: “I have a kid, wear heels, lipstick and play video games.”

Nicola Wenlock apologised for any concern caused by the posters

Nicola Wenlock, director of sexual heath for the Trust, said: “In creating this particular advertising campaign, Walsall Integrated Sexual Health worked hard to understand the teenage pregnancy audience to make sure that the communication was relevant, effective and focused.

“We apologise if this advertisement has raised a concern, the intent was to raise awareness of emergency contraception and advice available for those in this age group who wish to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

"The campaign has played an important role in tackling teenage pregnancy and poor sexual health in our local area which has been reducing steadily year on year.

"The conception rate in 1998 was 67.2; in 2016 this rate had more than halved to 30.

"We will continue to work closely with all audiences to ensure we offer the best possible services for them and will continue to review all materials closely for future campaigns."

The campaign finished on September 2 but had been run previously, with feedback from local teens.

There were two posters in circulation but the Trust said they did not refer to gender.

A spokesman for the Trust said no complaints had been received.