Instagram has come under fire for repeatedly removing a photo of cervical fluid, posted by a women’s health expert to de-stigmatise discharge and help women learn about their bodies.
Maisie Hill, author of Period Power, told HuffPost UK she posted the image twice and it was twice removed by Instagram from her page.
“I wanted to share the photo because we have a right to know what our bodies get up to every month; to understand that producing cervical fluid is normal and a sign of fertility and health,” she said.
“Producing cervical fluid is not something to be disgusted by or ashamed of – though many of us will have been made to feel this way about our production of this impressive fluid.”
HuffPost UK contacted Instagram to ask why the post had been removed, asking it to clarify its policy on bodily fluids. Instagram said the post had been mistakingly removed and has now been reinstated.
Hill explained cervical fluid to her followers, saying: “It’s what that wet patch in your underwear is all about!”
“Cervical fluid changes in volume, consistency, and colour throughout the menstrual cycle. Paying attention to it can help you to identify when you’re in your ‘fertile window’, which is handy whether you’re trying to conceive or avoiding conceiving,” she added.
The photo is of her own cervical fluid, she explained, adding that there’s sometimes misconceptions that the presence of cervical fluid means a woman is ready for “penis-in-vagina-sex”.
“Sure, on touching someone’s vagina/vulva they might feel really wet, lubricated and ‘ready’, but the truth is, I produce this kind of stuff when I’m sat in biochemistry lectures and 100% not turned on,” she said.
In a further Instagram post, Hill asked Instagram why they had removed her post. “This is yet another example of how patriarchy screws us over. We have a right to know what’s going on with our bodies,” she added.
Other women on Instagram agreed. “What BS, thank you for posting and re-posting and re-posting,” one user said in the comments.
“This is insanity,” another added. “Instagram, please stop halting our progress.”
There’s also an online petition calling on social media sites to stop censoring cervical fluid, which currently has more than 2,600 signatures.
Hill argues that it’s essential that normal, bodily substances like cervical fluid and discharge are de-stigmatised to improve women’s health.
“We can’t expect to improve cervical screening rates – currently at a 21-year low – when discussion of cervical function is restricted on social media platforms which are arguably the best way to improve awareness of reproductive health issues and create change where it is sorely needed,” she told HuffPost UK.
“We need to know what’s normal so that we can identify when things aren’t. I’ve received DMs from women explaining that they’ve gone to their GP because they thought they had an infection, they’ve even been treated with antibiotics but suddenly realised, on seeing my photo, that there wasn’t something wrong with them after all.”
Instagram told HuffPost UK that Hill’s photo had been reported to them and the post was mistakingly removed.
It added that its Community Operations team reviews millions of reports a week and works quickly to rectify mistakes if they have been made.