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We’ve all been there—yes, even me, a midwife. Sitting on that cold exam table donning a paper gown, stirrups looming in front of us and the doctor or midwife says, “Any questions?”


Um, yes? Two thousand questions, actually.

But instead we just say, “Nope, I think I’m good!”

Sometimes the idea of asking about the things we really want to know about feels too uncomfortable—primarily because our society has ingrained in us the idea that anything to do with the reproductive system is taboo, secret or even bad.

There is much I can say on that but for now, just remember that while you may feel uncomfortable talking about this, gynecologists, midwives, and women’s health nurse practitioners spend their entire day talking about it.

Seriously. We found this stuff so fascinating that we decided to spend our lives learning about, discussing, looking at and answering questions about it. So please, please don’t ever hesitate to ask.

But until you do, here the answers to some of your top gynecological questions:

1. "I’m not pregnant... but I SWEAR I can feel a baby moving in there sometimes. Is that normal?”

It is—they’re called phantom kicks or phantom movements, and while there’s no confirmed medical reason they happen, many women report feeling them.

Once you’ve felt true fetal movement, it’s believed that you become more sensitive to sensation in or around your uterus, and therefore pick up on feelings you previously wouldn’t have. You may be experience gas or rumbling in your intestines or some uterine irritability.

It can be pretty disconcerting, for sure. Some women enjoy it, while some get sad—especially if they have experienced a pregnancy or infant loss. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist if you’re struggling. You are definitely not alone.

2. “What’s the deal with these hemorrhoids?”

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in your rectum or anus, that can protrude, bleed and cause discomfort. They are especially common during and after pregnancy. Constipation during pregnancy (and after) can also lead to hemorrhoids, especially if you are straining to have a bowel movement.

Hemorrhoids are generally not a cause for concern, but certainly reach out to your provider if they’re causing you discomfort, are large or bleeding a lot.

To relieve them you can sit in a warm bathtub or sitz bath, apply witch hazel pads or Preparation H to them, or ask your provider for a prescription medication. Rarely, they need surgery.

3. “I am about to give birth, and I will be so embarrassed if I poop while I push. Does that really happen?”

Okay, so... yes, it does. As the baby is moving down past your rectum, and as you push, often times some stool (poop) does come out.

But here’s the thing—IT IS SO TOTALLY FINE! I promise.

The nurses and doctor or midwife in the room barely even notice it. If anything, we get excited when it happens because it means that you’re doing a great job pushing and that the baby will be here very soon. We’ll just clean it away real quick and move on to the main event—you being a goddess mama giving birth to your baby.

I have attended a lot of births, and never once have I ever been involved in a conversation about whether or not someone pooped during labor. It’s just normal and no big deal. And, you’ll be so busy thinking about pushing and meeting your baby that you probably won’t notice either.

4. “When is vaginal discharge normal, and when should I be worried?”

Vaginal discharge is normal and healthy, and exists for a few reasons:

  • It helps carry away dead cells and keeps the vagina clean.
  • It helps carry semen up through the cervix around ovulation to increase the chances of getting pregnant.

You may notice that right after your period, your have very little or no vaginal discharge. It will then start up, but be dry and sticky. As you approach ovulation, it will get wetter until it has an egg white consistency (this is usually your time of peak fertility), and it will then taper off again until you get your period.

Healthy vaginal discharge is clear to white and has a sort of sour smell.

Possible signs that the discharge is not healthy include:

  • Yellow or green in color
  • Frothy
  • Chunky, like cottage cheese
  • Fish-like odor
  • Itching, pain or discomfort in or around your vaginal area
  • Lesions or bumps on or around your vagina
  • Fever
  • Anything else that makes your nervous

5. “What’s the best way to keep my vagina clean?”

Soap and water. That’s it!

Douching is a method of cleaning the inside of the vagina, usually by squirting a store-bought mixture of water and vinegar into the vagina. It is almost never recommended.

Most of the things that women want to clean out of their vaginas—discharge and odor—are supposed to be there. They are normal and healthy parts of your body and don’t need to be washed away.

Vaginas maintain a delicate balance of good bacteria and acidity—douching kills this good bacteria and changes the pH, which increases the risk of developing infections, like yeast infections. Douching can also transfer bacteria further into the body, increasing the chances of pelvic inflammatory disease and sexually transmitted infections.

The best way to clean your vagina is simply with soap and water, and only on the outside. The vaginal area can be very sensitive, and using cleaners with lots of fragrances and chemical and cause discomfort, itching and infection.

6. “Every time I [cough/sneeze/laugh/do a jumping jack] I pee. Is there anything I can do about that?”

Oh, incontinence. The gift of motherhood you would rather turn down. Unfortunately, it’s super common. Researchers report that 3 to 17% of women experience moderate to severe incontinence, but from a talking-to-real-women perspective, I’d put the number closer to about 99%.

Being pregnant, giving birth and simply aging can make the pelvic floor weaker, which can lead to the inability to hold urine in, especially during anything that applies extra pressure (like laughing and jumping).

Treatment can be difficult. Many women try Kegel exercises, a tightening of the pelvic floor muscles, to help improve strength. Our friends at Yarlap have designed a device to reestablish pelvic floor muscle control—you insert it into your vagina for 20 minutes a day and it does the work of Kegels for you. Um, yes, please! ?? (Psst—use code MOTHERLY for $25 off.)

Also, know that there are pelvic floor physical therapists who can help you. You don’t have to just live with it if you don’t want to.

7. “I’ve lost interest in sex—is there anything I can do to find it?”

Almost everyone—men and women—go through periods in their lives where they have lower libidos and less sexual desires. So you are not alone. And it can be totally natural. There are so many reasons people can experience a decreased love of sex:

It is kind of a wonder that new parents ever want to have sex with all of these factors!

Alcohol, tobacco, street and prescription medications and medical problems can also contribute to a decreased libido, so it is important to speak with your medical provider about it to make sure something more serious isn’t going on.

Beyond that, try not to pressure yourself—that stress usually only makes it worse.

That said, sometimes as parents, it’s really hard (read: impossible) to be spontaneous like you used to be, so if you need to schedule it in, do so. Just make a date for “us time”—if that turns into going to sleep at 8 p.m. together, great. If it turns into going to bed but not sleeping ? great as well.

Make sure to use lubrication, especially if you’ve recently had a baby or are breastfeeding, as the hormones can make vaginal dryness an issue.

Don’t underestimate the power of foreplay—yes, you are busy and time is limited, but a little foreplay can go a long way in terms of getting the heat levels rising.

And talk to each other. Good communication is so vital, and you’ll probably feel closer and more connected by doing it.

8. “Should I shave or wax my pubic hair before a pelvic exam?”

Certainly not for our sake!

Pubic hair exists for a number of reasons—warmth, protection from dirt and bugs and such going into places they shouldn’t, and pheromone trapping—pheromones being one’s scent that attracts just the right mate so that we produce offspring that are more likely to survive and further the species (pubic hair might be responsible for evolution, who knew?)

In this day and age, when there is less of a threat of the aforementioned bug problem, pubic hair may not as important as it once was. People choose to leave it, style it or remove. This is, of course, a very personal decision, though there are some risks with hair removal including burns, abrasions, ingrown hairs and infections.

Now that you are a pubic hair expert, I will tell you that your GYN or midwife doesn’t even notice it, really. We do somewhere between 5 and 20 vaginal exams a day, so we are simply unfazed by it. If you feel more comfortable removing your pubic hair, certainly go for it, but please don’t worry about being embarrassed by it or anything like that. It’s normal and healthy.

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While breastfeeding might seem like a simple task, there are so many pieces to the puzzle aside from your breasts and baby. From securing a good latch, boosting your milk supply and navigating pumping at work or feeding throughout the night, there's a lot that mama has to go through—and a number of products she needs.

No matter how long your nursing journey may be, it can be hard to figure out what items you really need to add to your cart. So we asked our team at Motherly to share items they simply couldn't live without while breastfeeding. You know, those ones that are a total game-changer.

Here are the best 13 products that they recommend—and you can get them all from Walmart.com:

1. Medela Nursing Sleep Bra

"This fuss-free nursing bra was perfect for all the times that I was too tired to fumble with a clasp. It's also so comfy that, I have to admit, I still keep it in rotation despite the fact that my nursing days are behind me (shh!)." —Mary S.

Price: $15.99

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2. Dr. Brown's Baby First Year Transition Bottles

"My daughter easily transitioned back and forth between breastfeeding and these bottles." —Elizabeth

Price: $24.98

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3. Multi-Use Nursing Cover

"When I was breastfeeding, it was important to me to feel like a part of things, to be around people, entertain guests, etc. Especially since so much of being a new mom can feel isolating. So having the ability to cover up but still breastfeed out in the open, instead of disappearing into a room somewhere for long stretches alone to feed, made me feel better."—Renata

Price: $11.99

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4. Lansinoh TheraPearl Breast Therapy Pack

"I suffered from extreme engorgement during the first weeks after delivery with both of my children. I wouldn't have survived had it not been for these packs that provided cold therapy for engorgement and hot therapy for clogged milk ducts." —Deena

Price: $10.25

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5. Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump Wipes

"Being a working and pumping mama, these quick clean wipes made pumping at the office so much easier, and quicker. I could give everything a quick wipe down between pumping sessions. And did not need a set of spare parts for the office." —Ashley

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6. Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter

"This nipple butter is everything, you don't need to wash it off before baby feeds/you pump. I even put some on my lips at the hospital and it saved me from chapped lips and nips." —Conz

Price: $12.95

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7. Medela Double Electric Pump

"I had latch issues and terrible postpartum anxiety, and was always worried my son wasn't getting enough milk. So I relied heavily on my breast pump so that I could feed him bottles and know exactly how much he was drinking. This Medela pump and I were best friends for almost an entire year" —Karell

Price: $199.99 Receive a $50 gift card with purchase at walmart.com

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8. Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads

"I overproduced in the first couple weeks (and my milk would come in pretty much every time my baby LOOKED at my boobs), so Lansinoh disposable nursing pads saved me from many awkward leak situations!" —Justine

Price: $9.79

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9. Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump

"This has been a huge help in saving the extra milk from the letdown during breastfeeding and preventing leaks on my clothes!" —Rachel

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10. Medela Harmony Breast Pump

"Because I didn't plan to breastfeed I didn't buy a pump before birth. When I decided to try, I needed a pump so my husband ran out and bought this. It was easy to use, easy to wash and more convenient than our borrowed electric pump." —Heather

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11. Milkies Fenugreek

"I struggled with supply for my first and adding this to my regimen really helped with increasing milk." —Mary N.

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12. Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags

"I exclusively pumped for a year with my first and these are hands down the best storage bags. All others always managed to crack eventually. These can hold a great amount and I haven't had a leak! And I have used over 300-400 of these!" —Carla

Price: $13.19

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13. Kiinde Twist Breastfeeding Starter Kit

"The Kiinde system made pumping and storing breastmilk so easy. It was awesome to be able pump directly into the storage bags, and then use the same bags in the bottle to feed my baby." —Diana

Price: $21.99

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This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Orange Is the New Black star Danielle Brooks is pregnant and frustrated. The actress took to Instagram this week to lament the lack of plus-sized options for pregnant people.

"It's so hard to find some clothes to wear today....Although I get to pregnant I still can't find no clothes. It's so hard to find some clothes when you're pregnant," she sings in a lighthearted yet serious video.

"It's so hard to find cute plus size maternity fashion while pregnant, but ima push through," she captioned the clip.

Brooks has been talking a lot this week about the issues people who wear plus size clothing face not just when trying to find clothes but in simply moving through a world that does not support them.

"I feel like the world has built these invisible bullets to bully us in telling us who we're supposed to be and what we're supposed to look like. And I've always had this desire to prove people wrong—to say that this body that I'm in is enough," she told SHAPE (she's on the new cover).

"Now that I'm about to be a mother, it means even more—to make sure that this human being I'm going to bring into the world knows that they are enough," she said.

Danielle Brooks is the body-positive hero we need right now. Now can someone make her some cute maternity clothes, please?

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In prior decades, body image issues usually didn't hit the scene until kids reached adolescence. But thanks to social media, and our culture's relentless pursuit of thinness, we now have to find creative ways to teach young children how to develop healthy body images.

Before I dive into some practical tips to help kids improve body image, I want to first diminish any shame that you might be feeling if you have body issues of your own. It's so important to remember that you downloaded every internal message from somewhere else. Of course, it's critical to work on your own issues, but it's also important to know it is not your fault that you developed them in the first place!

So, whether you are struggling with your own body image, or you love your body, here are some tools to help your child feel better about the precious body he or she lives in:

1. Break the spell

How do you know if your child has a bad body image? Perhaps they've begun making negative comments about their size or shape. Maybe they are comparing their body to others. Maybe they are avoiding foods or activities they once enjoyed because they feel uncomfortable about their body.

Often the most common response a parent has is to reassure their child that they are “fine," or “beautiful" or “perfect." And while there is certainly nothing wrong with some reassurance, it simply may not be enough to overpower the cultural messages kids are surrounded by. Reassure them that they are perfect just the way they are.

2. Unkind mind, kind mind and quiet mind

This little menu of options encourages kids to identify and differentiate between three different thinking states within themselves. I refer to them as “mind moods." Try teaching your child about these three states of mind and brainstorming examples of each. For example, unkind mind = “I hate my thighs." Kind mind = “I love singing." Quiet mind = Peacefully resting or playing.

This will raise their awareness of their thoughts and help them to choose their mind moods more consciously. As they learn to turn up the volume of their kind minds and spend more time in their quiet minds, they begin to feel more present and peaceful.

Once you have helped your child identify their unkind mind as a distinct voice, they can then try on some different responses and see which ones help bring them some relief. Try asking them to write or say all the messages their unkind mind is saying and practicing using strong, soft, silly or silent responses. Kids can learn that their unkind mind is not all of who they are, and that it doesn't have to run the show.

3. Get to the root

This concept helps kids discover what triggers their body dissatisfaction. You can help your child by asking questions or taking guesses about what might have started their bad body image. For example, I helped one 7-year old get to the root of her body obsession by noticing it started when there was a death in her family. Right around that time, her best friend started talking about dieting, so she latched onto food obsession as a distracting coping tool.

Once we uncovered this, she was able to learn about healthy grieving and truly healthy eating (as opposed to what the diet culture deems as healthy—which can actually be unhealthy).

4. Mind movies vs. really real

Try asking your child to show you some things around them that are real (i.e. things they can see, touch or hear). Then ask them if they can show you one single thought in their minds. You can playfully challenge them to take a thought out of their head and show it to you or fold it up and put it in their pocket. This tool teaches kids how to be more present.

Of course, they might use their imagination to do this, but with some finesse, you can teach your child to distinguish between the mind movies that cause them stress and the really real things around them. This is an immensely helpful tool that will not only help them with body image (since body image is one long mind movie) but will also improve the quality of their lives in general.

5. Dog talk and cat chat

Many kids cannot relate to the concept of being kind to themselves but ask a child how they feel about their favorite pet, and a doorway to their compassion, kindness and unconditional acceptance opens. For non-pet lovers, you can ask your child to imagine how they would speak to a baby or their best friend.

Dog talk and cat chat can help teach youngsters how to take the loving words and tones they use toward a beloved pet, and direct these sentiments toward themselves and their bodies.

6. Do an internal upgrade

In addition to helping your child combat the messages they receive out in the world, you can also work on the messages they get in your home. Again, if you struggle with body image, it is not your fault, but you can work on healing—and not only will you feel more peace, but your child will benefit as well.

To the best of your ability, refrain from talking about foods as “good" or “bad." Refrain from making negative comments about your (or anyone else's) weight or looks. Refrain from praising someone (or yourself) for weight loss.

Practice welcoming your child's tears and anger without trying to change their feelings before they are ready. Practice eating all food groups in moderation. Foster a positive, grateful attitude about your body.

May you and your child feel comfortable in your bodies, eat all foods in moderation, move and rest in ways that feel good, and find abundant sweetness and fulfillment in life.

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Learn + Play

After a long day of doing seemingly everything, when our partners get home it kind of becomes a habit to ask, "How was your day?" In between prepping dinner, handing off the kids, finishing your own work, we don't exactly get much value from this question. Sure, it may open up the opportunity to complain about that awful thing that happened or excitedly share that presentation you killed at work—but it usually stops there.

I could do a better job of really talking in my relationship. After 12 years and two kids, sometimes all we can come up with post bedtime routine is, "You good? I'm good. Fire up the Netflix."

Here are 21 questions to dig deeper into your marriage after a long day—see where they take you!

  1. Did you listen to anything interesting today?
  2. If you could do any part of today over again, what would it be?
  3. How much coffee did you drink today?
  4. Will you remember any specific part of today a year from now? Five years?
  5. Did you take any photos today? What did you photograph?
  6. What app did you open most today?
  7. How can I make your day easier in five minutes?
  8. If we were leaving for vacation tonight, where do you wish we would be heading?
  9. If you won $500 and had to spend it on yourself today, what would you buy?
  10. If your day was turned into a movie, who would you cast?
  11. What did you say today that you could have never expected to come out of your mouth?
  12. What did you do to take care of yourself today?
  13. When did you feel appreciated today?
  14. If you could guarantee one thing for tomorrow what would it be?
  15. If we traded places tomorrow what advice would you give me for the day?
  16. What made you laugh today?
  17. Imagine committing the next year to learning one thing in your spare time. What would it be?
  18. Did you give anyone side-eye today? Why?
  19. What do you wish you did more of today?
  20. What do you wish you did less of today?
  21. Are you even listening to me right now?

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Love + Village

Alexis Ohanian has made a lot of important decisions in his life. The decision to co-found Reddit is a pretty big one. So was marrying Serena Williams. But right up there with changing internet culture and making a commitment to his partner, the venture capitalist lists taking time off after his daughter's birth as a significant, life-changing choice.

"Before Olympia was born, I had never thought much about paternity leave and, to be honest, Reddit's company policy was not my idea. Our vice president of people and culture, Katelin Holloway, brought it up to me in a meeting and it sounded O.K., so why not?" Ohanian writes in an op-ed for New York Times Parenting.

He continues: "Then came Olympia, after near-fatal complications forced my wife, Serena, to undergo an emergency C-section. Serena spent days in recovery fighting for her life against pulmonary embolisms. When we came home with our baby girl, Serena had a hole in her abdomen that needed bandage changes daily. She was on medication. She couldn't walk."

The experience changed the way Ohanian viewed paternity leave. It was no longer something that just sounded like a good thing, it was a necessary thing for his family. It was crucial that he take it and now he is advocating for more fathers to be able to. In his piece for the NYT Ohanian points out something that Motherly has previously reported on: It is hard for fathers to take paternity leave even when their government or employer offers it.

A report from Dove Men+Care and Promundo (a global organization dedicated to gender equality) found 85% of dads surveyed in the United States, the UK, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands would do anything to be very involved in the early weeks and months after their child's birth or adoption, but less than 50% of fathers take as much time as they are entitled to.

Dads need paid leave, but even when they have it social pressures and unrealistic cultural expectations keep them from taking it and they choose not to take all the time they can. Ohanian wants lawmakers and business leaders to make sure that dads can take leave and he wants to help fathers choose to actually take it.

"I was able to take 16 weeks of paid leave from Reddit, and it was one of the most important decisions I've made," Ohanian previously wrote in an essay for Glamour.

Ohanian recognizes that he is privileged in a way most parents aren't.

"It helped that I was a founder and didn't have to worry about what people might say about my 'commitment' to the company, but it was incredible to be able to spend quality time with Olympia. And it was perhaps even more meaningful to be there for my wife and to adjust to this new life we created together—especially after all the complications she had during and after the birth," he wrote for Glamour.

In his NYT piece, Ohanian goes further: "I get that not every father has the flexibility to take leave without the fear that doing so could negatively impact his career. But my message to these guys is simple: Taking leave pays off, and it's continued to pay dividends for me two years later. It should be no surprise that I also encourage all of our employees to take their full leave at Initialized Capital, where I am managing partner; we recently had three dads on paid paternity leave at the same time."

The GOAT's husband is making the same points that we at Motherly make all the time. Research supports paid leave for all parents. It benefits the baby and the parents and that benefits society.

By first taking his leave and then speaking out about the ways in which it benefited his family, Ohanian is using his privileged position to de-stigmatize fathers taking leave, and advocate for more robust parental leave policies for all parents, and his influence doesn't end there. He's trying to show the world that parents shouldn't have to cut off the parent part of themselves in order to be successful in their careers.

He says that when his parental leave finished he transitioned from being a full-time dad to a "business dad."

"I'm fortunate to be my own boss, which comes with the freedoms of doing things like bringing my daughter into the office, or working remotely from virtually anywhere Serena competes. My partners at Initialized are used to seeing Olympia jump on camera—along with her doll Qai Qai—or hearing her babbling on a call. I tell them with pride, 'Olympia's at work today!' And I'll post some photos on Instagram or Twitter so my followers can see it too," Ohanian explains.

"The more we normalize this, on social media and in real life, the better, because I know this kind of dynamic makes a lot of men uncomfortable (and selfishly I want Olympia to hear me talking about start-ups!)," he says.

This is the future of family-friendly work culture. Take it from a guy who created an entire internet culture.

[A version of this post was originally published February 19, 2019. It has been updated.]

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