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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.

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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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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

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There's a lot of discussion about the importance of early education—but what about soft skills like respect and kindness? How can mamas teach children important values like cooperation, gratitude, empathy or politeness?

These values are basic, foundational beliefs that help us know right from wrong, that give balance and meaning to life and that enable us to form community bonds with one another. These soft skills are crucial for kids to learn at any age, and it's important for them to be reinforced, both in the classroom and at home, throughout their childhood.

Here are fundamental ways to build character in your young children:

Kindness

Performing random acts of kindness can have a positive influence on both the individual showing and receiving the kindness. As a family, think of ways that each one of you can show kindness to others. Some ideas may include baking cookies for the mail carrier, donating an unopened toy to a local charity, purchasing canned goods for a homeless shelter or leaving notes and drawings for the neighbors. Include your child in the process so they can see firsthand the joy that kindness can bring to others.

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Responsibility

Children have a strong desire to mimic adult family members. Encourage your child to help complete simple chores in and around the house. Children feel a great sense of accomplishment when they can do their share and feel that sense of responsibility. Two-year-olds will enjoy folding towels, putting books away, putting paper in the recycling box and tending to the garden. Older children may enjoy helping out in the kitchen or with yard work.

Patience

Patience is the ability to demonstrate self-control while waiting for an event to occur. It also refers to the ability to remain calm in the face of frustration. This is a skill which develops in children as they mature. While it is important to practice patience, adults should also be realistic in their expectations, evaluate daily routines and eliminate long periods of wait time from the schedule.

Politeness

Schedule a time when the whole family can sit down together for dinner. Model good manners and encourage older siblings and other members of the family to do the same. Use phrases such as, "Can you please pass the potatoes?" or "Thank you." Be sure to provide your child with guidance, by explaining what to do as opposed to what not to do.

Flexibility

Change your routines at home to encourage children to be flexible in their thinking and to try new things. Try being flexible in the small things: enjoy breakfast for dinner, eat ice cream with a fork, have your child read a bedtime story to you or have a picnic in the living room. Let your child know it is okay to do things in a different way.

Empathy

Children are beginning to understand different emotions and that others have feelings. Throughout their childhood, talk about their feelings and share one's own feeling with them as well. By taking the time to listen to how children are feeling, you will demonstrate to them that you care and reinforce with them that you fully understand how they are feeling.

Cooperation

Coordinate playdates or take your children to events where they can practice introducing themselves to other children, and potentially with adults. Find games and other activities that require turn-taking and sharing.

Gratitude

Encourage your child to spend five minutes every day listing the things they are grateful for. This could be done together just before bedtime or after dinner.

Respect

As parents, our goal is to teach children to recognize that even though people have different likes and dislikes or beliefs and ideas, they must treat each other with manners and positivity. Respect should be shown when sharing, cleaning up, and listening to others. Always teach and model the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. Also remind children that respect can be shown towards things in the classroom. Treating materials and toys correctly shows appreciation for the things we have.
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Medical researchers and providers consider a woman's postpartum period to be up to 12 months after the delivery of baby, but too often, health insurance doesn't see it the same way. Nearly half of the births in the United States are covered by Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and while the babies who are born during these births are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP for a year, their mothers often lose their coverage 60 days after delivering their child. There is clear data showing 70% of new moms will have at least one health complication within a year of giving birth.

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This week, members of Congress' Subcommittee on Health met to mark up H.R. 4996, the "Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services (MOMS) Act of 2019, and it was favorably forwarded to the full Committee.

What does this mean? It means that while this bill still has a ways to go before it potentially becomes law, its success would see states get the option to provide 12 months of continuous coverage postpartum coverage to mothers on Medicaid. This would save lives.

As we at Motherly have said many times, it takes a considerable amount of time and energy to heal from birth. A mother may not be healed 60 days out from delivering. She may still require medical care for perinatal mood disorders, breast issues like thrush and mastitis, diabetes, and the consequences of traumatic births, like severe vaginal tearing.

Cutting off Medicaid when her baby is only 2 months old makes mom and baby vulnerable, and the Helping Moms Act could protect families from dire consequences.

The United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and according to the CDC, "about 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications." This is not okay, and while H.R. 4996 is not yet signed into law this bill could help change this. It could help address the racial disparities that see so many Black mothers and Native American mothers dying from preventable causes in the first year of motherhood.

A report from nine American maternal mortality review committees found that there were three leading causes of death that occurred between 43 days and one year postpartum: cardiomyopathy (32.4%), mental health conditions (16.2%), and embolism (10.8%) and multiple state maternal mortality review committees have recommended extending Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum in order to prevent these deaths.

Basically, making sure that moms have have continuous access to health care the year after a birth means doctors can spot issues with things like depression, heart disease and high blood pressure at regular check-ups and treat these conditions before they become fatal.

The Helping Moms Act is a step forward in the fight for maternal health and it proves that maternal health is truly a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike recognize the value in providing support for mothers during the postpartum period.

The Helping MOMS Act was was introduced by Democratic Congresswoman Robin Kelly of Illinois, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust. It was co-lead by Texas Republican Michael Burgess (who is also a medical doctor), as well as Georgia Republican Buddy Carter, Washington Republicans Jaime Herrera Beutler and Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Ayanna Pressley from Massachusettes and Lauren Underwood of Illinois (both Democrats).

"Incentivizing postpartum Medicaid expansion is a critical first step in preventing maternal deaths by ensuring new moms can see their doctor. I'm proud that my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, came together to put an end to the sad reality of American moms dying while growing their families," said Kelly. "We can't allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. This is a good, bipartisan first step, but it must be the first of many."

It doesn't matter what your political stripes, reducing America's maternal mortality stats should be a priority.

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Whether you're having a low-key Friendsgiving with your closest friends or prepping to host your first big Thanksgiving dinner with both families, figuring out all of the menu details can be the most overwhelming step. How much should I cook? What ingredients do I need? How does one actually cook a turkey this big?

But, don't worry, mama—HelloFresh is lending a helping hand this year with their Thanksgiving box in collaboration with Jessica Alba. Because you already have enough on your plate (and we're not talking stuffing).


Here are the details. You can choose from two Thanksgiving boxes: Turkey ($152) or beef tenderloin ($132). The turkey box serves 8-10 people while the beef one will serve 4-6 and both are $6.99 to ship. We got to try both and they're equally delicious so you can't go wrong with either one, but the turkey does require a 4-day thaw period so keep that in mind. And if you're wondering what the sides are, here's a sneak peek:

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  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Green bean casserole with crispy onions
  • Ciabatta stuffing with chick sausage and cranberries
  • Cranberry sauce with orange, ginger and cinnamon
  • Apple ginger crisp with cinnamon pecan crumble

While someone still has to do the actual cooking, it's designed to take the stress out of Thanksgiving dinner so you can focus on spending time with your loved ones (or watching Hallmark Christmas movies). You don't have to worry about grocery shopping, portion sizes, recipe curation or forgetting that essential thing you needed to make the meal perfect. Everything is super simple to make from start to finish—it even comes with a cooking timeline.

Orders are open through November 21 and can be delivered anytime through November 24. Even better? You don't need a subscription to order.


ORDER A BOX

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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My mother's death propelled me to start the process of becoming a parent as a 43-year-old single woman. As my connection to her remained strong in spirit after her death, I was ready to experience the same bond with my own child. I began the journey with Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI), and after three failed attempts at getting pregnant, I decided to adopt.

The adoption process is a lengthy and humbling one—one that includes fingerprints, background checks, references, classes, doing a profile of yourself and your life that birth parents eventually use to choose adoptive families.

After my application was approved, a young couple chose me just a month later. I couldn't believe my fortune. But I had to get to work and prepare the house for my baby's arrival. I bought the best of everything—bassinets, clothes, diapers, car seats… the list goes on. I told close friends and family that it was finally happening.

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But all of this was in vain. The day I was supposed to pick my daughter up, I learned that the birth parents had changed their minds. They no longer wanted to give their daughter up for adoption. As time passed, it was difficult to endure no interest from potential parents but the faith in believing what is meant to be continued. To increase my potential, I enrolled with a second adoption agency.

A few months later, as I was getting ready to try IVF for the first time, I received a phone call to let me know that a woman had selected me to adopt her child. So I opted out of IVF and found myself in a hospital delivery room with the birth mother, assisting her in the delivery of MY child. It was a boy! I was so thrilled, and he was just adorable.

After six years of losses and disappointments, I was able to bring him home and awaited the final word that the mother and father have given the needed consent. I was getting ready to watch the Super Bowl with him dressed in football gear, I got a phone call.

Once again, the adoption agency informed me that the birth mother had changed her mind. That evening, I had to return the baby to his birth mom. I was heartbroken, and my hopes were shattered.

What now? Going back to IVF meant starting from scratch, and that would take a minimum of six months before being able to really start getting pregnant. I was 49 years old, and the clock was ticking. I really wanted to be a mom by the age of 50.

I was in Chicago, recovering from a collapsed lung, when I received yet another phone call from the adoption agency. An expecting mom had chosen me and had already signed over all of her rights. This little girl was mine. For real, this time. But I had to get to Southern New Jersey by Thursday to pick her up from the hospital.

After negotiating with my doctor to give me the green light to leave while recovering from my condition, I hopped on a train, and 22 hours later, I arrived to New York City in a massive snow storm. I took longer than expected to get to her, but after navigating the icy roads of New Jersey, I met my daughter!

She is now 2 years old, and she has changed my life in ways that just can't be fully described. What I can say is that I now understand my mother's love even more and her devotion to me and my siblings, and as I am sharing the same with my daughter, my bond to my mother keeps on growing.

Becoming a mom at 49 was never what I had envisioned. But whether you are trying to conceive or have decided to adopt a child, the road to becoming a parent is rarely easy. I know that inner strength and believing in what was meant to be kept me moving forward.

Life
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