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The answers to 8 secret questions you want to ask your gynecologist

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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Unstructured play is play without predetermined rules of the game. There are no organized teams, uniforms, coaches or trainers. It is spontaneous, often made-up on the spot, and changeable as the day goes on. It is the kind of play you see when puppies chase each other around a yard in endless circles or a group of kids play for hours in a fort they created out of old packing boxes.

Unstructured play is fun—no question about it—but research also tells us that it is critically important for the development of children's bodies and brains.

One of the best ways to encourage unstructured play in young children is by providing open-ended toys, or toys that can be used multiple ways. People Toy Company knows all about that. Since 1977, they've created toys and products designed to naturally encourage developmental milestones—but to kids, it all just feels like play.

Here are five reasons why unstructured play is crucial for your children—

1. It changes brain structure in important ways

In a recent interview on NPR's Morning Edition, Sergio Pellis, Ph.D., an expert on the neuroscience of play noted that play actually changes the structure of the developing brain in important ways, strengthening the connections of the neurons (nerve cells) in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain considered to be the executive control center responsible for solving problems, making plans and regulating emotions.

Because unstructured play involves trying out different strategies without particular goals or serious consequences, children and other animals get to practice different activities during play and see what happens. When Dr. Pellis compared rats who played as pups with rats that did not, he found that although the play-deprived rats could perform the same actions, the play-experienced rats were able to react to their circumstances in a more flexible, fluid and swift fashion.

Their brains seemed more "plastic" and better able to rewire as they encountered new experiences.

Hod Lipson, a computer scientist at Cornell sums it up by saying the gift of play is that it teaches us how to deal with the unexpected—a critically important skill in today's uncertain world.

2. Play activates the entire neocortex

We now know that gene expression (whether a gene is active or not) is affected by many different things in our lives, including our environment and the activities we participate in. Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., a Professor at the University of Washington studied play in rats earning him the nickname of the "rat tickler."

He found that even a half hour of play affected the activity of many different genes and activated the outer part of the rats' brains known as the neocortex, the area of the brain used in higher functions such as thinking, language and spatial reasoning. We don't know for sure that this happens in humans, but some researchers believe that it probably does.

3. It teaches children to have positive interaction with others

It used to be thought that animal play was simply practice so that they could become more effective hunters. However, Dr. Panksepp's study of play in rats led him to the conclusion that play served an entirely different function: teaching young animals how to interact with others in positive ways. He believed that play helps build pro-social brains.

4. Children who play are often better students

The social skills acquired through play may help children become better students. Research has found that the best predictor of academic performance in the eighth grade was a child's social skills in the third grade. Dr. Pellis notes that "countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less."

5. Unstructured play gets kids moving

We all worry that our kids are getting too little physical activity as they spend large chunks of their time glued to their electronic devices with only their thumbs getting any exercise. Unstructured play, whether running around in the yard, climbing trees or playing on commercial play structures in schools or public parks, means moving the whole body around.

Physical activity helps children maintain a healthy weight and combats the development of Type 2 diabetes—a condition all too common in American children—by increasing the body's sensitivity to the hormone insulin.

It is tempting in today's busy world for parents and kids to fill every minute of their day with structured activities—ranging from Spanish classes before school to soccer and basketball practice after and a full range of special classes and camps on the weekends and summer vacation. We don't remember to carve out time for unstructured play, time for kids to get together with absolutely nothing planned and no particular goals in mind except having fun.

The growing body of research on the benefits of unstructured play suggests that perhaps we should rethink our priorities.

Not sure where to get started? Here are four People Toy Company products that encourage hours of unstructured play.

1. People Blocks Zoo Animals

These colorful, magnetic building blocks are perfect for encouraging unstructured play in children one year and beyond. The small pieces fit easily in the hands of smaller children, and older children will love creating their own shapes and designs with the magnetic pieces.

People Blocks Zoo Animals 17 Piece Set, People Toy Company, $34.99

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This article was sponsored by People Toy Company. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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For many families, getting out the door in the morning is one of the biggest hurdles in our day, whether you've got one kiddo or multiples. Mama needs to get ready, children need to find that missing sock, and everyone needs to find something to eat—all while making it to the car before the entire day is running behind.

So we asked Chairman Mom members for their best tips and tricks to getting out the door faster in the mornings. Here's what they shared:

1. Get your kids to help prep the night before

"The simplest thing you can do to streamline the morning is prep everything that can be prepped the night before. Often easier said than done. But once your kids are old enough, they can own a lot of this."—Amy

2. Set an alarm using your kid's favorite song 

"Something small that saves us a few minutes: I put on an alarm with my 3 three year old's favorite song at 7:42, he knows it signals it's time to get his shoes and coat on."—Nogo

3. Use smart technology 

"We use Google Home (I'm sure Alexa would do this too) to read kids a story. So much easier to stop after the story is over then telling her to shut off the tv from watching a show!"—Maven

4. Try wearing a mom uniform 

"I don't wear make up, and my hair is an inch long, so I do not spend any time styling anything. I have an Office Casual Uniform arrangement of clothing, shoes, and jewelry, so there is no real choice involved. I have a coffee maker that is programmable, so I set it up the night before to brew at 6:15am."—Melinite

5. Simplify your beauty routine

"I do mascara and tinted sunscreen. Lipstick that I can put on without a mirror."—Julie

6. ...and your kid's beauty routine

"I brush and braid my daughter's hair the night before so that we don't have to deal with tangles in the morning. This saves the morning from going off the rails..."—Crystal

7. Hire extra help just for the mornings 

"I have a nanny for 45 minutes every morning that comes to help us. That's the best hack my husband and I have found to have happy and stress free mornings and be working or at work by 8 or 8:30 am."—Maria

8. Make breakfast super easy 

"Keep breakfast food at my office (instant oatmeal, nuts + dry fruit) that I eat at my desk while doing the first round of email."—Petya

9. Find those lost socks

"Whenever I have a MOMENT I prep lunches, fix sandwiches, put them in Tupperware, chop fruit, etc. (Oh! I even let the kids earn extra spending money by chopping the week's fruit for me on Sunday with butter knives) And get uniforms and SOCKS ready. Finding socks can eat up a good 10 minutes of my morning routine."—Sarah

10.  Take the guesswork out of what your kid will wear

"I have a toddler who hates changing out of her PJs so we just dress her in her day clothes the night before—one less battle to fight in the morning."—Jess

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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Mamas have a hard time carving out time for themselves. Our families almost always take priority, meaning things like skincare can easily fall by the wayside. Even though studies have shown the benefits of caring for ourselves also benefit our babies benefit our babies, it often feels just one more task to add to our to-do list.

Fortunately, it's possible to skip extensive routines and start small. If you have just five minutes (or more!) to spare for yourself this week, try these self-care products you can sneak during nap time or after you finally get the little ones down for the night.

If you only have 5 minutes: Remove your makeup

One of the most important ways to care for your skin at the end of the day is removing your makeup. Start with a cleansing towelette to easily wipe away even stubborn mascara and eyeliner so you can go to bed with a clean slate.

Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes, Amazon, 2-pk $8.97

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If you have 10 minutes (or more): Use a jade facial roller

After cleansing, use this jade roller to gently massage your face to boost collagen, flush out toxins and improve circulation in your skin.

Jade Facial Roller, Amazon, $11.99

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Chrissy Teigen has been very open about the ways pregnancy has changed her body. Mom to 2-year-old Luna and 4-month-old Miles, Teigen—a former swimsuit model—has famously embraced her postpartum body (stretchies and all), while noting that she's still, at times, insecure about it, but she's not ashamed.

That's why, when a man on Twitter commented on a photo of Teigen's red carpet look for the Emmy's to ask the whole wide world (and Teigen herself, he tagged her) if she was pregnant again, Teigen was quick to shut down the shamer.

"I'm asking this with the utmost respectful [sic], but is @chrissyteigen pregnant again?" The man wrote.

"I just had a baby but thank you for being soooo respectful," Teigen replied (from the Emmys).


Fellow moms were quick to jump to Teigen's defense. Many pointed out that Teigen actually looks incredible for any human, let alone one who is four months postpartum. Other mamas were quick to chime in with stories about their own lingering baby bumps.

For a lot of women, our bodies are different after having a baby. Sometimes that means we're a little rounder in the middle than we used to be. It happens to almost everyone, even red carpet-walking A-listers, like Teigen and actress Jennifer Garner, who once told Ellen Degeneres that she would have a bump forever.

"I am not pregnant, but I have had three kids and there is a bump," Garner explained in 2014, after paparazzi photographs fueled speculation that she and Ben Affleck were expecting a fourth child. "Forever and ever, not another baby. Just a bump like a camel. But just in reverse," Garner jokes.

Like Garner, Teigen dealt with the pregnancy question with a sense of humor, but she shouldn't have had to defend her body from the Emmys. As many, many Twitter users pointed out to the man who asked, it's never cool to ask a woman if she is pregnant.

It's not polite to ask, and it's no one's business whether a woman's bump is a pregnancy, some fabric, a burrito, a weird shadow or (as in Teigen's case) basically a figment of someone's imagination.

A lot of mamas online last night chimed in to say that while Teigen's stomach doesn't look like it did in her Sports Illustrated days, it still looks pretty freaking amazing.

Yes, after two kids, Chrissy Teigen doesn't look like a swimsuit model. But she shouldn't have to. She's not a swimsuit model anymore. She is a cookbook author with her own Target line and she hosts a hilarious TV show. She's also a mother. She is so much more than her midsection.

"Honestly, I don't ever have to be in a swimsuit again," she recently told Women's Health. "Since I was 20 years old, I had this weight in my mind that I am, or that I'm supposed to be. I've been so used to that number for 10 years now. And then I started realizing it was a swimsuit-model weight. There's a very big difference between wanting to be that kind of fit and wanting to be happy-fit."

Teigen is happy with her body, and we're happy she spent Emmy night educating the internet about respecting women.

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