The speculum is getting an overdue redesign, and we cannot wait

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Confession: I became a midwife because I hate pelvic exams.

I mean, yes—I am in awe of pregnancy. And I can vividly remember the New York City cab ride I took home after witnessing my first birth, where I sat teary-eyed and beaming and said, "This is it. This is my life now."

But really, it all began with pelvic exams. Because let's be honest: They are awful.

As a patient, it took me years before I was able to get through the entire exam; I had to schedule multiple appointments to make it happen the first time. At my first appointment, knowing how terrified I was, my extremely caring nurse practitioner just had me put the gown on and practice lying on the table. The next time, I put my feet in the foot-rests. I don't remember exactly what number visit I had my first actual speculum exam, but it was a lot.

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Through it all, I kept thinking about how I couldn't be the only one out there that hated this—even though no one talked about it. I decided that I wanted to be part of the movement that was going to make pelvic care respectful.

Despite my difficulties as a young adult, I am lucky. Because the upsetting truth is that our medical system is not set up to support the sensitive type of care that I received. Most people with vaginas are rushed through the process of a pelvic exam without consideration of the profound impact they can have.

The pelvis is complex, beautiful and powerful. It is also the home of some of our deepest vulnerabilities. And for people that have experienced sexual assault or traumatic birth, or for people who have vaginas but do not identify as female—well, the experience of a pelvic exam can be downright awful.

Plus, our society has ingrained a very negative emotional connection to the pelvis: It is dirty, gross, lewd…and wrong.

A huge part of the problem is the speculum—that metal or plastic device that brings a sense of dread to probably all of us.


Enter Yona.

Yona is made of a team of designers who have set out to redesign the speculum, and thus significantly improve the pelvic exam experience.



Freethink made an excellent video explaining this amazing new speculum concept. (Highly worth the less-than-six minute watch. But please note, they share some quotes of people who have had traumatic pelvic exams, which may be triggering for some.)

Freethink's video shares the very upsetting history of the speculum we all know and… hate:

They were designed by a man and tested on enslaved women. As Yona team member, Hailey Stewart, an Industrial Designer and Design Researcher, says, "putting the comfort of the patient first was certainly not on the top of his list."

Using a method called "radical empathy" (we love them already), the team at Yona has set out to change it all. They are also addressing the fact that "not all people with a vagina identify as female;" every person with a vagina deserves to have appropriate medical care to prevent life-threatening diseases, such as cervical cancer.

The new speculum design offers the following innovative features:

  • Improved view-field (so your provider does not have to expand the speculum as wide to see what they need to see)
  • Relaxed handle angle (so you don't have to move your bottom as close to the edge of the table as you currently do)
  • Single-handed operation (so your provider only needs to use hand to operate the speculum)
  • Concealed locking (so you don't have to hear of feel all that clicking)
  • Silicone coating (so you can say good-bye to the discomfort of metal or plastic)

So much YES, I can't even handle it.

Yona is not available in providers' offices yet. But you can check out their page for ideas on how to make this vision a reality (for example, share this information with your provider, and ask them to bring Yona in the office).

In the meantime, here's what you need to know about pelvic exams:

1. In the absence of symptoms or concerns, experts are not sure how often you need one.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG):

"A limited number of studies have evaluated the benefits and harms of a screening pelvic examination for detection of ovarian cancer, bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, and genital herpes. Data from these studies are inadequate to support a recommendation for or against performing a routine screening pelvic examination among asymptomatic, nonpregnant [person] who are not at increased risk of any specific gynecologic condition. Data on its effectiveness for screening for other gynecologic conditions are lacking."

In other words, we don't know enough yet. Ultimately their recommendation is this: "Pelvic examinations should be performed when indicated by medical history or symptoms… [or] if a [person] expresses a preference for the examination."

2. You should still see your pelvic health provider every year

Even if they don't do a pelvic exam, it's important to meet with your provider yearly to discuss your health and make sure you are up to date on screenings, vaccines, etc.

3. One of the most important aspects of a pelvic exam is the pap smear (a swab of the cervix that checks for cancerous or precancerous cells)

When a pap smear detects abnormal cells, there are several treatment modalities available to prevent it from progressing. And, if it is cancer, treatment is available and often effective.

Here are the current Pap smear guidelines for people without a history of abnormal results, according to the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force:

  • People age 21 to 65 years: Pap smear every three years
  • People age 30 to 65 who would like to lengthen the screening interval: Pap smear with human papillomavirus (HPV) testing every five years

If you have a history of abnormal results, your provider will guide you towards your specific recommendations.

4. Doctors (obstetricians and gynecologists) are awesome, but they are not your only option

Many people are surprised to learn that they have more options than they knew for pelvic health providers. Midwives and nurse practitioners provide comprehensive health care even when you are not pregnant and might be a great fit for your pelvic health needs.

5. Free and low-cost healthcare options are available

Clinics such as Planned Parenthood offer free and low-cost pelvic exams, as well as testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and the prescription of birth control.

6. Until Yona arrives, here's how to make your next pelvic exam better:

  • Talk you your provider and tell them you're worried, uncomfortable or scared. If you don't feel like you are being respected, leave (but promise me you'll find someone else and try again).
  • Bring your bottom all the way to the end of the table. OR, make two fists with your hands, and stack them under your bottom to help lift your bottom off the table.
  • Use the footrests (aka stirrups) if you want to, or feel free to ask your provider if you can keep your feet on the table if it feels better.
  • Fan your knees out to the side like a frog. SO MUCH EASIER SAID THAN DONE, BUT, the more relaxed your muscles are, the less uncomfortable it will be, so take deep breaths and visualize a beach, a lake, or anything that makes you feel calm.
  • Wiggle your toes and relax your jaw.
  • Ask your provider to touch the outside of your leg with the back of their hand first. Then the inside of your thigh. When you say, "I'm ready," they can start the pelvic exam. Not before.
  • Ray Rachlin, midwife, and owner of Refuge Midwifery in Philadelphia, recommends telling your provider that you'd like to insert the speculum. They can guide it to the right place, but you are in charge of the speed at which it goes in.

Your body, your rules. It is not rude, wrong or unacceptable to tell your provider how you would like your pelvis to be examined.

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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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This week marked World Kindness Day, but in Pittsburgh, PA the hometown of the late Mr. Rogers, it was also Cardigan Day—a chance to celebrate an icon of kindness and his iconic knitwear.

That's what staff at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital were doing when they dressed all the babies like Mr. Rogers in hand-crocheted cardigans and sneaker-style booties made by nurse Caitlin Pechin.

Pechin says crocheting is something she does for fun and while making all the little outfits took several hours, she "really enjoy[s] making things for all the babies because they look so cute in them."

They absolutely do!

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The sweetest little neighbors

The babies looked so cozy and cute and they even got a visit from the woman who was closest to Mr. Rogers, his widow, Joanne Rogers. "She was so sweet and so sincere and just wished us the best of luck as new parents," Kristen Lewandowski, whose first child, Mary Rose, was among the cardigan-wearing newborns, told Good Morning America.

"She told us to support one another and we thought that was great advice," Lewandowski explained.

Mr. Rogers died in 2003 but his legacy lives on

The new movie about Mr. Rogers—A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks—hits theaters on November 22. Mr. Rogers has been gone for 16 years, but the new film and the way we talk about kindness today proves that his legacy lives on in 2019.

"When I was little, I watched Mister Rogers' Neighborhood with my grandmother, my grandma Mary, who we named our [daughter] Mary after," Lewandowski's partner, Michael, explains.

Mrs. Rogers reportedly loved getting to meet little Mary Rose and the other babies and told their parents she was sure her husband would have loved to meet them, too.

A Mr. Rogers sweater for Mrs. Rogers

The babies weren't the only ones donning cardigans at the event. Mrs. Rogers wore a cardigan that belonged to Mr. Rogers, and the nursing staff wore t-shirts designed to mimic the tie-and-cardigan look Mr. Rogers was known for.

The whole event was absolutely adorable and has us thinking a lot about the lessons Mr. Rogers taught us (and looking forward to seeing another beloved icon, Tom Hanks, play him.)

The movie hits theaters this Thanksgiving 

The reason why people are dressing babies up as Mr. Rogers 16 years after his passing is the same reason why Tom Hanks wanted to play him: He was the personification of kindness in a world that needs more of it. He brought love and empathy to a medium that is usually used to sell breakfast cereals and plastic toys. But Mr. Rogers wasn't pushing artificial ingredients and consumerism: He just wanted us kids to love each other and ourselves.

"I think that, when Fred Rogers first saw children's programming, he saw something that was cynical," Hanks said at the Toronto Film Festival, explaining why he wanted to take on this role.

"And why in the world would you put a pipeline of cynicism into the minds of a 2 or 3-year-old-kid? That you are not cool because you don't have this toy, that it's funny to see somebody being bopped on the head, that hey, kids be the first in line in order to get blah, blah, blah. That's a cynical treatment of an audience, and we have become so inured to that that when we are met with as simple a message as hey, you know what, it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, [it's a reminder] that we are allowed...to start off feeling good," Hanks shared.

Mr. Rogers was a pioneer in using screen time to raise empathetic and kind kids and he made an impact on a generation.

Let's all take a look at these little neighbors and feel good today

There is something so pure about Mrs. Rogers visiting these babies, who are dressed like her husband because of the kindness of a maternity ward nurse. In a world where there is so much bad, let's look at all this good—and all these adorable babies who could become the next icon of kindness.

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As a business person, Aston Kutcher did better than anyone ever expected the kid from That 70's Show to do, and his wife and former co-star, Mila Kunis has also made a ton of money—she's among the highest-paid actresses of her generation. These two are wildly successful and they recognize how privileged their kids are because of it, but they have a plan to teach their children work ethic. Kutcher explained the plan last year on an episode of Dax Shepard's podcast Armchair Expert.

"My kids are living a really privileged life, and they don't even know it," he told Shepard. "And they'll never know it, because this is the only one that they'll know."

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He goes on to explain how he and Kunis don't plan to create trust funds for the kids and want to put their wealth into philanthropic efforts instead. "I'm not setting up a trust for them. We'll end up giving our money away to charity and to various things," he said.

According to Kutcher, the only way his two kids are getting money from him is if they come to dad with a good business plan. If they do that, he'll be happy to invest in their vision. "I want them to be really resourceful. Hopefully they'll be motivated to have what they had, or some version of what they had," he explained.

We all want our kids to be successful, but sometimes too much help can stunt their growth. It's good to hear Kutcher and Kunis are so dedicated to making sure their children understand the value of money and can stand on their own two feet.


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Becoming a parent also means becoming a magnet for unsolicited advice. It can feel like every random person at the grocery store has an opinion on how you're caring for your baby, and that fact that certain safety recommendations have evolved in recent decades doesn't help.

That's why a post by reddit user MindyS1719 is going viral again. It was first posted last year, but as winter temperatures return, Mindy's message is resonating again: She wants people who haven't recently had a baby to understand why babies and little kids may not be wearing coats when families are unloading in parking lots this winter.

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"New car seat guidelines avidly warn against children wearing coats in car seats—and this makes it really challenging for caregivers (particularly those with multiple small children) to get kids out of the house then in the car then out of the car again and into the destination," she wrote.

i.redd.it


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This reddit user is so right. It does seem counterintuitive. If it's cold out of course you'd dress your little one all warm and cozy before strapping them into their car seat, but safety experts say parents should take off kids' winter coats before strapping them into car seats. A coat that protects a kid from cold could prevent them from being protected in the event of a crash.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, bulky coats and snowsuits can compress in a car crash, leaving the straps too loose to keep a child safely in their seat.

With temperatures falling in much of the country, a video demonstrating just how this works is having a resurgence online. Back in 2015, Sue Auriemma from safety non-profit Kids and Cars took The TODAY Show to an official crash test lab in Michigan and strapped a child sized crash test dummy into a car seat while it was wearing a winter coat. During the crash, the coat compressed. Like the AAP warns, the dummy came hurtling out of the car seat.

In the video Miriam Manary, a safety expert in the University of Michigan's crash test lab, tells a TODAY reporter that parents should remove puffy coats before strapping kids in. “We want to see a nice tight harness to the child's body, you should not be able to pinch any webbing up the shoulder, and [the] harness clip should be at armpit level."

In the video, after Manary straps the dummy back in without a coat, the crash test is repeated and the dummy remained safely in its car seat.

In the two years since the video aired more and more parents have heard about the dangers of mixing car seats and bulky winter clothing, but first time parents or those from warmer climates may still be surprised to hear of the recommendation as it's not something they're used to dealing with.

In cold states or places like Canada, parents might worry about a child freezing in the event of a crash, but experts say you can still prepare your child for cold weather without preventing the car seat or booster from doing its job.

"Families can dress their babies and children in layers to keep them warm and safe—fleece is a good top layer for trapping heat without adding padding under the harness or seat belt," Katherine Hutka, president of the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada, told the Globe and Mail, noting that just because a kid can't wear a bulky winter coat doesn't mean they can't wear a thinner fleece jacket as well as their boots, mittens and hat.

"When it's really cold, kids can wear their puffy coats over top of these layers on the way to the car," Hutka said. "After they are safely buckled, they can wear their coat backwards over their arms to stay warm."

Kids and Cars director Amber Rollins takes a hard line on the issue of bulky coats and snowsuits, telling the Washington Post that parents should never make exceptions, and shouldn't worry about how cold their backseat might become after a crash. “First you have to survive the accident. If you don't survive the accident, then this is not an issue."

Those are chilling words, for sure, but if we make sure to follow proper car seat safety and remove bulky coats before buckling up, the chances of coming home safe and warm go way up.

It's important for parents to know the guidelines, but it's also important that other people don't judge parents who are just trying to do their best in this situation. As Reddit's Mindy suggested, we all need to "cut parents some slack. We're trying. And we're doing everything we can to keep our kids warm while maintaining what's left of our sanity."

To all the mamas bundling and unbundling kids in parking lots this winter, we salute you.

[A version of this post was originally published December 1, 2017. It has been updated.]

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Most of the time, being inclusive isn't that hard. Actually, it's so easy, even 4-year-olds can grasp it. That's the message body acceptance activist and Instagram user Milly Smith wanted to share when she posted a photo of her son, Eli, explaining a very simple thing: "Some men have periods too. If I can get it, so can you."

Theoretically, it is easy to get the fact that non-binary people and some trans men menstruate. Usually, body-affirming hormone treatments stop them from menstruating, but that's not always the case. Sometimes their period will stop for years but make a surprise return for a variety of reasons, such as a medication change. Bodies like to keep us guessing like that.

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And yet, many of us, particularly cisgender people, fall back on our habitual ways of speaking about periods without even thinking about it. We have a hard enough time discussing menses as it is, so this may be one of the last vestiges of non-inclusive talk. When a young kid asks why mama is bleeding, the knee-jerk reaction could be to say, "It's just something that women do," hoping not to have to explain the finer points of sex and reproduction for a few more years.

But Smith is here to remind us not to do the knee-jerk thing.

"Eli has been told about periods since he saw blood on my pants a couple of years ago," Smith wrote on Instagram. "I didn't use the language of women have periods because it's not entirely inclusive. I told him that SOME women, SOME non binary people and SOME men have periods. It was easy for him to accept as he hadn't had to unlearn the engrained [sic] societal norm but if a 4-year-old can grasp it I'm sure most of us can have a crack at unlearning transphobic/misinformed norms and open our minds... ya think?"

Some corporations have begun to do their part to unlearn those gender stereotypes. According to PopSugar, Always announced in October that it was removing the Venus "female" symbol from its packaging. While the website for Thinx period underwear is still Shethinx.com, it has attempted to appeal to trans and nonbinary customers as well, referring to "people with periods." Last year, British period subscription service Pink Parcel launched a campaign that included trans man Kenny Jones as one of its spokespeople.

Sadly, a couple of ads and an Instagram featuring a cute kid have not quite solved the problem of transphobia in this world. Smith has turned off the comments on her post, probably because of negative backlash from the shining citizens of the internet. That's an upsetting reminder of how far we have to go.

But at least we can still enjoy Smith's concluding words, "It's not insulting to women, it's not discrediting women," she said of this change of wording. "It's opening up the community to make it a safe space for those who don't identify as women but still have periods."

The world isn't always black and white and it's time we start recognizing the beauty in accepting the grey areas.

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