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What’s The Deal With ‘Clean Sleeping’?

For years, Elly Shariat had been burning the candle at both ends.

Id start my days around 6 a.m. and Id begrudgingly force myself to go to sleep at 2 or 3 a.m., said Shariat, a Los Angeles-based entertainment publicist.

Her big aha moment came around her 35th birthday, when she got into her car one night and found herself too exhausted to drive.

I couldnt keep my eyes open, I couldnt focus on the road, and there was no way I could continue working the way I was, she explained.

Shariat turned to sleep aids to help solve her problem. When that didnt conquer her sleeping woes, she decided to try some lifestyle changes. The busy professional looked to the world Goop, Gwyneth Paltrows wellness bible, and found some tips on clean sleeping. Figuring she had nothing to lose, she attempted to give the trend a whirl.

What is clean sleeping?

In her latest book, Goop Clean Beauty, Paltrow raves about clean sleeping, often referring to it as the biggest health trend of 2017. In a nutshell, the concept involves making sleep a priority above anything else, including diet and fitness. And, according to the actress, it plays a crucial role in determining your appetite and energy levels.

Its not her worst idea. The concept of prioritizing sleep certainly sits a lot better with professionals than many of the suggestions that have stemmed from Paltrows often-criticized lifestyle brand. In the past, Goop has recommended vaginal steaming to balance female hormones, sleeping with a $66 jade egg inside your vagina as a means of boosting feminine energy, and adding a teaspoon of Sex Dust(a blend of superherbs that help combat the effects of stress)to your morning smoothie.

Clean sleeping, experts say, is a quality habit to try to attain.

Paltrow is absolutely correct about poor-quality sleep being shown to negatively effect weight and metabolism, said Dr. Joseph Krainin, the chief medical adviser for SoClean,a company that sells equipment for sanitizing sleep apnea machines. Regularly sleeping six hours or less is associated with weight gain and hyperglycemia, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. She is correct also about the negative effects of poor-quality sleep on mood and cognition, including working memory.

There are, of course, many pieces to Paltrows clean sleeping essentials. The process doesnt involve just hitting the pillow every night. Goop recommends sleep-inducing products and habits it claims help you get an optimal nights rest, like massages and moisturizing creams.

Below is a selection of Goops advice on how to get clean sleep, with sleep experts take on what works and what you can probably leave behind.

rakoptonLPN via Getty Images

Getting at least eight hours of sleep a night (ideally nine or 10)

Most adults do not need nine to 10 hours of sleep a night, explained Dr. Joseph Krainin, a neurologist in Charleston, South Carolina. He tells patients to opt for seven to eight hours, and warns that some studies actually suggest a higher mortality among adults that habitually sleep any longer than that.

Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule (and aiming to be in bed each night by 10 p.m.)

Going to bed at the same time every night is important, says Dr. Sujay Kansagra, director of Duke Universitys Pediatric Neurology Sleep Medicine Program. It keeps your internal circadian rhythm happy and makes it easier to fall asleep.

He suggests, however, that instead of stressing out about trying to achieve an unrealistic goal of a strict 10 p.m. bedtime, that you find a time that works best for your individual schedule and stick to it.

Avoiding technology before bed

Blue light from phones and iPads suppresses melatonin, said Terry Cralle, a registered nurse and certified clinical sleep educator. Also, all of that stuff you are looking at emails, news, political rants are not conducive to relaxation and sleep.

Limiting afternoon caffeine

Avoiding caffeine later in the day can definitely aid in a good nights sleep, Cralle confirmed.

Banning bedtime snacks and keeping a regular 12-hour fasting window in your day

Kansagra says not to eat too close to bedtime and just leave it at that. Fasting is not necessarily required.

Doing a fancy meditative practice called Yoga Nidra to reap the benefits of sleep without actually sleeping

I have not seen evidence that anything aside from sleep can provide the beneficial effects of sleep, Kansagra.

But if meditation relaxes you, Kansagra is all for it (after all, research shows it has incredible health benefits). He just advises using it as a means of inspiring sleep, not as a replacement.

Giving yourself a trigger-point head rub and pre-bed foot rub

Anything that helps your body relax is likely to benefit your sleep. If rubbing your elbows with mayonnaise helps you relax, go for it! Do what works for you. And if that means a foot massage, then more power to you, Kansagra said.

Sleeping with an $80 copper pillowcase to combat wrinkles and bacteria

Krainin calls snake oil! on this one. Comfortable bedding is ideal, but no need to spend a ton of cash for it in the name of rest.

Supplementing with magnesium to help your body relax

Kansagra notes that the role of magnesium in sleep still needs further research in order for medical professionals to arrive at a conclusion. Giving magnesium to otherwise healthy individuals can lead to diarrhea, which can certainly worsen sleep. Most sleep physicians would not routinely recommend magnesium supplementation, the MattressFirm sleep health consultant explains.

All in all, Goop is definitely on to something by trying to make sleeping well a trend.

Paltrow is absolutely right about clean sleepings core principle in that sleep is vital for our overall health and wellbeing and that people should start prioritizing sleep if they want to feel their best, Kansagra said.

But that doesnt mean that you need to be following her suggestions step by step and rubbing expensive lavender lotion on the soles of your feet each night.

At the end of the day, its important to remember that our biology has not changed, our behaviors have, leading to a public health crisis of sleep deprivation as the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]has stated, said Nancy Rothstein, the director of the CIRCADIAN Corporate Sleep Program. So, keep it simple and listen to your body! It knows what to do and when.

Hero Images via Getty Images

Putting clean sleeping to the test

While Shariat didnt run out to buy the copper pillow, and admits to failing at pre-bed meditation, the once sleep-deprived professional says adopting some of the clean sleeping habits made a massive difference in her life.

Going to sleep around the same time each night and waking up at the same time each day was probably the easiest one to implement quickly, she said.

In order to pull it off, Shariat told her clients she was no longer able to field late-night messages and that calls were never urgent enough that they couldnt wait until the next day. She also cut down on caffeine by eliminating midday coffee beverages.

Shariat got deep in her program and said she has actually stuck to Paltrows full 12-hour nighttime fasting rule.

Im not a big breakfast person anyways, but I did used to snack before bed, and now I just dont. So once I eat dinner, thats that, until the next day, she explained. I feel less heavy at night and its actually helped a ton by relieving heartburn issues I used to experience late at night.

The foot massage didnt make the cut, especially with the pricey lotions, but Shariat does give her body some nightly love by massaging her hands, fingers and wrists. And right after, before turning in for the night and making sure her blackout curtains are perfectly in place, she follows Paltrows technique of making her pillowcase smell more indulgent by using a lavender pillow mist from Bath & Body Works.

This is something I used to do in college, and frankly, I dont know why I stopped, she said. The second my head hits the pillow, I just feel like Im in another place, and the soothing scent helps me fall asleep with ease something that Ive had a lot of trouble with over the past few years.

Shariats biggest hurdle was the rule about no electronics at night. To try to limit her use, she removed the TV from her bedroom and banishes her other devices to the kitchen instead. That way shes not tempted to check them during the night or have them interrupt her sleep.

Ill be the first to admit that I dont take a lot of what Goop says seriously, said Shariat, who says she now gets nine hours of sleep a night and is much better at her job because of it.

I knew all too well that vaginal steaming wouldnt end all that well for me, she continued. But Im really happy I didnt just brush clean sleeping off as another crazy Goop trend, because its been life-changing!

We might have to give this round to Goop.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/goop-clean-sleepin_us_596f9bf7e4b05453c5cd1a91

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After Vagina Steaming, Goop Gets Into Conspiracy Theories

It was only a matter of time before Gwyneth Paltrows New Age lifestyle website, Goop, launched its first ever Conspiracy Issue. Goop has long promoted pseudoscience, mysticism, and medical conspiracy theories (resurrecting the debunked link between breast cancer and bras, to name one example).

The site also hawks wellness products that contain the same ingredients as supplements peddled by alt-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

But where Goops creeping paranoia has generally been contained to mind-body health, the site has now ventured fully into the world of the paranormal and politically charged unknown with this weeks Conspiracy Issue.

Headlining the issue is an interview titled, Does the Illuminati Still Exist? (short answer not explicitly stated in Goop: Yes), in which Goop poses straight questions about a not-so-straight topic to Robert Howells, author of The Illuminati: The Counter Culture RevolutionFrom Secret Societies to Wikileaks and Anonymous (2016).

Asked to define the term, Howells places the Illuminati into two categories: the original Illuminati, which was formed more than two centuries ago as a secret society aimed at undermining corrupt governments and the religious intolerance that dominated society at the time and quickly dissolved into myth, and how that myth is today linked to the New World Order, an alleged underground totalitarian global government that conspiracy theorists believe is controlling the world.

Indeed, paranoiacs associate the phrase today with sinister bankers, United Nations officials, and corrupt government leaders secretly collaborating to make us all Orwellian mind-slaves.

Not mentioned in Goops interview is that Howells is a Julian Assange superfan: He dedicated his book to Assange, whom he called a refugee for truth, evidently not concerned that Assange is a propagandist for Russia (he has a show on their state television network), a pal of Sean Hannitys, and an avid conspiracy theorist who recently suggested that Seth Rich was the source behind the 20,000 hacked DNC emails that were released shortly after he was murdered.

Asked how the worlds of religion, spirituality, government, and health interact in the Illuminati belief systema deliciously Goop-y question to which Howells gives a deliciously Goop-y answer: that the the original Illuminati called for a meritocratic government where issues like health care would be overseen by an expert from within the health industry. Like Goops readers, the original Illuminati believed in an East-meets-West approach to medicine, Howells explains.

Goops interview with Howells whets reader appetites for articles like Conspiracy Hotspots Worth the Trip, What Newly Discovered Ancient Civilizations Can Teach Us (whether they are in fact newly discovered is up for debate), An Investigative Journalist on the Issue of UFOs, and What to Watch if Youre Cult-Curious.

Goops Conspiracy Hotspots advertises destinations like Stonehenge and Roswell, New Mexico, among others, which offer the prospects of alien interventions, unknown ancient civilizations, and cover-ups, making them mystical, summer trip gold.

Its list of must-watch films and TV shows about cults includes some critically acclaimed gems (The Leftovers, Going Clear, and a documentary about Jonestown among them) as well as some lesser-known films like The Source Family about a hippy commune in Hawaii.

The recent explosion of the true-crime/conspiracy/mystery genre is evidence that the general publics fear of the unknown has morphed into a bona fide fascination, Goop explains. Indeedparticularly for Goops less-than-skeptical readers who, for better or worse, may identify with the Kool-Aid-drinking residents of Jonestown.

The Conspiracy Issue is hardly the most controversial issues of Goop. It probes the world of conspiracy theories from a laymans perspective, frequently asking its expertswith a sense of incredulitywhy people are so rabidly skeptical of things like UFOs?

But its promotion of the Illuminati belief system is much softer than its promotion of vaginal steaming, Jade yoni eggs, and prettily packaged products that purport to boost vitality and rid the body of toxins. Whether Goop will cross further over to the dark side of conspiracy theory, and start making dark claims about pizza restaurants non-existent basements, remains to be seen.

Read more: http://www.thedailybeast.com/after-vagina-steaming-goop-gets-into-conspiracy-theories

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Stopping the opioid crisis in the womb

Knoxville, Tennessee (CNN)The sound of a heartbeat pulsates through the air, and a grainy image of a baby flashes on screen. Jessica Hill smiles from her chair in the ultrasound room.

Gathered around are her doctor, nurse and best friend.
They are all eager, anxious, excited — and worried about the health of the baby. In that way, this ultrasound is like most.
But what’s happening in this room is anything but routine: Jessica, 28, is hooked on opioids and detoxing during pregnancy. Dr. Craig Towers is the pioneering — and controversial — obstetrician shattering the common medical belief that this approach could lead to the death of the fetus.
Moments earlier, Jessica’s baby underwent a stress test to see how she was progressing, a way to make sure the stress of detoxing is not harming the child. “She didn’t like it at all,” says Jessica, who is in her 35th week of pregnancy.

Tell us your story of how you or a loved one is working through an addiction to opioids or other painkilling drugs, from successes to struggles. Text/WhatsApp us at +1-347-322-0415

“It means that she’s paying attention to what’s going on,” says Towers, who specializes in high-risk pregnancies at the University of Tennessee Medical Center.
Jessica admits to making many mistakes, but here, she is making what she says is the best choice of her life: getting clean for her baby. She also has an 8-year-old son who has been raised by her mom. She hopes detoxing will further heal their relationship.
A tattoo above her heart reads “From pain comes strength.”
She wishes she could lean over her belly, put her lips by her daughter’s head and whisper to her about life lessons. “I’m working on building our relationship and trying so hard. I mainly want her to know that I won’t make those choices any more.”
Jessica marvels at the screen. “Is that her little face?”
“Yeah, that’s a cheek,” Towers says.
“She’s got chubby cheeks,” Jessica replies.
When Jessica first came to Towers four months ago, she was taking a standard opioid-based maintenance medication, called Subutex, meant to keep her from getting her fix from the street. She had been told at a drug maintenance clinic that detoxing would kill her fetus.
When she went to a doctor who she hoped could deliver her child, Jessica was humiliated. She had informed the doctor she was taking Subutex to tamp down her urge for painkillers. The doctor, she says, told her they don’t “take irresponsible patients.”
“I was just so upset, because they just shunned us away,” she says.
The maintenance clinic then referred her to the University of Tennessee Medical Center. Jessica first visited a doctor at the hospital’s prenatal clinic in December and was introduced to Emily Katz, the substance abuse coordinator in Towers’ office. Katz saw a young woman who needed help — but, more important, wanted help.
“We snatched her up,” she says. “There was just a spark in her. When I told Jessica, ‘I think we can help you,’ tears just streamed down her face.”
It’s now mid-March. Towers has weaned Jessica off the medication slowly, with Jessica making the hour-long trip from her home in Morristown to his office every two weeks, almost always accompanied by her best friend, Stephanie Moore. Today, Stephanie chimes in with cheerful jokes about the baby’s stubbornness, similar to her mother’s.
In between visits, Jessica texts and phones Katz, who was motivated to help others after her brother died of an overdose. The two have become so close over the months that both say they’re like twins separated at birth. Jessica has nicknamed Katz “Nurse Barbie” for her attractiveness and her straight blonde hair.
    On this day, Katz quietly observes during the ultrasound, making her show of support by just being there.
    Jessica went completely off the opioids over the past week, a critical juncture during any detoxification. She suffered through diarrhea and other ailments. Only once did she give into her urge, taking one Subutex pill. “It sucks,” she says.
    In those down moments, Stephanie and Katz remind her why she’s going through this: that the struggle is worth the pain.
    But even with all that Jessica has endured, there’s no guarantee her baby will be free of the violent tremors and excruciating pain that marks those born to addicted mothers. About one in five women who detox in Towers’ program still sees her baby suffer withdrawal after birth, depending on how early in pregnancy the mothers were able to become drug-free and how their bodies metabolize the opioids still in their systems.
    Towers assures Jessica that her baby will be safe if she continues to not use. With the due date a month away, he says he wants to begin seeing her twice a week to make sure she stays on track.
    Her pregnancy was not planned, and Jessica worries that child services could take her daughter away because of her history of drug abuse.
    “The only way they would take her from you is if you were using something off the street or if there’s something in your drug screen that wasn’t prescribed to you,” Towers says. “That’s why I just want to see you a lot, make sure you’re doing OK, and if there’s any issues, we prevent a relapse.”
    The next few weeks will prove critical. Jessica will lean on this supportive cast: the doctor, her best friend and “Nurse Barbie.”
    Towers knows all too well what’s at stake. Three days earlier, an expectant woman who he hoped would enroll in his program was found dead of an overdose, the first such death this year in Knox County.

    Concerns over relapse risk

    Every 25 minutes in America, a baby is born in withdrawal from opioids. They shake violently, vomit constantly and scream incessantly. Upon arrival in this world, one of the first things the newborns are given is an opioid to lessen the intensity of their shakes.
    Delivery rooms have become overwhelmed, especially along the Appalachia corridor stretching from Ohio and West Virginia into Kentucky and down to this northeast corner of Tennessee. The average hospital stay for a baby suffering withdrawal lasts about 17 days, costing more than $66,000 per child, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    Tennessee alone experienced a 15-fold increase in babies going through withdrawal from 2002 to 2012. And the numbers have continued to rise.
    How to treat these babies has become a matter of urgency among doctors, clinicians, researchers and social workers. Are we failing these newborns? What are we not doing that we should? Can more be done on the front end to prevent the shaking and vomiting?
    Almost everyone agrees that the nation must tackle this issue with a comprehensive approach. But the opinions on what to do vary. Long-standing guidance from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists on detoxification during pregnancy has been this: “Withdrawal from opioid use during pregnancy is associated with poor neonatal outcomes, including early preterm births or fetal demise, and with higher relapse rates among women.”
      At a summit on prescription drug and heroin abuse in Atlanta in April, participants from across the country discussed the increasing number of babies going through withdrawal and how to best care for them and their mothers. Experts stressed the need for better treatment programs for pregnant women, especially in rural America.
      Detoxification during pregnancy wasn’t considered a viable policy approach at the conference. Some experts said it would be careless — even reckless. Even if detoxing were medically safe, they said, the risk of relapse was too great, putting newborns in danger as soon as they went home.
      “My biggest worry about detoxing in pregnancy are rates of relapse,” says Dr. Stephen Patrick, assistant professor of pediatrics and health policy at Vanderbilt University and an attending neonatologist.
      Recent studies have found that women who use opioids have a 40% to 70% rate of relapse, Patrick said. He said he admires Towers’ work to try to improve outcomes, but there are too many “questions about detoxification and pregnancy.”
      “I would never say that detoxification may not be the right thing for an individual woman, in the right setting with the right supports,” Patrick added. “It’s just that overall, I find it worrisome because of relapse rates.”
      One couldn’t help but wonder: Why would a doctor stake his career on something so risky?

      ‘We can win’

      Towers, 62, never expected to be a trailblazer in this field. He’d followed the protocol for nearly four decades: Never detox an expectant mother because of the possibility of “fetal demise,” the clinical term for a stillbirth.
      But about the time he arrived at the University of Tennessee Medical Center seven years ago, the opioid epidemic hit. Women kept asking why they couldn’t detox during pregnancy.
      He looked into the research, expecting to confirm everything he’d followed for years. “To my surprise,” he says, “I found it came from two case reports.”
      Those two cases in the 1970s set the course for doctors to advise against detoxification. Towers dug further and found that five other, mostly overlooked studies involving about 300 women had been done over a 23-year period beginning in the 1990s. Each indicated that detoxification didn’t pose a risk to the fetus.
      He embarked on his own study and found detox to be safe. “Over the last six years, I’ve detoxed more than 500 women without a loss,” he says. “There really is no data in the literature to support that detoxification will kill the baby. Like I said, it came from a propagation of two single case reports in the literature in the 1970s.”
      Detoxification, he admits, is not for every woman. His patients have horrific back stories that too often include rape, physical abuse and generational addiction. “Each case is complicated,” he says. “We never coerce anybody or shame them into detox. The patient has to be interested in this. Otherwise, they’re not going to succeed.”
      Like others, Towers worries about relapse. When he started his detoxification program, the rate of relapse among the participating mothers was more than 70%, compared with 40% and 60% for all people in addiction treatment nationwide.
      Four years ago, he hired Katz so women could stay in constant contact with his office throughout their pregnancies and for eight weeks after they leave the hospital. He hopes to increase that supervision time to six months to a year. But already, he says, the rate of relapse since adding the behavioral health component has dropped to around 17%.
        Not a single woman has fatally overdosed after going through his program. “Knock on wood,” he says.
        He gives speeches across the country to spread the news of his research, and he meets with insurance companies in hopes they will pay for it. To deny women who want to get clean the opportunity to do so is wrong, he says, especially as they enter the crucial role of becoming a mother.
        “This is a treatable disorder, and we can win,” he says. “Hopefully, one of these days, we’ll change the protocol for the country. We just have to continue plugging away.”
        And shouldn’t the medical community try to stop generational addiction in the womb, he wonders, rather than allowing the cycle to continue?
        CNN asked to follow one of Towers’ patients during the detoxification process. Jessica agreed to share her story, but only in the confines of his office. She didn’t want to draw attention in her small town and wanted to protect her son from cameras.
        “The main thing I want people to know is to take my testimony of where I was to where I am now,” she says. “And maybe if it can help one person make a better decision, then it would be worth it.”
        She calls Towers’ office a “godsend” for getting her on the road to sobriety, something she says she could never do on her own. When she first came to his office, she was taking 8 milligrams a day of Subutex. Some days, she took twice that amount.
        She’d been told that her baby would die if she tried to detox, so she was following the maintenance therapy program prescribed to her by the previous clinic. She wept when Towers told her that if she stayed on that level of Subutex, her baby might suffer withdrawal in the weeks following birth.
        “I told him I wanted to be off of it, but I just didn’t know how to be off of it,” she says. “That’s what started the whole thing of him helping me.”
        Jessica works in an assisted-living community. She likes helping the elderly, speaking with them and hearing their life stories. She’s pushed through days of feeling horrible and the terrible loneliness brought on by detoxification.
        “It’s always that wage of war in your mind — that you feel so crappy. It’s so hard to try and do the right thing,” she says. “You have those thoughts of, ‘why have I done this?’ “
        Her friend Stephanie has talked her off the ledge in moments of desperation. “When I want to make a stupid decision,” Jessica says, “she yells at me.”
        “I have a really good support system, but I had to choose to walk away from all the negative people in my life.”
        Jessica has lost more than 10 friends to overdoses in recent years — a stark reminder of the need to stay sober.

        Two ‘great childhoods’ diverged

        Jessica and Stephanie met at church 21 years ago. Jessica was 8; Stephanie was 9. Stephanie immediately stole Jessica’s Bible, starting their relationship off with a tussle.
        But soon, a friendship blossomed. They sang in a choir in their hometown of Morristown and took up leadership positions in church. Through youth group, they went on vacations to places like Destin, Florida, and Dollywood.
        Stephanie, the petite one, often ended up underneath her sleeping friend in the backseat on road trips. “She was always like that,” Stephanie says, holding up photographic proof.
        Morristown is a picturesque American landscape in the northeastern corner of Tennessee, where the tops of mountains dance with the clouds and where US and Tennessee flags fly on telephone poles along Main Street.
        Places like the Timeless Elegance Tea Room occupy space near the Jersey Girl Diner downtown. Steps away, the Village Gunsmith Gun Store anchors a corner. A sign posted along a country road advertises “Angus bull for sale.”
        It was an enjoyable youth. “We did everything together,” Stephanie says.
          Adds Jessica, “We really had great childhoods.”
          But their lives took disparate paths. When Jessica was 14, her father died, sending her into a spiral. She began hanging out with 30-year-old meth users. Without even realizing it, she had begun an addiction.
          Stephanie remembers visiting Jessica’s home, watching her zoom around the house with a vacuum cleaner, sweating up a storm, zonked out of her mind. Stephanie opened one of Jessica’s makeup kits and found a meth pipe.
          “That’s when I realized that we’re probably not on the same path,” Stephanie recalls.
          They drifted apart in high school. Jessica became unrecognizable. She was manipulative, cunning, deceitful. She pushed away everyone who loved her.
          Her mom had always been her rock. But Jessica wrecked that relationship. She had an unplanned pregnancy when she was 20. Her mom has essentially raised the boy. By 22, Jessica’s relationship with her mother “was gone.”
          “She was so scared that she was going to get that phone call,” Jessica says, crying.
          Her meth addiction had only grown. She’d take anything she could get her hands on.
          Three years ago, she underwent back surgery and got hooked on opioids at warp speed. She’d go through a month’s worth of prescription pills in a week and scramble to feed her habit for the rest of the month. She couldn’t hold down a job.
          “I couldn’t do anything but be strung out, pretty much,” she says. “It just grabs a hold of you, and you lose sight of reality — and before you know it, it’s just too late.”
          The opioids provided a high like she’d never felt. Like many who get hooked on painkillers, she eventually graduated to heroin, overdosing twice.
          “I just wasn’t me. You could look at me and see I wasn’t there,” she says. “They took my life away. They took my soul away.”
          She ended up homeless and, at one point, was raped. “It was just horrible,” she weeps.
          Jessica has worked to repair her relationship with her mother — something “that I’ve missed since I was 16 years old.” Her mother is supportive of the pregnancy and says she’s excited for the birth of her granddaughter. “She’s my No. 1,” says Jessica.
          Jessica has restored her relationship with her son. She wears a necklace he gave her; on it hangs an infinity sign and the word “Mom.”
          “I put him through so much, so much. My mom pretty much had to raise him because I couldn’t step up.”
          She hopes that will never be the case with her daughter.
          At one of her son’s football practices last summer, she ran into Stephanie. They realized just how much they missed each other. Their old friendship was rekindled.
          Jessica was in Stephanie’s garden when she learned that she was pregnant. Jessica cried, thinking there was no way she could care for the child. Stephanie, who has a son about the same age as Jessica’s, reassured her that the child would be her greatest blessing.
          Stephanie accompanied Jessica to the first ultrasound. When the two heard the heartbeat, they knew they couldn’t abandon the pregnancy. She and Stephanie would make the journey together. “I see this baby as mine, too,” says Stephanie.
          Stephanie says Towers’ work has been transformative: “I have my best friend back, and I would just like to keep her.”
          The two got tattoos on their feet not long after Jessica began her journey to get clean. Their choices reveal the yin and yang of their friendship.
          “You keep me safe,” says Stephanie’s tattoo.
          And Jessica’s: “You keep me wild.”

          ‘You got to want it, too’

          Jessica sits down in a small office with Katz to have a heart-to-heart talk.
          The nurse stays in near-constant contact with 80 women in the high-risk unit. They text, email and talk by cell phone at all hours.
          “We’re not going to judge them for their past,” she says.
          Katz tells each woman about her brother, who died in 2009 from an overdose of methadone and other drugs. He left behind an 18-month-old boy. The pain of that memory still brings tears eight years later. She promised her young nephew that something good would come from his father’s death.
          When she heard that Towers needed help, she knew she had a new purpose in life.
          “I treat each one of these girls like they’re my sister, like they’re my best friend, like they’re my daughter,” she says, “because we have a common denominator.
          “Every day, this is my passion that I get to sit before these girls. I share my testimony, and they get to share theirs. That relationship builds trust more than just nurse to patient. It’s more than that.”
          Jessica confides that she took 2 milligrams of Subutex the day before. “I wish I wouldn’t have even broke down yesterday, but I just couldn’t do it,” she says.
          Katz looks her in the eyes. “I know, it’s hard,” she says.
          Stephanie braids Jessica’s hair to pass the time. They tell the nurse they’ve been friends for more than 20 years, with major ups and downs. “It’s good now,” Jessica says.
          She hoped to avoid a cesarean section, but in the end, a vaginal birth was not an option. The C-section has been planned for shortly after noon. Jessica can’t contain her giddiness. “I’ve been picturing what she might look like,” she says.
          “I’m nervous. I’m just ready to see her,” Jessica says. “It’s been hard, but it’s probably one of the best things I’ve done. For sure.”
          There’s a chattiness about the room. Jessica debates her mom: What football team should her son play on?
          There’s paperwork galore to be signed, too.
          Katz pops into the room. Jessica greets her with a joke: “Where’s Dr. Towers at? I was about to yell at him if he didn’t let you come.”
          The two laugh. The night before, they weren’t laughing. Consumed by an overwhelming sense of impending motherhood, Jessica freaked out. She called Katz from a different phone than usual. Katz was at dinner and let it ring because she didn’t recognize the number. Immediately, a text pinged Katz’s phone: “This is Jessica. Call me.”
          Knowing that a fragile state can lead to relapse, Katz stopped what she was doing. “I can’t do this,” Jessica told her. “I’m not ready.”
          Katz spoke gently and talked her down. She told Jessica that she was ready and that she could do this. It was mostly a fear of the unknown — a vulnerable expectant mother needing someone to speak with in the moment.
          Says Katz: “I told her, ‘You’re not going to back out now.’ “
          A stream of nurses and medical professionals comes and goes in Jessica’s room. She’d hoped that both Stephanie and her boyfriend could both be in the operating room for the delivery. But Towers breaks the bad news: She must choose only one. “I tried, but there’s not enough space,” he tells her. “You can be mad at me.”
          He encourages her to pick the most supportive person. Smiling, Jessica says, “If they fight about it too much, then my mom is going.”
          She ultimately chooses her boyfriend, saying she can’t deny him the right to see the moment his daughter is born. Soon, Dad-to-be is a ball of nerves. He has to leave the room when her IV is inserted; how’s he going to handle when her belly is sliced open?
          “You better not pass out,” Jessica warns.
          The nurse tells him a drape will block the view. “Just sit there and look at her, not to the left or right,” she advises.
          He nods, climbs into Jessica’s bed and kisses her. Mom and Stephanie crowd around, and a final selfie is snapped.
          At 12:44 p.m., Jessica learns that it’s time.
          “I’ll see you in a minute,” Towers says. “You’re going to do good.”
          Her mom says, “You got this, honey.”
          “Good luck,” adds Stephanie.
          Jessica gets wheeled down the hall to the operating room. On a whiteboard is a message stating today’s goal: “Healthy mom & baby!”

          Welcome, Jayda Jewel

          Towers paces outside the operating room, dressed in blue scrubs and a surgical cap. He removes his wedding band and ties it around the drawstring on his pants. He tapes his surgical mask to his face so his glasses won’t fog up.
          Inside, Jessica has been given a spinal tap to numb the pain. Surgical drapes cover Jessica’s body, and the room is abuzz with organized chaos.
          Katz pauses outside the room. She prays for God to be with Towers and to give Jessica the strength to get through the surgery and for the child to be born healthy. Then she heads into the room.
          “You’re doing great, Jessica,” says Dr. Kim Fortner, a member of the medical team. “We’re all right here. It’s almost over, OK?”
          A look of excruciating pain spreads across Jessica’s face.
          “Think about her sweet baby cheeks, Jessica,” says nurse Kirby Ginn.
          Moments later, at 1:32 p.m., a beautiful baby girl with chubby cheeks and a patch of brown hair emerges. Jayda Jewel Hill lets out two loud screams.
          Towers and his team quickly clean her up and swaddle her in a blanket adorned with teddy bears. She weighs in at 6 pounds and stretches 17 inches.
          “Are you ready to see her?” the nurse asks.
          “Yes, ma’am,” Jessica replies.
          Her daughter is placed across her chest. Jessica cradles her with both hands, her right hand patting her back.
          “Aww,” Jessica says.
          “She looks great,” Towers says.
          The baby coughs a few times, worrying Jessica.
          “Why is she coughing like that?” she says.
          Caught up in the moment, the father seems to miss the question, asking a nurse to take a photo of him with his daughter.
          He clutches the swaddled newborn and leans in next to Jessica’s face — the birthing room in the era of social media. “Hi, little gorgeous. Hi there, beautiful. Look, there’s your momma,” the gleeful father says.
          The baby coughs a few more times. “Is she OK?” Jessica asks.
          Towers explains that the baby sucked in amniotic fluid during surgery. The fluid will be removed from her lungs; it’s nothing to be worried about, he assures her.
          Katz leans in and holds Jessica’s right hand. She tells her to stay strong, that her daughter is healthy. She tells her the baby is going to be taken away to be observed in the neonatal intensive care unit.
          Just before stitching Jessica up, Towers uses a non-opioid drug similar to novocaine to dull the pain for 24 hours. Jessica also receives Tylenol IV and an anti-inflammatory drug, Toradol.
          “She’s hoping to not need any pain pills,” he says. “It is major surgery. Your abdomen is open, so it hurts.”
          Anything to avoid relapse.

          Bucking the trend

          Less than 24 hours after the birth, more than 150 doctors, nurse practitioners and other health officials from across East Tennessee gather in an auditorium at the UT medical center.
          On stage, Towers steps through a slideshow presentation of opioid use disorder in pregnancy. He reels off stats from the CDC: From 2000 to 2015, more than half a million people died from drug overdoses, including 183,000 people from prescription opioids. “Unfortunately, we’re only getting worse,” he says.
          In Tennessee, he notes, three people die from overdoses every day. He talks about his findings, of the women who’ve detoxed in his program. “We’re bucking the trend,” Towers says.
          “I’m passionate because I just believe it’s the right way to do medicine,” he says. “We don’t always succeed. I don’t know anyone who succeeds all the time when dealing with addiction. But my passion comes from the ones that we’ve delivered that don’t have (withdrawal) and the look in the mother’s eye when they say, ‘You saved my life.’
          “I don’t think you can get any better response from a patient.”
          Shortly after the speech, he takes an elevator to the third floor and visits Jessica and her baby. Jessica sports a pink T-shirt that says “Don’t want to be here.”
          “We want to be home,” she says.
          Jayda Jewel, nicknamed JJ, looks like the perfect child, with big eyes, content in her mother’s arms. She shows no signs of withdrawal, although symptoms can take a couple of days to appear.
          Jessica hugs the doctor. “I couldn’t have done this without you and Emily,” she says.
          Outside Towers’ presence, Stephanie repeats that sentiment, telling Jessica, “You’re so lucky you got him.”
          “If it weren’t for this baby, you might not have got off Subutex ever.”
          Over the next several days, Jayda Jewel exhibits no signs of withdrawal, but Jessica’s pain intensifies. She’s given three Vicodin pills, an opioid painkiller. The typical C-section patient gets 10, Towers says.
          Jessica had hoped to be given an opioid blocker called Vivitrol, which can resist the urge to use for up to a month. But to get it, her system must be clear of opioids for seven days. Towers expects to be able to give her the medicine in her followup appointment. “She felt bad about that,” he says.
          But still, she succeeded. Her baby was born healthy.
          Four days after the birth, Jessica straps Jayda Jewel in a car seat in her hospital room and then climbs into a wheelchair to be escorted out of the facility. Mom and daughter head down an elevator and out the front door.

          See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.

          Towers and Katz meet them at their car. Jessica places her baby inside and turns toward them.
          “We made it,” Jessica says, wrapping her arms around her “Nurse Barbie.” “I love you.”
          “I love you, too,” Katz responds.
          Then Jessica hugs Towers again.
          The car soon disappears around the corner, onto the highway and off to their hometown. Together, mother and daughter begin new lives.

          Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/05/health/opioid-detox-during-pregnancy/index.html

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          Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Female genital mutilation and what we’re really talking about beneath the weasel words ‘genital cutting’

          The recent news that a grand jury in Michigan has indicted three people, including two doctors, for female genital mutilation is a welcome development. As the first ever prosecutions of this crime in the United States, the case shines much needed light on an underground human rights abuse that has been going on for too long. Female genital mutilation has been deliberately covered up by those practicing it here or sending their daughters overseas during summer break to be mutilated outside of the law.

          Yet, ham-fisted attempts to appear culturally sensitive by the likes of the New York Times reporting on this story will push these issues underground once more. The newspapers Health and Science Editor wrote that referring to female genital mutilation as genital cutting is less culturally loaded and will help to bridge a gap between those who practice FGM and those who campaign against it. In her eyes its a case of Africa vs. the West.

          As an African who was subjected to FGM, now living in the West, allow me to help bridge that gap by explaining what were really talking about beneath the weasel words genital cutting.

          There are five types of female genital mutilation performed on girls from as young as five years of age. Four of them are unarguably mutilation, and the other is designed to symbolize mutilation. I will start with the mildest.

          1. The nick: The girl is held down, her legs pushed apart and a needle is used to prick her clitoris. The incision is similar to a finger prick test for diabetes, blood comes out and the girl is considered cleansed. Often there is a ritual with a little party to celebrate the procedure.

          2. Female circumcision: The second method in terms of severity is often compared to male circumcision. The hood of the clitoris is cut off, in some cases the tip of the clitoris is cut off, known as clitoridectomy. In this form, an otherwise normally functioning body part is sliced off and thrown out. Disfiguring a little girls genitals in this way cannot rationally be considered anything but mutilation.

          3. Intermediate infibulation: In the third form of FGM, as much of the clitoris as possible is dug out and removed. The inner labia are cut off and the outer labia are sewn together leaving two small holes for urination and menstruation. In places where this is done without medical intervention girls have been known to bleed to death. After infibulation is done it is imperceptible what has taken place when the girl stands up with her legs together, but in the obstetricians position it is clearly visible that parts of her genitals have been removed and sewn up.

          Sadly, we are only just past half way and female genital mutilation gets worse. No doubt setting out these practices in detail is disturbing but it is crucial that we speak openly about what is taking place rather than shroud it in euphemism so as not to cause offence.

          4. Total infibulation: In the fourth type of FGM the clitoris and inner labia are cut off and the outer labia are cut or scraped off too, then sewn up. When the girl stands, even with her legs closed, her genitals clearly look different.  

          5. Vaginal fusing: In the fifth type of FGM, which is rarely discussed, all of the fourth type is done and then the inner walls of the vagina are scratched to cause bleeding and the sewing is again done. The girls feet are tied together in an effort to fuse the two sides of the vagina with scar tissue to close it up. Children can die undergoing this.

          It is hard for people outside of communities practicing FGM to understand what is taking place. One example that has stayed with me over the years was a woman in the Netherlands that I translated for. I accompanied her to visit an obstetrician as she was having great difficulty with urination and menstruation. She showed the doctor her genitals after being subjected to the fifth and most severe type of FGM with her genitals completely removed. The stunned doctor asked if she had been burned. He could not believe that what had been done to her was deliberate, he assumed it must have been a horrific accident. But, it was no accident.

          Its for women like her that I started the AHA Foundation as a resource to help women and girls who are truly bridging the gap between worlds and cultures. They are living in the United States under the protection of our laws and Constitution but suffering human rights abuses imported from overseas.

          The aim of FGM in all its forms is to control female sexuality. The clitoris is removed to take physical pleasure from sex and reduce the libido. In its more severe forms, involving sewing the genitals up, the aim is to ensure the girl is a virgin on her wedding night. Many women must be surgically re-opened (or simply with a pen knife or razor blade) in order to consummate their marriage.  The consequences of FGM are ongoing psychological and physical harms from infections to fistulas and even death.

          Even in its most mild form, the nick procedure involves a young girl being held down by her loved ones and a needle poked into one of her most sensitive body parts. The moment this is done the child becomes sexually aware, she can now be a temptation to men, she can destroy her familys so-called honor and must now behave in certain ways around boys to demonstrate her modesty.

          The debate around nicking, which had been previously settled, was revived again last year by an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics. The authors argued that nicking the vulva or cutting out the hood of the clitoris (FGM forms 1 and 2 above) are less harmful and should be tolerated by liberal societies. These practices, they suggest, are ethically acceptable and not contraventions of girls human rights.

          Indeed, like the New York Times, these academics argue that referring to modest forms of FGM mutilation is culturally insensitive and demonizes important cultural practices. Yet the meaning of those important cultural practices is not examined beneath their ethical lens. Notoriously academics and politically correct apologists like them assume any claim of culture is by rights a good thing and trumps other considerations.

          Seeing as they are so reluctant to critique cultural practices, other than those of powerful, white men, I will do it for them. The nick symbolizes and communicates to little girls that their natural state is unclean and that pain must be inflicted on their genitals to make them acceptable to their communities.

          FGM is the symptom of harmful cultural beliefs that girls and women must be sexually pure, modest and that their bodies exist to breed. Whether its justified by being a Muslim, Egyptian, Indian, Jewish, black, a woman or any other category venerated in the identity politics pantheon, these beliefs are not compatible with liberal societies that profess to ensure the human rights of their citizens.

          I encourage anyone interested to stop this barbaric practice happening in the United States to contact us www.ahafoundation.org.

          Ayaan Hirsi Ali is founder of the AHA Foundation, which exists to protect women and girls from abuses of the sort described in this article. She is also a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford.

          Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/04/28/ayaan-hirsi-ali-female-genital-mutilation-and-what-were-really-talking-about-beneath-weasel-words-genital-cutting.html

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          How To Talk Dirty Without Embarrassing Yourself

          News flash: Dirty talk sounds way easier than it is. You might think that its just murmuring sexy nonsense into someones ear until youre both so overcome with animal lust you tear the clothes off each other, but in practice, its just as likely to give you stage fright as it is a lady bonerat least at first. Let me tell you, nothing kills the mood faster than drawing a deep breath, leaning in close enough to regret how much Axe body spray your date wears, and completely losing your grasp of the English language. Its like when you gave your first-ever book report presentation in third grade, except this time youre half-naked and the stakes are much higher. Either way, the outcome is still the same: muttering some nonsensical word and excusing yourself to the bathroom, awkward silence still ringing in your ears. And while your sexting game is on point, IRL dirty talk is a whole other game. Your DMs to this dude may read like a novel, but suddenly you’re in person and end up blurting out something like, “your penis is very round” and the mood is officially killed. 

          But thats the worst case scenario. Dirty talk takes practice as much as anything else, and if theres anything worth putting effort into, obviously its getting laid. For future reference, here are the ins and outs of dirty talk (pun obviously intended).

          Step 1: Start Vanilla

          First of all, and most importantly, resist the temptation to blurt out the absolute nastiest shit that’s on your mind. That way lies awkwardness and wilted boners. Start super vanilla at firstdont expect some dude you met on Tinder to be chill with you calling him daddy right off the bat. Focus on the easy stuff at first: why he turns you on, what you want him to do next, etc. (If youre a control freak in bed, dirty talk should be right up your alley.) You can always get weird later, but as far as dirty talk goes, it’s a bit of a “crawl before you walk” situation. Like, if you can’t describe where on your body you want your partner to touch you, you’re probably not going to be able to weave some elaborate whispered role play scenario in which he’s a wealthy foreign prince and you’re the maid assigned to clean his sex dungeon. I mean, get to that eventually but start with the basics. 

          Step 2: Practice Sexting

          Sexting is something that anyone with a Snapchat or a Tinder account probably has at least some level of comfort doing, but its also the best place to start practicing your dirty talk. If you cant be sexy over text, where you can respond after five minutes of agonizing and don’t have to watch the confusion on his face when he reads your sext, youre definitely going to have trouble dirty talking in person. Also, just as importantly, you dont even have to leave the house to sext someone. And even more importantly, you can’t just stop responding once he shows you his weird crooked penis in real life the way you can over text. 

          Step 3: Know Your Fantasies

          If youve tried dirty talk before but your mind always goes blank, its time to put your vast stores of creativity and your favorite Ludacris song to work. Figure out your favorite fantasies and use those to guide what youre talking about at first. Do you want to get spanked? Nows the chance. Have you always wanted to do weird stuff with food? No time like the present. Do you have a recurring sex dream about Jeff Goldblum in a firefighters uniform? Maybe keep that one to yourself. Basically, dont stick to a script or anything, but it helps to have something to come back to if you run out of ideas. Which you probably will, unless that Jeff Goldblum fantasy turns out to be an unexpected hit. Weirder things have happened.

          Step 4: Do Your Homework

          Start paying attention to what turns you on outside of actually having sex. If your panties automatically drop when your SO wears a suit, or he does a Thing (capital T very much necessary) when youre having sex that opens the vaginal floodgates, remember it, and tell him at an opportune moment. Or an inopportune one, but for gods sake, use your judgment in that case. Dont try to dirty talk someone at their moms birthday dinner or something. Unless that’s what you’re into. Just don’t be surprised when his mom asks what you guys are whispering about and he immediately bursts into tears. 

          Step 5: Dont Overthink

          Reading all this shit makes dirty talk sound way more complicated than it is. I know youre already writing a script in your head for next time you hook up, and I need you to chill TF out immediately. You cant rehearse dirty talking the way you would with a presentation. Do you want to sound like a politician giving a campaign speech about riding dick? No. No, you do not. Just remember, like literally everything that happens during sex, it’s all gross and awkward when out of the moment. Aside from the exceptional “throwing up while giving a blowjob” or “guy who cries when he finishes,” most people forget all the little awkward things that happened and just remember the fact that they got laid. If people remembered every awkward moment (or smell) that occurred during sex, they literally wouldn’t have it, so cut yourself a break if you say the wrong thing or totally blank and call his dick by your dad’s name. He’s way more concentrated on the fact that he’s inside you. (But maybe talk about that dad thing with your therapist?) 

          Step 6: Know When To Stop

          Not everyone is meant for dirty talk. If youve tried it a few times and nobodys enjoying it, theres no rule saying you have to keep digging yourself into an awkward, unsexy hole. Not everything works for everyone, and not all dick is created equal. Maybe you had a previous partner who was amazing at dirty talk, but your new guy is more into shutting the fuck up and going down on you for hourscertainly nothing wrong with that. 

          Also, your partner might just be a prude, but youre the one who picked him. 

          Read more: http://www.betches.com/how-to-talk-dirty-without-embarrassing-yourself

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          9 early signs of pregnancy that are easy to miss

          If youre trying to get pregnant, it can seem like eternity until you get a positive pregnancy test. To make it even more of a challenge, many of  the early signs of pregnancy can be mistaken for your menstrual period, a stomach bug or even stress.

          Heres how to tell whether your symptoms are early signs of pregnancy or something else.

          1. Increased vaginal discharge
          If you notice an increase in vaginal discharge, you might think you have a vaginal yeast infection or, if your cycles are irregular, you might think youre ovulating.

          But leucorrhea, a clear, odorless vaginal discharge that doesnt cause itching, is an early sign of pregnancy. Leucorrhea is a result of the increased blood supply to the vaginal and genital regions which increases vaginal fluid, Dr. Alyssa Dweck, a board-certified OB-GYN in Mt. Kisco, New York, and author of The Complete A to Z for Your V, told Fox News.

          STI SIGNS: HOW TO KNOW IF YOU’RE NORMAL DOWN THERE

          2. Spotting and cramping
          Its easy to mistake spotting and cramping for the start of your period, but it can also mean youre pregnant. Often times when the embryo implants in the uterus, [women] can have some spotting or light bleeding that oftentimes [they] will mistake as a period, Dr. Kelly Kasper, a board-certified OB/GYN at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis, told Fox News.

          Although this implantation bleed is nothing to worry about, its always a good idea to put a call into your doctor if you have any of these symptoms to rule out miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when the embryo implants itself in the fallopian tube or in the abdomen. This condition affects between 1 and 2 percent of pregnancies, according to a 2014 article in the journal American Family Physician.

          3. Fatigue
          Its easy to blame feeling run down on clocking long hours in the office, a hard workout, lack of sleep or stress. Yet for some women fatigue, especially if its overwhelming, is the first sign that theyre pregnant.

          4. Strong or brittle nails
          Many women notice that their nails are stronger than ever, and although this is due in part to pregnancy hormones, taking prenatal vitamins before conceiving has a lot to do with it too. 

          HOW TO GET PREGNANT IF YOU AREN’T GETTING YOUR PERIOD

          5. Increased sense of smell
          If you live for your cup of joe in the morning but all of a sudden the aroma makes you sick, you might want to take a pregnancy test. Sense of smell can become extraordinarily keen, and in fact, certain smells that people might have enjoyed in the past, they may find to be totally nauseating, Dweck said.  

          6. Bloating and constipation
          Its easy to blame bloating, gas or any change in bowel habits on a change in diet, a vacation or PMS. In the early weeks of pregnancy when progesterone starts to rise, however, everything can slow down. If youre craving carb-heavy fare and cant stomach vegetables, it can also affect your GI tract.

          7. Frequent urination
          An increase in both blood volume and the filtration rate of the kidneys will make it so that you need to urinate more frequently.

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          8. Mood swings
          Chalk it up to not sleeping well, PMS or stress, but irritability can mean youre in the early weeks of pregnancy.  

          9. Breast soreness
          If your breasts feel tender or your nipples are sore, its easy to think its your period but often the difference is the severity. Even your shirt touching your nipples could be noticeable, Dweck said.  

          Julie Revelant is a health journalist and a consultant who provides content marketing and copywriting services for the healthcare industry. She’s also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.

          Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/lifestyle/2017/06/16/9-early-signs-pregnancy-that-are-easy-to-miss.html

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          How exercise can improve your sex life

          In the new book Fitter Faster ($17, amazon.com), health journalist Robert J. Davis and celebrity trainer Brad Kolowich, Jr. share one more excellent reason to break a sweat.

          Youve likely heard that regular exercise can reduce the risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or osteoporosis. But a growing body of research shows it may have another, more surprising effect: improving your sex life.

          In men, regular exercise appears to be a natural Viagra. Its associated with a lower risk of erectile problems. In one study, sedentary middle-aged men assigned to participate in a vigorous exercise program for nine months reported more frequent sexual activity, improved sexual function and greater satisfaction. Those whose fitness levels increased most saw the biggest improvements in their sex lives.

          Research in women has found that those who are physically active report greater sexual desire, arousal and satisfaction than women who are sedentary. In one unusual experiment, young women who did intense cycling for 20 minutes and watched an X-rated film showed greater physiological sexual arousal (as measured by a device that assesses vaginal blood flow) than subjects who did not exercise before seeing the film.

          Increased blood flow helps explain why exercise leads to better sexual function in men as well. An enhanced self-image from exercise may play a role too. Men and women who exercise may be more likely to feel sexually desirable, which can lead to better sex.  So can greater strength, flexibility, and stamina that result from exercise.

          In addition, physical activityespecially strength trainingcan increase levels of testosterone, which may boost sex drive in men and women. However, overtraining can have the opposite effect by lowering testosterone levels. Indeed, a recent study found that that men who do very vigorous exercise on a regular basis tend to have lower libidos. While this is a potential concern for elite athletes or others who push themselves to the max without adequate recovery, its not something that most of us need to worry about.

          RELATED: 13 Truths About Sex Every Woman Must Learn Before Turning 30

          As for the effect of sex on exercise, the conventional wisdom has long been that pre-competition sexual activity reduces aggression and strength. As Rocky Balboas trainer put it in the movie Rocky, women weaken legs.

          But research has yielded little support for the belief.  One study, which involved former male athletes, measured grip strength the morning after theyd had sex with their wives and then repeated the test after the men had abstained for at least six days. There were no differences in test results. Similarly, another study in male athletes found that sexual activity didnt affect performance on a cycle stress test. However, subjects whod had sex two hours before the test had higher heart rates during post-exercise recovery.

          Overall, the research suggests that sex before physical activity doesnt have negative effects as long as theres a lag of at least two hours and the sexual activity doesn’t also involve alcohol, drugs, or sleep loss. In fact, its possible that sex may even enhance athletic performance by helping people relax.

          But much remains unknown, including whether women are affected differently than men. Its likely that the impact of sex on physical activity varies from person to person.

          If youre wondering whether sex counts as exercise, it depends on the length and intensity of your lovemaking. A study of young adults found that sexual activity burned, on average, three or four calories per minute. (Men burned more than women.) The level of intensity was considered moderate, comparable to that of walking or doubles tennis.

          For most people, however, sex doesn’t last as long as those other activities, which means it burns fewer calories overall. In the aforementioned study, when sexual activity was compared to a 30-minute, moderately intense workout on a treadmill, the treadmill burned about three times more calories. But sexual activity did come out ahead in one measure: Nearly 100% of participants rated it as more enjoyable.

          Adapted from Fitter Faster: The Smart Way to Get in Shape in Just Minutes a Day (AMACOM) by Robert J. Davis with Brad Kolowich, Jr.

          This article originally appeared on Health.com.

          Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/lifestyle/2017/06/16/how-exercise-can-improve-your-sex-life.html

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          This Virginia Democratic Primary Is A Crucial Test For The Partys Progressive Wing

          WASHINGTON Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam squares off against progressive favorite Tom Perriello on Tuesday in the states highly competitive Democratic gubernatorial primary, where the left flank hopes national momentum will carry it to a win.

          Thanks to Virginias status as one of two states with gubernatorial races this year (the other is New Jersey), the primary has attracted historic levels of attention and resources from Democrats eager to land a blow against President Donald Trump.

          Northam, a 57-year-old pediatric neurologist, had locked up the support of virtually every major elected official in Virginia and was poised to cruise to the nomination until Perriello, a 42-year-old former diplomat and one-term congressman, announced his run in January.

          Thanks to the endorsements of Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the countrys leading progressive politicians, and firm stances on several controversial issues, Perriello has excited the states younger and more liberal voters, erasing virtually all of Northams lead in the polls.

          As a result, many progressives view the race as a crucial test of whether a more liberal candidate can prevail in a state where moderate Democrats have long ruled the roost.

          This primary is really about what foot the Democratic Party in Virginia is going to lean on, said Quentin Kidd, a Virginia politics expert at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. Its leaned on the right foot for a decade and a half since Mark Warner evolved this model of a Democrat who can win statewide in Virginia. If Perriello wins it means it will lean slightly to the left foot.

          Kidd uses the word lean, because he doesnt think the shift would be any more dramatic than a pivot to the left.

          The Washington Post/Getty Images
          Tom Perriello, left, shakes hands with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam at the start of their first head-to-head debate in Fairfax, Virginia on April 29.

          Nowhere is the potential shift more significant, however, than in the state governments posture toward Dominion Energy, Virginias influential power monopoly.

          Perriello has refused to accept contributions from Dominion and opposes construction of the Atlantic Coastal pipeline, which the company is planning to construct across the state. Northam has declined to take a comparable stance against the natural gas pipeline, favoring tight regulation instead.

          In the end, approval of the pipeline is a matter for federal regulators, but Dominion clearly views Perriellos vocal opposition as a major threat. The company has mobilized tens of thousands of its employees, retirees and shareholders to campaign in the gubernatorial primaries, using thinly veiled language that makes clear they prefer Northam.

          If Northam wins tomorrow, you wont hear much about Dominion any more, because Northam wouldnt make that an issue, Kidd predicted.

          When Perriello got into the race, he immediately began to nationalize the contest, claiming he was inspired to run by Trumps election and pitching himself as a bulwark against the effects of the presidents policies for Virginia.

          What people want to see right now is that willingness to stand up to Trump and limit those really unconscionable and unconstitutional moves and also have a positive vision, he told HuffPost in March.

          Northam initially downplayed the national implications of the race, but soon started incorporating Trump, who he dubbed a narcissistic maniac, into his stump speeches.

          Whatever you call him, were not letting him bring his hate into Virginia, Northam concludes in one of his television advertisements.

          He has also gone toe to toe with Perriello on some of his bolder economic proposals, embracing the $15 minimum wage and putting forward his own free community college plan albeit one that, unlike his opponents, requires community service.

          If Northam wins tomorrow, you wont hear much about Dominion any more, because Northam wouldnt make that an issue. Quentin Kidd, Christopher Newport University

          For some progressive activist supporters of Perriello, however, his early involvement in the anti-Trump resistance won them over. Perriellos presence at Dulles Airport to protest Trumps first travel ban in January and participation in subsequent rallies against the executive order made an impression on Virginia Democratic National Committee member Yasmine Taeb, who is now a vocal supporter of his.

          He has been very committed to running a grassroots, bottom-to-top campaign, said Taeb, who lobbies on civil liberties issues for the Friends Committee on National Legislation. He looks to us for guidance, not the other way around.

          Taeb, like many of Perriellos most enthusiastic supporters, backed Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.

          For several reasons though, Sanders insurgent challenge to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is not an apt parallel for the Perriello-Northam matchup.

          Perriello spent years ensconced in the Democratic Party firmament, including as head of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. And the bid of Sanders acolyte Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison(D-Minn.), to chair the Democratic National Committeewasactively combattedby former President Barack Obama and his aides. But Perriello has attracted the endorsements of more than 30 Obama White House veterans, including close the former presidents confidante Valerie Jarrett. (Northam appealed to former Attorney General Eric Holder to ask Obama not to intervene in the race himself, according to The New York Times.)

          Perriello, a Charlottesville native, became a darling of national Democrats during his time in Congress in 2009-10 for voting enthusiastically for the stimulus package and the Affordable Care Act, in spite of his conservative district, which included a large swath of rural Southside Virginia.

          Obama campaigned for him in his 2010 reelection bid, which Perriello has publicized heavily in his current campaign ads. That anger over the ACA ultimately cost Perriello his seat only improved his standing in the party.

          The Washington Post/Getty Images
          Northam greets supporters in Arlington, Virginia ahead of a candidate forum on May 2.

          But Perriellos time in Congress was also marked by attempts to triangulate on hot-button social issues. He earned an A rating from the National Rifle Association during his 2010 reelection campaign and received a $6,000 donation from the influential group based in Fairfax, Virginia.

          More troubling still for some progressives was Perriellos vote for the Stupak-Pitts Amendment to the ACA, which would have denied federal funding from the new law to any health insurance plans that cover abortions.

          Perriello has since dubbed the NRA a nut-job extremist organization and embraced greater gun safety regulations.

          He has also expressed regret for his vote for Stupak-Pitts, claiming he was honoring a promise to constituents to ensure the ACA complied with the Hyde Amendment, a law barring federal funding of abortions. Now the former congressman has embraced the complete abortion rights agenda and is proposing enshrining a womans right to an abortion in Virginias state constitution as a backstop against a Supreme Court ruling that overturns federal protections for the procedure.

          It is really disturbing to see this play out in Virginia, where the candidate who is considered more progressive has a murky history on abortion rights and Bernie is saying it is an optional part of being progressive. Erin Matson

          But some reproductive rights activists still do not trust Perriello, claiming he has yet to be tested by a vote on the matter since his change of heart. Revelations that in 2004, Periello, a practicing Catholic, co-founded Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a social justice group that has compared abortion to torture and war have only heightened advocates suspicions. The Perriello campaign claims he has nonetheless always been pro-abortion rights.

          Northam, by contrast, has a record of only ever supporting abortion rights, and played a key role in the fight to kill the trans-vaginal ultrasound bill as a state senator in 2012. NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia cited Northams record in its statement endorsing him.

          This is about trust. I know exactly who Ralph Northam is, and I know exactly what Northam will do as governor. He will not stick his fingers up in the air to see which way the political wind is blowing, said Erin Matson, a Virginia-based reproductive rights activist who supports Northam.

          For Matson, the primary is a test of the Democratic Partys commitment to abortion rights at a time when top lawmakers ranging from Sanders to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have loudly proclaimed that Democrats who oppose abortion are welcome in the party.

          It is really disturbing to see this play out in Virginia, where the candidate who is considered more progressive has a murky history on abortion rights and Bernie is saying it is an optional part of being progressive, Matson said.

          The Washington Post/Getty Images
          Tom Perriello greets supporters in Arlington, Virginia ahead of a candidate forum on May 2, 2017.

          In a further twist of the races complicated narrative though, Northam has admitted to voting twice for former President George W. Bush, who appointed two anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court. In 2011, he also called health care a privilege. (He claims he was not following politics closely during the Bush years, and now considers health care a right.)

          On other issues, like overturning Virginias status as a right-to-work state, which Perriello supports, but Northam has demurred on, the contrast between the two candidates is clearer.

          One way or another, Perriellos chances of winning depend on expanding the electorate, since he enjoys the greatest advantages among young people, new voters and Democrats in Southside and Southwestern Virginia who have not voted regularly in primaries, according to Kidd of Christopher Newport University.

          Northams support is concentrated in more reliable Democratic constituencies, including older Democrats and black voters, particularly in central and Southeast Virginia, Kidd added. The key battleground, he said, is in the Washington suburbs of Northern Virginia, where Perriello has been campaigning most heavily in the final weeks.

          There was this pent up energy in the electorate for an alternative to Northam that Perriello tapped into. And that pent up energy has the capacity to surprise people, if the expanded electorate turns out, Kidd concluded. Thats the key.

          Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tom-perriello-ralph-northam-progressive-test_us_593fa541e4b0e84514edf62e

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          Doctor’s call to ‘equally protect’ boys with HPV vaccine – BBC News

          Image copyright Kirsty Bonney
          Image caption Kirsty Bonney says she believes the vaccine should be available to all adolescents

          A mum-of-two is calling for boys to receive a vaccine currently only given to girls to protect against cancer.

          The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) jab is offered to teenage girls in the UK to protect against cervical cancer.

          A health committee will meet later to review whether boys should also be given the jab, which can protect against throat and penile cancers.

          Dr Kirsty Bonney from Devon paid privately for sons Zak, 13 and Finn, 11 to be immunised.

          She made the decision after working on a chemotherapy unit where she looked after two young men with HPV-related throat cancers.

          ‘Fear of cancer’

          She said she wants to see boys “equally protected” with the HPV vaccine rather than risk cancer in later life.

          “I could never really understand why we weren’t vaccinating boys and then I discovered we could have it done privately.

          “I’d be much happier knowing all the boys’ friends were equally protected.

          “I wouldn’t want to be seeing one of their friends in my surgery in a few years time [with cancer] because they hadn’t been vaccinated.

          “[The jab] is certainly not cheap [at 540 for both boys] but the cost of that compared to the thought of them getting a throat cancer puts it into perspective.”

          Image copyright Dr_Microbe
          Image caption Australia, USA, Italy and Canada are among the countries that recommend vaccinating girls and boys

          The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advises UK health departments on immunisation and is considering extending the programme to include boys.

          It said there was increasing evidence on links between HPV infection and other cancers.

          It will discuss the matter at a meeting later and has asked Public Health England to look at the cost effectiveness of such a change.

          Why should boys be vaccinated against HPV?

          Image copyright Getty Images
          • About 15% of UK girls eligible for vaccination are currently not receiving both doses, a figure which is much higher in some areas
          • Men may have sex with women too old to have had the HPV vaccination
          • Men may have sex with women from other countries with no vaccination programme
          • Men who have sex with men are not protected by the girls’ programme
          • The cost of treating HPV-related diseases is high – the cost of treating anogenital warts alone in the UK is an estimated 58.44 million a year, while the additional cost of vaccinating boys has been estimated at about 20 million a year

          Source: HPV Action

          Gary Tanner from Somerset, was diagnosed with HPV-related throat cancer in 2013.

          He has undergone chemotherapy, radiotherapy and had his voice box removed. The 64-year-old said vaccinating girls alone made no sense.

          “I am still living with cancer and most certainly my wife and I are living with the fear of cancer. We know it has shortened my life expectancy.

          “There are vaccines available to prevent to protect people against this. I think they should be used on all available members of the public.”

          Different types of HPV

          Image copyright Getty Images

          Infection with HPV is the cause of almost all cervical cancers.

          However there are more than 100 different types of HPV and infection with other types of the virus may cause:

          • genital warts
          • skin warts and verrucas
          • vaginal cancer or vulval cancer
          • anal cancer or cancer of the penis
          • some cancers of the head and neck
          • laryngeal papillomas (warts on the voice box or vocal cords)

          Source: NHS

          Campaign group HPV Action said it was “unfair that females should be expected to bear sole responsibility for tackling an infection that affects both sexes similarly”.

          In a letter to the JCVI, it said “significant” numbers of men will have sex with unvaccinated women.

          “While private vaccinations can protect individual boys, this is not a solution for the male population as a whole,” a spokesman added.

          Public Health England’s head of immunisation Dr Mary Ramsay said boys are already protected, with around 85% of eligible girls fully immunised.

          She said: “This helps to prevent the spread of the disease in girls and boys.”

          Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-40062677

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          Josh Duggar Has Audacity To Claim Molestation Reports Caused ‘Emotional Injury’

          The Duggar sisters breach-of-privacy suit has taken an even stranger turn now that Josh Duggar who admitted to molesting some of his sistersas a teen is seeking to join those same siblings in legal action over his molestation scandal.

          Last month, Jill, Jessa, Jinger and Joy Duggar filed a federal lawsuit seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages against In Touch magazine and Arkansas law enforcement over police documents released to the tabloid through a Freedom of Information Act request in 2015.

          On Friday, Josh filed a motion asking to join the case, claiming that he has suffered severe emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation and economic harm both to his personal and professional reputations as result ofIn Touchs bombshell report that alleged he molested underage girls.

          In their original lawsuit, the four Duggar sisters claim they were revictimized by the release of the documents that contained cosmetic redactions, which allowed them to be identified as their brothers victims.

          Their lawsuit hinges on the assertion that, according to Arkansas law, information collected involving minors is not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. The sisters claim that when they spoke to investigators as minors in 2006, they were told their statements would not be made public. Josh makes the same claims in his motion to intervene and cites the same law.

          The City of Springdale, which the sisters are also suing, previously dismissed the allegationsin the lawsuit as without merit and false in a statement to the press. In Touch has yet to respond to the lawsuit, but its important to recognize that Joshs name was, in fact, redacted from the police report as required by law. In Touch even noted in the story:

          (Note: Joshs name is redacted from the police report but In Touch has confirmed the passages that refer to him.)

          Instagram
          From left: Jessa Seewald, Joy Duggar, Jill Dillard, Jana Duggar, who is not part of the suit, and Jinger Vuolo.

          Similarly, the police report appears to comply with state law by redacting the names of Joshs victims. In Touch did not identify the victims by name in its reports, and it was Jessa and Jill who identified themselves as two of Joshs five underage victims when they participated in an interview with Megyn Kelly on The Kelly File. With the filing of their lawsuit, Jinger and Joy confirmed they were victims, as well.The identity of the fifth victim remains unknown.

          The sisters claim that by not redacting their parents names, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, In Touch clearly identified the sisters as victims. However, the Duggar parents names did not need to be redacted as they were not minors.

          In his motion to join the suit, Josh also states that while his sisters have been forced to confront traumatic experiences and had the most private and painful aspects of their lived [sic] exposed, they received sympathy worldwide.

          But, Josh goes on to say that theres just no sympathy for himwhos youngest victim was just 5 years old:

          Not so with Movant, however, for which the confidential, highly sensitive, intensely personal and humiliating nature of the information contained in the released reports has subjected him to exposure only in an intensely negative light for actions he engaged in as an indiscrete youth and that will continue to haunt him and cause him financial and emotional injury for the rest of his life.

          The fall out from In Touchs May 2015 report was swift.Josh admitted to molesting underage girls who were later confirmed to be his sisters. He subsequently resignedfrom his job asexecutive directorof Tony Perkins conservative and anti-gay group, Family Research Council Action, and TLCcanceled 19 Kids and Counting.(Josh was back in the headlines overa cheating scandal involving an Ashley Madison account and claims of sex addiction later on.)

          The idea that an admitted child molester could complain about lack of sympathy is inherently ridiculous and a closer look at Joshs motion reveals his claims to be completely contradictory.

          In one breath, without actually mentioning the assaults,he refers to his abuse of his sisters astraumatic experiences and the most private and painful aspects of their lives. He then turns around and attempts to brush off repeated acts of sexual abuse as actions he engaged in as an indiscrete youth. In fact, the words molestation and sexual assault do not appear in Joshs motion at all. There is not even a hint of personal responsibility for his actions in the entire motion.

          Meanwhile, his sisters Jessa and Jill previously said they had forgiven Josh, but the language in their lawsuit says otherwise. In the suit, the sisters state they were sexually assaulted on several occasions by [their] brother, Josh Duggar. The words sexual abuse and sexual assault and molestation are free flowing throughout the suit. Its a far cry from how they previously characterized the incidents as mild, inappropriate touching when they were interviewed by Kelly.

          Via the police report: [Jim Bob Duggar] said that [Josh] had told him that [he] had been touching [redacted] on the breast and vaginal areas while [they] were sleeping. Later in the report [Jim Bob] said there was another incident in March 2003. [Jim Bob] said that [Josh] was reading to [redacted] and [she] was sitting on [his] lap, [Josh] had touched [redacteds] breasts and vaginal area…sometime during this timeframe [Josh] had been standing in the laundry room and [Josh] had put [his] hand under [redacteds] dress.

          Josh is not represented by the same attorneys as his four sisters and it is unclear how they feel about him seeking to join the suit. HuffPost has reached out to lawyers for the Duggar sisters and will update this post accordingly.

          Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/josh-duggar-has-the-audacity-to-claim-molestation-reports-caused-emotional-injury_us_5935fdb8e4b0cfcda917101e