All The Questions Every New Mom Googles After Giving Birth, Answered

Disclaimer: I am NOT a medical professional! I am a writer who happens to be a mother. The responses to the questions listed below are gleaned from personal experience and the research I’ve done in the aftermath of giving birth.

How long does it take for your belly to go back to its normal size after giving birth?

Listen, it took NINE MONTHS for your belly to get to the point where it could house a full-term baby, so chill the fuck out. Give your body a minute, okay? Actually, give it several months. You’re probably still going to look pregnant for awhile. The speed with which your belly returns to its pre-baby shape depends on a lot of factors, including your pre-baby weight, how active you were before and during pregnancy, and your genes. From the second you give birth, hormones are already hard at work signaling your uterus to contract, which is step one in the belly shrinking process. Typically, it takes about 6 to 8 weeks for a woman’s uterus to return to its pre-pregnancy, lemon size. But it’ll be awhile longer before you look and feel like yourself again. In the meantime, be as healthy as possible without putting undue pressure on yourself. Your baby deserves a mama who doesn’t fixate on her weight and shape. There are sooooo many more important things to fixate on anyway, like how adorable that tiny child you created is.

Does your belly button permanently change after giving birth or does it go back to normal?

Although your uterus is likely to contract within 6 to 8 weeks of giving birth, you can’t expect your skin (or belly button) to return to its pre-baby condition THAT fast. Your skin needs a little more time, okay? So give it some room to breathe. The belly button was stretched to its limits while you were carrying your little one—your innie probably even became an outtie temporarily—and it may or may not eventually return to its more taught, pre-pregnancy shape and size. If you stick your finger in there post birth, it’ll probably feel a little wider, which is weird. Then again, you can get used to a belly button with a slightly larger circumference. In fact, you probably won’t have time to think too much about it in between changing diapers, feeding baby, and looking out for all of those adorable baby milestones.

Do stretch marks ever go away?

Bad news. Stretch marks do NOT go away, necessarily. They’re kind of like scars, in that they tend to fade over time (about six months after giving birth you can expect them to start looking less in-your-face, I-just-gave-birthy), but you can’t expect them to disappear altogether. There are a bunch of companies out there that will try to sell you various products that can allegedly reduce the appearance of stretch marks or eliminate them, but you’re probably better off saving your money. Moisture is great for the skin, whether you have stretch marks or not, so lube the fuck out of your belly and body with your favorite lotion or some coconut oil! But also maybe try to embrace your new, lined look! Each stretch mark is in fact evidence of the awesomeness that is the process of BUILDING A HUMAN LIFE. Without those lines, your little one wouldn’t have had a lovely womb in which to grow for 40 long weeks. So own ’em, mama.

Does the line on your belly go away after birth?

Yo! That line’s got a name, actually: , which is fancy speak for “black line.” That’s right, that shit is D.A.R.K—darker than its stretch mark counterparts, which means it’ll probably need more time to fade (think a year instead of six months). Don’t count on it disappearing altogether, or trust any products that promise to make that happen for you. The good news? There is now a road map from your abdomen to your pleasure parts. So if your significant other ever gets lost, you can just point them to your beautiful, brand new happy trail!

Is it normal to have night sweats after giving birth?

Yes! It’s totally normal! It may be super troubling, because shivering in bed or on the couch as you sweat your ass off makes it doubly difficult to look after a newborn, but the unpleasantness isn’t usually a sign of anything abnormal unless your sweats are accompanied by a fever or some other odd symptoms. The good news? This is your body’s way of expelling excess water. Throughout pregnancy, you gained a significant amount of water weight that your postpartum body just doesn’t need anymore. So with each uncontrollable wave of shaking and sweating, just picture the number on your scale ticking down. It’s kind of like working out without having to exercise! Yay!

What are the main symptoms of postpartum depression?

If you think you may be suffering from postpartum depression (PPD), please do NOT stop here in researching your symptoms. I am grossly unqualified to provide help to those suffering from a serious mental health problem as I am NOT a medical professional. The American Pregnancy Association is a way more helpful resource than I am. As is the Mayo Clinic. And Maternal Health Now. What I can tell you is that PPD affects a lot of women, and that it often goes undiagnosed. While feeling exhausted and overwhelmed in the postpartum stage (also know as “the fourth trimester”) is entirely normal, feeling hopeless or consumed by guilt is not. Many women experience a bout of the “baby blues” in the first few days after labor. But if the baby blues don’t improve after about two weeks, you may be experiencing postpartum depression, and you should seek help stat. Possible symptoms and /or signs of PPD include the inability to make decisions, losing all interest in things or activities you once enjoyed, fixating on whether or not you’re a good mom, and considering self-harm. If you suspect that you have postpartum depression, it is NOT a sign of weakness, but rather a complication of pregnancy. Please consult a trained professional.

What’s the difference between shaking your baby and rocking it?

I know, I know. It’s kind of confusing. Where does the line between “rocking” and “shaking” lie? They warn you about not shaking your baby, and you get it. Violently shaking a baby is a terrible idea! But considering just how fragile a newborn is, it can be tough to know when rocking or bouncing the baby might inch its way into shaking territory. The answer is to be as gentle as possible. And if you sense that your movements are being driven primarily by emotions—particularly negative emotions like frustration or exasperation—stop whatever you’re doing, put the baby down somewhere safe, and give yourself time to regroup. Even if the child is crying, it’s always a good idea to give yourself a little break if you’re starting to feel super annoyed at the world and/or your baby. Don’t be ashamed if you need a few minutes to yourself now and again. Babies are super demanding little creatures and tending to them is a full-time (often thankless) job.

Why is my baby head-butting my chest so much?

Your baby is hungry! When a baby pecks at your chest, it’s because they want the boob or bottle. That head-butting motion might seem odd, but it is actually a natural reflex known as “rooting.” Some infants begin rooting within the first hour of being born—that’s how natural it is for them to hunt for food. Luckily, a baby will often root before it tries crying in signaling that they’re hungry. So take the cue! Feed that baby! Otherwise, they’re sure to start wailing if that’s what it takes to get the “I’m hungry” message across.

Is head bobbing a symptom of Tourette Syndrome or is my baby really just that hungry?

Your baby is most likely hungry. Symptoms of Tourette Syndrome don’t typically present until a child is between ages 3 and 10, so that head butting / pecking / rooting around is most likely a signal that your baby needs to eat. Again.

What is mastitis?

Mastitis is the catchall name for any infection of the breast tissue. If you’re breastfeeding, you are prone to developing lactation mastitis. Symptoms of mastitis mimic the flu (fever, sweats, soreness, fatigue, etc.), with one very special addition: Your boobs will feel as hard as rocks! Your beasts might also look red and feel extremely tender because they’re so inflamed from the infection. The cause of lactation mastitis is a blockage in the milk ducts, which can happen if your baby isn’t latching properly, or if they favor one breast over the other. If you’re one of the many women who develops lactation mastitis (1 in 10 breastfeeding women will develop it at some point), the good news is that it’s generally curable within a much shorter timeframe than the typical flu. And guess what the best cure is? Breastfeeding! That’s right: The cause and cure of this prickly dilemma are the exact same. More power to you, Mother Nature. Seriously, though, if you continue to breastfeed, the backup of milk in the ducts will eventually subside, bringing your boobs (and you!) great relief.

How do you know if you have mastitis?

Your boobs will hurt like hell! They will also feel harder than you ever thought possible. You might also see redness on your chest. Sometimes, women also develop an accompanying fever. Yes, it’s hard being a woman. But think of how awesome it is that you’re capable of providing your baby every single nutrient it needs for the first year of its life! You’re amazing, mom.

Do I need to see a doctor if I have mastitis?

It’s always wise to consult a medical professional, who can diagnose you officially and prescribe antibiotics if necessary.

How do you treat mastitis?

Most importantly, call your doctor before listening to any Internet instructions. If you’re breastfeeding, many recommend continuing to breastfeed, which can do wonders to speed up the healing process. Drinking lots of water, wearing loose fitting bras / tops, and getting lots of rest can also help. Oh, and take warm showers, which can relieve the pressure in your chest (read: trigger leaking!).

Will my nipples lose all sensitivity after they’ve hardened from nursing?

I get it. You are angry AF that you even have to consider this possibility. You’ve worked your butt off to build a baby throughout 40 weeks of pregnancy, and now you’re doing everything you can to help it survive by giving it the nutrients it needs through breastfeeding. And they’re telling you that breastfeeding your baby might forever impact your nipple sensitivity??? I mean, to some degree it makes perfect sense. If you think about the fact that a tiny human is suckling your nipples several times a day for weeks on end, it makes sense that that body part would be impacted longterm. But you don’t WANT to believe it. Here’s the thing: Some women report that their nipples are forever changed from breastfeeding, either in color, shape, size, or sensitivity. But others report that their nipples don’t change at all from nursing. And still others claim that their nipples change, but eventually go back to exactly the way they were pre-pregnancy. In short, there’s no way to no what will become of your nips until you’ve lived to tell us all the story.

Why does breastfeeding hurt so much and why did nobody tell me this?

It’s weird, right? You know so many people who were once babies, and so many people who’ve had babies. But NO ONE bothered to explain just how painful the process of feeding a baby from the breast is. As your baby latches onto your nipple, you envision shards of glass cutting through your most tender flesh. It hurts like hell! This beautiful, “natural” process might just be the end of you. I have no idea why no one mentioned this previously.

How old does a baby have to be to use a pacifier?

It’s up to you, really! And your baby. Some parents forgo pacifiers altogether because they fear the effects on the baby’s palate and worry about nipple confusion (when a baby has trouble switching between the breast and a bottle and/or pacifier), but experts are torn as to whether or not such concerns are at all valid. Others dive right into the pacifier waters as soon as the baby’s born because their baby clearly likes to suckle, even when he or she isn’t feeding. As parents, it’s natural to try anything and everything to soothe your baby, so maybe don’t agonize for too long over whether or not you should try a pacifier. Your time is probably better spent trying it and seeing what happens.

What color is my newborn baby’s poop supposed to be?

For the first few months of your baby’s life, while his or her diet consists entirely of liquids, expect their poop to be liquidy, too. Makes sense, right? Typical newborn poop is either yellow, green, or brown. And it’s usually very liquidy or pasty, though it may contain little flecks as well. Basically, if your baby’s poop looks like spicy brown mustard or melted caramel, you’re ALL good. An awesome thing about newborn poop is that it doesn’t smell all that bad. In fact, it sometimes smells rather sweet rather than stinky.

What is meconium?

Meconium is the sticky, green, tar-like stuff that comes out of your baby’s butt before it can actually poop like a regular human. It’s composed of everything your baby consumed while he or she was still inside your uterus—things like intestinal epithelial cells, lanugo, mucus, amniotic fluid, bile, and water. A few days after birth, once the infant’s intestines are cleared of all the meconium, they’ll start pooping fecal matter (aka poop) that is typically less thick and sticky and a different color.

How often is a newborn supposed to poo?

Once your baby graduates from expelling meconium to pooping like a real person, the frequency with which they poop depends at least in part on how they’re fed. If your feeding your baby formula, expect up to 4 gifts of stool per day. If you’re breastfeeding, expect about 3 to 4 liquidy stool gifts per day. That said, a baby’s bowel movements can ebb and flow. There may be a day of six poops, or a day of grand singular poop. As long as they’re continuing to pee (an indication that the kidneys and liver are functioning properly) and the super pooping phase (or lack of poop phase) doesn’t persist for too long, don’t worry too much. If you can’t help worrying, just pick up the phone and call the pediatrician for that extra dose of reassurance you know you’re coveting.

How often is a newborn supposed to pee?

Your little love bug will probably only pee once within the first 24 hours of its life. But don’t worry! You’ll have of opportunities to change multiple diapers a day in the forthcoming months. Over the first week of your baby’s life, expect approximately one more wet diaper each consecutive day. By the end of week one, you’ll most likely see 6 to 8 wet diapers per day. If you’re getting annoyed by the frequency with which your baby burns through their disposable underpants (unless you’re one of those Earth mamas using cloth diapers), just think about how each pee is a sign that your baby’s internal organs are functioning properly. Yay!

If a baby’s poop is supposed to be liquidy, how do you know if it has diarrhea?

This is a VERY good question. Newborn poop typically looks like diarrhea, so how are you supposed to know if your baby is suffering from diarrhea? I asked my pediatrician this question and he said that if your baby has diarrhea, there will be a crazy amount of the liquidy poop. Like, WAY more than usual. So if your baby’s doing way more liquidy poops than they typically do in any given day, it could be a symptom of illness. Be sure to check in with your doctor if you suspect there’s a problem.

How long will it take for me to lose the baby weight?

There’s no way to answer this question, really, because it depends on so many factors that vary from mama to mama, such as your pre-pregnancy weight, how active you were before and during pregnancy, and, of course, your DNA (that genetic material you passed onto your baby!). The important thing to remember is that it took about 40 weeks for you to build your baby, so you shouldn’t put too much pressure on yourself to lose the pregnancy weight within a certain amount of time. Give your body some slack, yo. Let it do it’s thing without stressing out too much because GUESS WHAT? Stress is bad for losing weight. Actually. The “stress hormone,” cortisol, will prevent you from losing those stubborn pregnancy pounds. So ~*breathe*~, and give yourself some room to get there, honey.

How long should I wait before going back to the gym?

In the typical case of a natural / vaginal pregnancy that didn’t involve any complications, most doctors recommend waiting roughly six weeks before exercising again. Remember, your body went through some pretty traumatizing shit. It needs a minute to get itself back together, and you need some time to regain your strength.

Is it normal that I can’t control my own bladder after giving birth?

Unfortunately, lack of bladder control post birth is entirely normal. Think about it: You just stretched the muscles down there like crazy to squeeze a melon-sized baby out of your vagina, which, until now, was only ever stretched enough to fit a penis or a giant dildo inside it (or whatever else you’re into). Your bladder was right in the middle of things, so it needs some time to regroup. It’s going to take a few weeks or even months before your muscles tighten back up, so be patient. For now, just remember to escort yourself to the bathroom a reasonable amount of time after chugging water. Eventually, your body will go back to providing you with that crucial “time to pee” cue that prevents you from wetting your pants regularly. In the meantime, don’t shy away from wearing a pantyliner.

How long should it take me to regain control of my bladder after giving birth?

It all depends on your personal ~*birth story*~, and your body. It could be a few weeks, or a few months. Or never. Some women still pee a little every time they sneeze years after giving birth. The best way to ensure that your muscles tighten back up so that you regain bladder control is to do Kegel exercises daily. Luckily, Kegels can be done just about anywhere, so they’re easy to incorporate into your day to day. It’s also kind of fun to tighten and relax your pelvic floor in the middle of a meeting or a lunch date. Think of it as a special secret between you and your vagina.

How many ounces of breast milk is a newborn supposed to eat in one feeding?

While feeding habits vary from baby to baby, a typical newborn starts off consuming two to three ounces in one feeding, and they eat every two to three hours. One month in, the average baby consumes roughly four ounces in one feeding. If your baby’s not a normie in this category, maybe celebrate their difference rather than trying to get them to conform to the aforementioned schedule.

Why do my boobs feel like rocks?

Your breasts will start to get rock hard when their ducts are filled with milk, which can be expelled either through pumping or breastfeeding. Think of your hardening breasts as a custom time-to-feed alarm clock. Your baby has all the power to alleviate the overflow simply by suckling. If your breasts are painful and /or appear to be irritated, it could be a sign of an infection called mastitis, caused by a blockage in the milk ducts. Consult your doctor for an official diagnosis or ctrl-F your way to my responses on all questions regarding “mastitis.”

Is the baby supposed to eat from both breasts every time she feeds, or should I be rotating from one breast to the other for each feeding?

It’s up to you, really, and your baby. Some babies clearly prefer one breast over the other, and will feed mostly from their favored breast. In response to baby’s desires, that breast will end up producing more milk. Other babies will be less picky about the boob from which they feed. Still other babies will change their mind from time to time, favoring one breast and then the other. The good news is, your body knows what to do! Trust in your boobs to produce the right amount of milk for your child. is your new motto!

Are you supposed to pump both breasts simultaneously?

Yes! It’s not at all self-evident, but pumping is meant to be a dual boob activity. The reason is that pumping one breast tends to trigger the other into milk production mode. Have you noticed how your right nipple tends to lactate while you’re breastfeeding baby with the left breast and vice versa? The same phenomenon is at work when you pump. So if you only hook up one boob to the pump, the other’s going to leak precious drops of boob juice gold anyway. In the name of collecting every precious drop of breast milk, hook up both boobs at once!

When should I start pumping?

Many doctors advise establishing a breastfeeding routine, which generally takes at least a few weeks, prior to introducing the pump to your already overstretched nipples. If you plan to pump from the office, many a lactation consultant will tell you it’s a good idea to begin pumping about a month or so before you return to work so you can get accustomed to the practice. For some women, however, waiting isn’t an option. If you’re intent on feeding your baby breast milk but your baby isn’t latching properly, or a medical issue prevents you from nursing, you may have to start pumping immediately. There’s really no “right” approach to pumping, so figure out what works for you if pumping is something you even plan to do!

When is the best time of day to pump?

Never! Because PUMPING SUCKS! Kidding! Kind of. Pumping is a good thing to do if you can’t be around your baby all the time but you want to keep up your milk supply. It’s also a great way to build up a stockpile of frozen breast milk so you can continue feeding your infant the stuff after weaning and/or enjoy a night out with your baby daddy without worrying about what your kid will eat while you’re not physically present to let them suckle on your nipples. For many women, milk production is at its highest during the morning hours, so if you’re going to squeeze a pumping session into your day, try to do it an hour or so after your morning feeding. But if you’re someone who seems to make more milk come nightfall, pump then. You are your own best breast whisperer, so listen to your body, particularly your mammary glands.

Is it okay to give my newborn formula in addition to breast milk?

Breast Is Best enthusiasts might SCREAM at the thought, but guess what? How you nourish your baby is entirely up to you. FED IS BEST!!! If you fear you’re not producing enough milk and/or breastfeeding just isn’t working out how you hoped it would, there’s no harm in leaning on an alternate food source. The important thing is that you stay calm and do what you must to enjoy being a mother as much as possible. Don’t let the societal pressure to breastfeed exclusively prevent you from figuring out what’s best for you and your child.

Are bowlegs normal for newborns?

Yup! Turns out newborns are pretty much all bowlegged. Weird? Not really, if you stop and think about how they’re positioned in the womb. There are different degrees of bowleggedness, of course, so if you’re concerned about your child in a young Forest Gump kinda way, just alert your pediatrician and they’ll monitor your baby’s leg development. Seriously, though, don’t fret too much over those bowlegs as they’re likely to subside as the baby ages. By age three, most kids’ legs straighten out entirely.

How long will it take for the umbilical cord stump to fall off?

Typically, the umbilical cord stump falls off at around two weeks of age. At that point, you’re free to give your baby his or her first bath. While the stump is still intact, please don’t touch it!!!! And try to be sure that your baby’s clothing doesn’t rub up against it too much as the stump could get infected. I don’t care if you’re one of those people who can’t help picking at a scab—your baby’s umbilical cord stump is NOT to be messed with. Let that little piece of flesh rot and detach all on its own. Let it sit there peacefully until it’s good and ready to fall right off. And maybe don’t be one of those people who saves the stump because it’s literally a piece of gangrenous flesh. Ew.

Is it true that a newborn can menstruate a little from ingesting her mother’s hormones?

Yes! It’s true! Kinda weird or kinda cool, depending on how you look at women’s menstrual cycles in general. Anyhoops, the fact is that a female infant might very well bleed a little from her vagina at two or three days old as a result of withdrawal from hormones she was exposed to in the womb. If your baby girl menstruates during her first week of life, thankfully for her, it’ll probably be the last time she does for about another decade.

Is it true that a newborn can develop tiny breasts as a result of consuming maternal hormones?

Did your pediatrician mention that your baby girl might develop teeny tiny breasts of her own right after birth? They weren’t lying! It’s true! For the same reason that your baby girl might actually menstruate a little immediately after entering the world via vaginal canal (see above), the girl might grow little boobies, too. Crazy, right? But also cool.

What are the little white dots on my baby’s face?

Newborn skin is super fresh and sensitive because, well, it’s brand spankin’ new! Babies are prone to developing lots of different rashes in their first few months of life. Luckily, most of them are totally harmless and will disappear all on their own. The tiny little white dots on your baby’s face are an example of a totally harmless skin condition with a special name: milia. The cause? Just some blocked oil glands. It’ll take a few weeks, but eventually those ducts will get bigger and open up, and those irksome little bumps will disappear. Whatever you do, don’t try to pop them or pinch them. Leave your baby’s face alone!

How much milk should I be able to pump from a breast in one sitting?

The important thing about pumping, especially in the early weeks, is not to freak out over how much milk you are or aren’t producing. Don’t call up your mommy friends and ask them how many ounces of milk they produced during each pumping session because you’ll end up with a slew of different answers, none of which apply to you necessarily and all of which stand to make you feel bad about yourself for no good reason at all. Pumping is not a comparathon so don’t make it one. If breastfeeding is going well for you and your baby (if it isn’t, don’t feel bad about it!), your body will adjust to produce as much milk as your baby needs. That amount should increase, naturally, after the first few weeks of your baby’s life. If your baby is gaining weight at a pace that pleases your pediatrician, you’re doing just fine. So don’t fixate on numbers, or ounces-per-session. Trust your instincts and your body’s ability to give your baby exactly what he or she needs.

Is it possible to die from exhaustion?

Allegedly, it possible to die from lack of sleep. There’s a reason why keeping people awake for extended periods is an actual torture tactic. As any new parent can attest, being sleep deprived sucks butt! It can also be quite dangerous. You don’t want to let yourself get to the point that you’re so tired you might do something dumb like drop the baby or roll over them in bed. It’s up to you to recognize that you’re tired AF and to do something about it, like call on a friend or relative to help you out for a few hours so you can take a nap.

At what point will my baby start sleeping through the night?

Every baby is different, so there’s no official answer to this question. Some parents are lucky to have infants who sleep through the night around 6 to 8 weeks, but others will be waking up with their baby every few hours up until 6 to 9 months. Another thing to note is that some babies will sleep through the night but then regress to not sleeping through the night at certain points. And then there’s always the chance that your baby gets sick, or starts teething, which might interrupt their established sleep patterns. You really can’t predict whether you’ll birth a “good sleeper” or not, or if and when your baby’s sleep patterns will shift. Basically, now that you’re a mom or dad, you can count on feeling a tinge of nervousness every single night when you put your baby down. It’s kind of like the feeling you used to experience at the blackjack table right as the dealer flipped a card over, except that you stand to win zero dollars.

How old does a baby have to be before you start sleep training?

Oh boy. This is one of those topics that inspires serious ire amongst “experts” and their diehard followers, all of whom stand staunchly by their differing opinions on the matter. Some think it’s cruel to sleep train an infant, while others will tell you it’s beneficial to both baby (who needs adequate sleep for critical brain development) and the family overall (which needs its sleep as well). Some mothers cannot bear to let their child cry without interfering to soothe them, while others insist that encouraging a child to self soothe is a critical skill that will serve them well throughout life. In her book, Bringing Up Bébé, Pamela Druckerman notes that most French babies seem to sleep through the night starting at 8 weeks, not because French babies are genetically predisposed to sleeping more soundly, but because French parents seem dedicated to facilitating good sleep habits early on. According to Druckerman, they do this partly by pausing slightly before addressing their infants’ cries from day one, a subtle but impactful move that lets a baby know their cries will not always be answered immediately and gradually teaches self-soothing. In the end, you have to make a choice that works best for your family, whatever that may be. Here’s an article listing the various techniques for sleep training.

How long will it be before I can poop like a normal human again after giving birth?

It’s a legit struggle to poo postpartum, which is SUPER annoying, right? Difficulty pooping is the last thing a new mom wants to deal with. But if you think about what your body just went through, it makes total sense that it would be tough to poop. Your stomach muscles, which help push that fecal matter through your bowels, have been stretched and weakened like crazy throughout the 40 or so weeks you were pregnant. Plus, a lot of women need stitches after a vaginal delivery and still others develop hemorrhoids or constipation. All of these factors conspire to making pooping a bit of a problem after giving birth. Here’s the good news: Pooping go back to being mostly a joy that brings you abdominal relief more than anything else. You just need to be patient for the first few weeks after delivery. Gradually, your sphincter muscles will regain strength and you won’t have to wince as much while squeezing the stinky stuff out of your butthole.

How long will it take my vagina stitches to dissolve?

Typically, it takes about two to three weeks for perineal tearing to heal after birth. The vagina stitches you got will actually dissolve on their own so don’t think too much about them. When you go in for your first postpartum checkup at around four to six weeks after delivery, your obstetrician will assess the situation down there, and, mostly likely, give you the thumbs up to start humping again. If you’re feeling any postpartum pain in the perineum, just be sure to mention it to the doc, okay?

How long before I can have sex again after birth?

Most healthcare providers recommend waiting four to six weeks after delivery before having sex. Sound like a long-ass time? Maybe, but not in the grand scheme of things. You need to give your body time to recuperate—for the cervix to close, your perineum to heal, and your muscles to strengthen. If your partner’s getting antsy about reinvigorating your sex life, tell them to CHILL THE FUCK OUT. You might just want to wait another four to six weeks after getting the official okay to boink, and guess what? That’s okay! Your significant other can wait. You’ve done enough of the work over the last year, so the least they can do is be patient!

Does breastfeeding impact a woman’s sex drive?

Breastfeeding is a whole THING. I mean, first off, it’s hard work. If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, you’re tethered to your baby (or a pump) pretty much constantly. It’s no wonder that feeding your baby a boob-juice-only diet would impact your mind and body in various ways. According to Susan Kellogg Spadt, PhD, a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology from Drexel University, “It is fairly common for breastfeeding women to experience a waning of desire, even months after delivery.” In addition to the fact that most new moms are capital “T” , a lack of sex drive in breastfeeding women is partly caused by hormonal shifts. Estrogen (linked to vaginal moistness and flexibility), is lower in breastfeeding women. As is testosterone, which is tied to libido strength. Meanwhile, levels of prolactin (tied to lower sexual desire) are higher in breastfeeding women. Then there’s the issue of “intimate touch.” Some assert that the process of breastfeeding satisfies a woman’s need for human contact, so they’re less likely to look to their partners for touch. Overall, it’s absolutely within the realm of normal not to want to bone while you’re still breastfeeding, even months after birth. Your sex drive will return, but probably not until after your child is weaned from the breast.

How many additional calories should I consume while breastfeeding?

Most experty types seem to agree that a breastfeeding woman needs about 500 additional calories per day to maintain her milk supply. But that doesn’t mean that you should down a donut a day rather than making healthy choices. Not all calories are created equal, so think more apples, less waffles. For reference on quantities, here’s a helpful article that’ll give you a sense as to what, exactly, 500 calories looks like in different foods. On a side note, definitely don’t try to diet while you’re breastfeeding because cutting too many calories will decrease your milk supply, rendering you relatively useless as a human cow.

Does what I eat affect my breast milk?

According to Kelly Bonyata, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, what a woman eats while breastfeeding is more critical to her own health than her baby’s. Bonyata says exactly what breastfeeding moms everywhere have been waiting to hear: “Guess what? You can drink caffeinated beverages (in moderation), have an occasional drink, eat what you want and still provide your baby with the absolute best nutrition and immunological protection – mother’s own milk.” Cheers to Mother Nature, who designed the female body to provide her babies with all the nutrition they need through her milk, even in times of hardship or famine.

How many times do you pump in one day at work?

If you’re a working mom in the good ol’ US of A, chances are you’re returning to work when your infant is six months old or younger. At that stage, if you’re exclusively breastfeeding, it’s a good idea to express milk about every three hours. So if you work an 8 hour day and commute an hour each way, that means you’ll have to pump about three times a day. Don’t worry too much about setting a time because your breasts will harden when your milk ducts are ready to be depleted. As soon as you start to feel that discomfort, escort yourself to the lactation room and do your thing. Here’s a helpful article listing pumping strategies for working mamas.

Are breast pump parts dishwasher safe?

Many new pumps come with parts that are indeed dishwasher safe. Yay! Otherwise, getting in the nooks and crannies of all those parts would require a serious amount of attention (and Q-tips). To be absolutely sure, of course, re-Google this question with the brand name of your particular pump. If you’re concerned about how to keep your pump clean in general, here’s what the Federal Food and Drug Administration has to say about it.

What is cluster feeding?

You’ve literally settled into some semblance of a routine—feeding your child every two to three hours or so—when your baby starts to demand food hourly or MORE. Cluster feeding is the phenomenon whereby your baby suddenly seems hungry more frequently than usual within a certain timeframe. It can persist for a couple days and then subside altogether, or happen at the same time of day for several days on end before things revert to normal. How do you know it’s happening? Because your baby is fussy and or cries more than usual, the one and only effective means of communication upon which they can rely.  Some believe that cluster feeding occurs in conjunction with growth spurts. Simply put, the baby’s hungrier because they’re temporarily growing at an increased rate. Typically, cluster feeding episodes tend to abate by four months of age.

How do I know if my baby is having a growth spurt?

Somewhat hilariously, the symptoms of an infant growth spurt can vary widely. And by “vary widely” I mean “be opposite things.” Your baby might sleep like a log for extended periods of time while growing precipitously, OR they might sleep less. As if things weren’t difficult enough already! Other symptoms of a baby growth spurt include crying more frequently (sigh), fussing more often (sigh again), or acting clingier. Effectively, it’s super hard to pinpoint whether your baby is going through a growth spurt. But as long as you’re tending to their changing needs the best you can, you’re doing your job, mama.

How old does a baby have to be to eat solid foods?

According to the Mayo Clinic, by age four to six months, your baby will be ready for some solid food. And guess what? Your baby will actually signal that they’re ready to tackle something other than breast milk or formula. Pretty cool, right? Those signs include: holding their head up steadily, sitting up with support, mouthing their hands and/or toys, and seeming super interested in whatever you’re eating. Look out for the cues, and follow your baby’s lead.

What kind of solid food does a baby eat to start?

Imagine you had no teeth and had never eaten food—ever. You’d need something simple to start, right? That’s exactly how it works for your toothless little child. Beginning at about four to six months, your baby might be ready for solid food. If you suspect that they’ve reached this point, just double check with your pediatrician. And plan on starting simple. Offer your little one single-ingredient foods without any salt or sugar. After introducing a new food, wait three to five days to introduce another. That way, if your baby has an adverse reaction to a certain food, you can pinpoint the culprit and eliminate it from their diet. Iron and zinc, (found in pureed meats, single-grain, iron-fortified cereals, beans, and lentils) are super important nutrients for your baby during the second half of year one, so keep that in mind when selecting the foods you intro. Gradually, offer your baby mashed up vegetables and then fruits, continuing to wait three to five days in between each new food.

How old is a baby when it starts teething?

Teething can start anywhere between 3 months and 12 months, and there’s no magical sign (surprise, surprise) that will tell you it’s happening . Some babies will actually demonstrate zero signs of irritability, while others will become incredibly fussy while their chompers are finally pushing through. The crankiness is due to soreness in the gums starting a few days before a tooth finally pokes through. It takes about three years for all 20 primary teeth to emerge, so that means you’ll be dealing with teething as a parent for quite some time.

When do babies start to crawl?

Crawling is a major milestone—for babies, but maybe more so for the parents who can no longer count on their child remaining stationary. Generally speaking, most kids begin to crawl around 7 to 10 months. But they might be in motion long before they’re actually crawling. You can expect some shuffling around on the bum and other attempts at motion as early as six months. So don’t get too comfy leaving baby on his or her play mat for extended periods of time. Those golden days of not paying attention will soon be long gone! But remember, you signed up for this shit, so you might as well embrace it!

When do babies start to smile and laugh?

In the first few weeks of life, you might your baby is smiling at you, but it’s really just a reflex. (Maybe it’s better you don’t know that. It’s kind of nice believing that your infant is already super grateful for all you’re doing to keep them alive.) Alas, infants are incapable of demonstrating their appreciation of all your hard work for quite some time. The first true smile, which will melt even the coldest heart, generally happens somewhere between six weeks and three months. Luckily, the real deal is worth the wait! Finally, a reward for all of those diapers you’ve been dutifully changing and all of those crying fits you’ve been stifling in between reassessing your decision to parent in the first place.

When do babies start talking?

You might THINK your baby’s speaking well before they actually are. It’s tempting to hang onto a few syllables within the string of weird sounds your baby starts making as early as three months old—to find the “ma” or “pa” or “yes” or “no” hidden within a slew of gobbley-gook that means absolutely nothing. But it usually takes at least six months for a baby to formulate an actual word. And if you’re into communicating in full sentences, you’ll probably have to wait until your kid’s between 1.5 and 2 years old for them to string some words into fun short sentences like “My pee stinks!” and “That’s MY toy!!!”

When do babies start walking?

On average, babies start walking somewhere between 9 months and 1 year. If your baby seems to be more of the sedentary type, however, that’s okay! It doesn’t mean they’re lazy. They might just feel like making mom and dad wait to snap an Insta story of this all-important milestone. Some kids don’t embrace the biped life fully until 16 or 17 months of age. True story.

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Twitter is loving this gay nativity scene with 2 Josephs

Now that Thanksgiving leftovers have been thrown out, Christmas is officially upon us and that means gaudy lawn decorations and nativity scenes galore. But just because the Bible says Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph doesn’t mean Americans have to stick with the script. Case in point, one queer comedian has gone viral for posting her neighbors’ nativity scene, which features two gay Josephs praying over Baby Jesus.

Cameron Esposito, who also hosts Queery Podcast, spotted her neighbors’ nativity scene over Thanksgiving. She snapped a photo and proceeded to post it on Twitter, praising the idea.

“Our neighbors’ two Joseph nativity is up & I’m beaming,” she tweeted on Black Friday.

It didn’t take long for Esposito’s post to blow up. Twitter users quickly fell in love with the idea, celebrating its creation and queering of Joseph. After all, the son of God was non-vaginal-intercourse miracle anyway, right?

And Jesus is the son of both Joseph and God. Who’s to say he didn’t have two dads on earth, too?

But what to name Joseph’s husband? Some suggest Marty, others prefer Larry. Hell, maybe his name is Steve, and that he hooked up with Joseph after his stint with Adam back in Genesis.

Of course, it’s not enough to have two Josephs. The queer nativity isn’t complete without two Marys watching over Jesus.

The best part? Baby Jesus is still there, and therefore no one took Christ out of Christmas. This may just be the best compromise for finally ending the war on Christmas yet.

H/T NewNowNext

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Watchdog ‘recommends vaginal mesh ban’

Image caption The mesh is made of polypropolene – the same material used to make certain drinks bottles

The health watchdog NICE is to recommend that vaginal mesh operations should be banned from treating organ prolapse in England, the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show has learned.

Draft guidelines from NICE say the implants should only be used for research – and not routine operations.

Some implants can cut into the vagina and women have been left in permanent pain, unable to walk, work or have sex.

One expert said it is highly likely the NHS will take up the recommendation.

However, the organisation is not compelled to act on findings it receives from NICE.

Both NHS England and NICE declined to comment.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionStephanie and Peter Williams say it’s made it “impossible” for them to be intimate

‘Life-changing consequences’

In the documents – to be published after consultation in December – NICE said there were “serious but well-recognised safety concerns” and that “evidence of long-term efficacy [for implants treating organ prolapse] is inadequate in quality and quantity”.

It added that “when complications occur, these can be serious and have life-changing consequences”, but said “most commentaries received from patients reported satisfaction with the procedure”.

One woman, Margie Maguire, 41 – told the Victoria Derbyshire programme she cannot have any more children or walk unaided because of the damage caused by the mesh.

“I have chronic pelvic pain on a daily basis and I’m on nine different medications when I have a pain attack.

“These can last from two to six hours at a time and is like having a heart attack,” she said.

Kate Langley told the programme in April she had been admitted to hospital 53 times to try to end the pain, but – like many women – the mesh was so near the nerve it could not be fully removed.

She has been left with nerve damage and in permanent pain by the implants, giving up her business as a childminder because the pain was so intense.

The surgeon who first examined her, she explained, “could see the [mesh] tape had come through my vagina – protruding through”.

Image caption Kate Langley has been left in permanent pain by her vaginal mesh implant

The plastic meshes are made of polypropylene – the same material used to make certain drinks bottles – and manufactured by many different companies.

They are used to support organs such as the vagina, uterus, bowel, bladder or urethra which have prolapsed after childbirth.

The University of Oxford’s Prof Carl Heneghan, an expert in the subject, said the draft guidelines were an admission that health services had “got this wrong” – calling the use of mesh a “catastrophe”.

He described the draft guidelines as a “backdoor ban” on implants that would effectively end their use.

But he said it had come too late.

Image caption Prof Heneghan says the use of the implants has been “absolutely farcical”

“Seven years I have been watching this emerge – it is absolutely farcical how bad it is. Either they’re burying their heads in the sand or they don’t know what they’re doing.”

He called for a registry to be created for everyone who had been treated with the implants so that their effects could be fully understood.

In April, the BBC learned more than 800 UK women are taking legal action against the NHS and the makers of vaginal mesh implants.

The NICE documents suggest “randomised controlled trial data showed no added benefit of using mesh compared with native tissue repair”.

Image caption Mesh implants are used to treat organ prolapse and urinary incontinence

Between April 2007 and March 2015, more than 92,000 women had vaginal mesh implants in England, according to NHS data from the Hospital Episodes Statistics.

About one in 11 women has experienced problems, the data suggests.

The use of vaginal mesh to treat urinary incontinence is not mentioned in the draft NICE guidelines.

Use of the implants to treat both organ prolapse and urinary incontinence has already been suspended in Scotland.

The mesh is also used routinely in hernia repair despite concerns it is leaving many patients in chronic pain.

The Department of Health declined to comment.

Watch the Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News Channel.

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Sylvester Stallone Denies Sexually Assaulting 16-Year-Old Fan In The ’80s

Sylvester Stallone denies he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old fan in his Las Vegas hotel room in the 1980s, according to TMZ.

The “Rocky” actor responded Thursday to allegations that he forced a minor to have group sex with him and his then-bodyguard at the Las Vegas Hilton hotel in 1986. The girl told police she was forced to perform oral sex on Stallone while the bodyguard had vaginal intercourse with her, according to a police report written at the time.

“This is a ridiculous, categorically false story,” a spokesman for Stallone told TMZ. “No one was ever aware of this story until it was published today, including Mr. Stallone. At no time was Mr. Stallone ever contacted by authorities or anyone else regarding this matter.”

Part of the story was originally made public last year when Doug Poppa, an ex-cop and reporter for the Baltimore Post-Examiner, obtained the police report and wrote about the incident. The allegations re-surfaced Thursday when The Daily Mail published a similar story and what appears to be a copy of the police report.

Representatives for both Stallone and the Las Vegas Metro Police Department did not immediately return HuffPost’s requests for comment.

This isn’t the first time Stallone has been accused of sexual assault. In 2001, a woman filed a lawsuit against the actor, alleging he “forcibly pinned” her against a wall and tore her clothes at a fitness center. In 2013, reports surfaced that he had paid off his late half-sister Toni-Ann Filiti to keep quiet about allegations that he had abused her for years. 

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

NBC via Getty Images

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uBiome launches an at-home womens health test for HPV, STIs and bacterial vaginosis

SmartJane is a new women’s health test out from uBiome today that promises to check for 23 vaginal flora as well as 19 strains of the human papilloma virus and a string of sexually transmitted diseases like Chlamydia and gonorrhea from the comfort of your own home.

uBiome, which launched in 2012 to sequence and study the human microbiome, is best known for its at-home gut health test, SmartGut. This test sequences the DNA of your, well, poop to determine what’s going on in your digestive tract.

The SmartJane test, which can be ordered from your doctor or online through uBiomes network of physicians, is along the same vein in that it can detect and then genotype any trace of HPV to determine the strain as well as tell you what kind of healthy or unhealthy bacteria you’re working with…down there.

The genetic component is what sets this test apart from other at-home STD tests available from startups like MyLabBox or Everlywell. While these tests work in much the same way — you order online and then send it out to a certified lab for results — genotyping the organisms that might live among your lady parts can help determine the seriousness of the strain.

You can also go into a clinic or your doctor’s office to get tested for STI’s such as HPV. However, uBiome’s kit includes certain tests not readily available in other at-home tests or common to doctor’s offices such as Mycoplasma genitalium, which is an asymptomatic STI that can cause unexplained infertility.

“Often people are tested for it when there’s evidence of infertility but then it’s too late,” Dr. Jessica Richman, founder of uBiome told TechCrunch.

uBiome has collected thousands of samples over five years in a peer-reviewed study and claims a near 100 percent accuracy in detection of these diseases. The startup is now publishing a scientific paper on its findings

As with its original gut health test, uBiome processes the SmartJane tests in a CLIA-certified and CAP-accredited lab and then sends results to its HIIPA-compliant website. Those receiving results indicating an infection are then directed to speak with their doctor or to uBiome’s external clinical care network for further instructions.

Dr. Richman emphasized the SmartJane test was not meant to replace the testing you might get from a doctor’s office, but was rather something to help you further test in between well woman visits.

It may also encourage women to get testing for certain possibly life-threatening STI’s such as HPV. There are over 170 strains of the virus but only a few cause deadly cancer if left untreated. However, less than 80 percent of women in the U.S. go to their OBGYN for regular Pap screenings. An at-home test may take away some of the worry and stress of going in for a Pap Smear (the commonly used method of gathering cells to test for HPV).

In fact, women are more than twice as likely to self-test than go to their doctor first, according to a meta-analysis of 10 studies.

“What we are doing is making novel tests that are, in addition to what’s on the market, easier to get,” Dr. Richman said.

Those interested can either request the test through their doctor or go online and order the test through uBiome where (as stated above) a licensed physician will be assigned to review your test first.

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5 takeaways from the Democrats’ big night

Washington (CNN)After a year of doubts, recriminations and special election misfires, Democrats finally got the big victories Tuesday they’d so desperately craved in the year since Donald Trump won the presidency.

Republicans will wake up Wednesday in a nightmare: All of a sudden, full control of Congress might be in serious jeopardy. Trump’s low approval ratings look toxic. And it could be much harder to convince incumbents to run — and to recruit candidates into open-seat races — in such a difficult environment.  
Here are five takeaways from Democrats’ big day:

    1. The blue wave

    Democrats won races large and small Tuesday, starting with the New Jersey and Virginia governor’s races. 
    The party won hotly contested mayoral races in Charlotte, North Carolina, and St. Petersburg, Florida. In Maine, voters approved a ballot measure to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.  
    In Virginia, Northam didn’t just beat Republican Ed Gillespie in the northern Virginia suburbs — he crushed him. Consider Loudoun County near Washington: Democrats won it by 5 points in the 2013 governor’s race, and 20 points on Tuesday.  
    Democrats were also within striking distance of flipping the 17 seats they needed to take the Virginia House of Delegates — giving the party much more influence on redistricting in 2020.  
    It all gives Democrats a huge psychological boost that could help their fundraising and candidate recruitment. It could also accelerate the pace of Republican retirements, as Republican Bob McDonnell’s win in the 2009 Virginia governor’s race did for Democrats. Already on Tuesday, New Jersey Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo announced his retirement — creating another toss-up seat. There could soon be more. 

    2. Trumpism without Trump didn’t work

    Gillespie and Trump didn’t campaign together. But Gillespie tried just about every trick in Trump’s bag.  
    His television ads portrayed Northam as enabling the MS-13 gang by being soft on immigration enforcement. He picked up on Trump’s culture wars, hitting NFL players for kneeling during the National Anthem and promising to keep Virginia’s Confederate monuments up.  
    It was all an effort to convince Trump voters to turn out for a former lobbyist and George W. Bush aide.  
    It failed.  
    Gillespie did well in rural Virginia. But the Democratic base that slumbered through 2016 turned out in full force and the suburbs shifted dramatically in Northam’s favor. 
    “Virginia sent a strong message that Trump-style division — pitting people against people — that is not the Virginia way. That is not the American way,” Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said at Northam’s victory party. 
    Trump tried to lay the blame solely at Gillespie’s feet, tweeting, “Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for. Don’t forget, Republicans won 4 out of 4 House seats, and with the economy doing record numbers, we will continue to win, even bigger than before!”  
    Now, Republicans have to confront the possibility that they’ll face the same problem Democrats faced during the presidency of Barack Obama: His popularity doesn’t transfer to them.  
    Trump campaigned in Alabama for Sen. Luther Strange — who promptly lost a Republican primary to former judge Roy Moore. He recorded a robocall and tweeted for Gillespie, who was walloped in what both sides expected to be a close race. Trump voters turn out for Trump — but so far, no one else.  

    3. Republicans lost the culture war

    Beyond the governor’s race, Democrats won a decisive victory on the social and cultural issues that have dominated Virginia politics.  
    Democrat Danica Roem became the only openly transgender state lawmaker in America. She beat Bob Marshall, who had advocated for a bill restricting which bathrooms transgender people could use.  
    One of the biggest forces in the Virginia races was Planned Parenthood, which helped Democrats defeat a Republican lieutenant governor nominee, Jill Vogel, who as a state senator had pushed a bill requiring women seeking abortions to undergo vaginal ultrasounds.  
    And in the Virginia attorney general’s race, incumbent Democrat Mark Herring cruised despite Republican John Adams’ attacks on Herring’s decision not to defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban in court.  
    To be sure, Northam was hobbled by Gillespie’s MS-13 ad. He appeared to flip-flop at the last minute and said he opposed sanctuary cities — a decision that appeared to be out of desperation. In other states with less Democratic voters, his stumbles could have led to a loss.  
    But up and down the ticket, the GOP focus on social issues proved costly Tuesday in Virginia.  

      Northam: I hope to win your confidence

    4. Obama and Biden help Democrats

    The Democratic Party lost about 1,000 state legislative seats during Obama’s presidency across the country — eight years in which Democratic strategists howled about the White House’s inattention to the party’s crumbling infrastructure and its down-ballot disasters. 
    Now out of office, Obama and Biden both focused on 2017 races. And it turned out the two made pretty effective Democratic surrogates.  
    Biden-endorsed candidates were on course for a clean sweep. And Obama’s rallies in New Jersey and Virginia, which drew thousands to hear his lectures that the party’s base had gotten “complacent” in non-presidential elections, appear to have energized the minority voters that Northam’s campaign had worried might stay at home. While the northern Virginia results will get the most national attention, Northam ran up his lead throughout Virginia’s entire urban crescent — stretching from the Washington suburbs through Norfolk.  
    Both Obama and Biden are showing an appetite to play surrogate roles in 2018. Biden has already waded into December’s Alabama Senate special election, and has done nothing to tamp down speculation that he might run for president in 2020. They’ll be the most sought-after Democratic surrogates over the next year.  

    5. McAuliffe 2020 starts now

    The happiest person in Virginia might be Gov. Terry McAuliffe.  
    The long-time friend of the Clintons, fundraiser extraordinaire and former Democratic National Committee chairman wasn’t taken particularly seriously as a candidate himself — a principal, rather than a supporting player — when he ran for governor in 2013.  
    Now, McAuliffe seems impossible to ignore.  
    Swaggering onto stage at Northam’s victory party to Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack,” McAuliffe cast the election results as Virginia’s rejection of discrimination. He touted his own administration’s efforts to protect LGBT workers, in a message that sounded 2020-ready.  
    A few weeks from leaving office, McAuliffe has made clear that he hasn’t run out of political ambition. He leaves Virginia as a popular Democrat with a strong economic record and a revitalized Democratic bench set to take office. 

      Perez: Dems’ unity is Trump’s worst nightmare

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    Election 2017: Readers’ guide to Virginia and New Jersey governor’s races, other key contests

    Washington (CNN)A year into Donald Trump’s presidency, elections Tuesday in Virginia, New Jersey and elsewhere will offer the best window yet into how voters view his job performance — and whether Democrats have corrected the problems that plagued them in 2016.

    The contest has largely revolved around Trump, and looks to be the closest major race in a year that is also expected to feature blowouts in other high-profile contests.
    Here’s a breakdown of what to watch on Tuesday:

      The key races on Tuesday’s ballots:

      Virginia governor: Northam and Gillespie square off in the marquee swing-state election of 2017. Outgoing Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has earned high marks on Virginia’s economy — but the race to replace him has instead focused on Trump and cultural issues. The heavily populated northern Virginia suburbs around Washington are key to deciding the race’s outcome.
      New Jersey governor: Outgoing Republican Gov. Chris Christie and his record-low approval ratings hover mightily over the contest to replace him. His Republican lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, has tried to distance herself from Christie. But former Goldman Sachs executive and US Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy, the Democratic nominee, has led consistently in the polls — and spent tens of millions of his own dollars on the race. A Murphy loss would be a stunning upset.
      New York City mayor: Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio campaigned in the final days with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — a sign he sees himself as a liberal champion. He faces Republican Nicole Malliotakis and two third-party candidates who lost the Democratic primary. De Blasio is expected to cruise to reelection.
      Utah’s 3rd Congressional District: Former Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz retired mid-term, giving up the gavel of the House’s oversight committee and opening up this seat in reliably Republican Utah. Provo Mayor John Curtis, the Republican, is well positioned to hold onto the district, which President Donald Trump won by 18 points in 2016, against Democratic candidate Kathie Allen, a doctor.
      Virginia lieutenant governor: Democrat Justin Fairfax, a former federal prosecutor, faces off against Republican state Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel in a race that — somewhat unusually — is decided separately from the top of the ticket. Most states elect governors and lieutenant governors together as part of the same ticket. Still, in Virginia, this race is likely to match whichever party wins the governor’s race.
      Virginia attorney general: Democratic incumbent Mark Herring is best known for refusing to defend Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban against a lawsuit that sought to overturn it. Republican John Adams, the challenger, has accused Herring of promoting progressive causes rather than doing his job.

      When the polls close:

      In Virginia, voting ends at 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday. In New Jersey, it’s 8 p.m. In New York, polls close at 9 p.m. And in Utah, polls close at 8 p.m. MT — which is 10 p.m. ET.

      Five questions for Tuesday night:

      1. Can Trump’s tactics sell without Trump?
      Long known as an advocate of a bigger Republican tent and more inclusive immigration policies, Gillespie has taken a hard Trumpian turn in the Virginia governor’s race.
      His TV ads have included scary images of MS-13 gangs while displaying the words “kill, rape, control,” and Gillespie pledging to keep Confederate monuments up. In them, he also has hit Democrats for automatically restoring the voting rights of former felons who have completed their sentences.
      Those culture warrior tactics were designed to make sure Trump’s base turned out for Gillespie, who nearly lost the Republican primary to former Trump campaign state chairman Corey Stewart. But they alienated a lot of Gillespie’s old friends:
      Gillespie spokesman David Abrams disputed those critiques, saying, “Ed is surging in the polls because Republicans are united behind his campaign, and because he is running on substantive policies broadly popular with the people of Virginia.”
      The question is whether Trump voters will buy Gillespie’s authenticity and turn out to vote for him — particularly since Trump didn’t campaign with Gillespie at all despite spending many weekends at his golf course in Virginia over the summer.
      2. Will minority voters turn out for Northam?
      Former President Barack Obama laid this concern out succinctly when he campaigned for Northam in Richmond last month.
      “Off-year elections, midterm elections — Democrats sometimes, y’all get a little sleepy. You get a little complacent,” Obama said.
      “And so as a consequence, folks wake up and they’re surprised — ‘How come we can’t get things through Congress? How come we can’t get things through the state house?'” Obama said. “Because you slept through the election.”
      Northam’s campaign has been laser-focused on turning out black voters, in particular. Those voters make up about 20% of Virginia’s electorate and tend to vote strongly Democratic.
      But in the race’s final days, Northam changed his position on sanctuary cities to say he opposes them and only voted against a state bill to ban them — a move that inspired Gillespie’s MS-13 ads — because no such cities exist in Virginia. The change in position has risked alienating Latino and immigrant voters, and might have sown doubts about Northam into some progressives’ minds.
      Meanwhile, a pro-Northam ad aired briefly by the Latino Victory Fund stirred controversy that could energize pro-Trump Republican voters. The ad depicted four minority children being chased through neighborhood streets by a white man driving a pick-up truck with a Confederate flag and a Gillespie bumper sticker. The ad, which Gillespie blasted as depicting his supporters as racists, stirred up conservative outrage online.
      3. Will progressive groups’ ground troops pay off?
      Outside groups are playing a big role in Northam’s campaign, supplying digital advertising reinforcements for a candidate who has only aired TV ads as well as ground troops, who have made calls and knocked on doors for weeks.
      Planned Parenthood, a leader of those groups, has a lot on the line in both the governor’s race and lieutenant governor’s race, where Fairfax faces Holtzman Vogel. The Republican is known for having sponsored a 2012 bill that would have required women seeking abortions to undergo vaginal ultrasounds — which Planned Parenthood vehemently opposed.
      Other Democratic groups have bickered about Virginia since Northam defeated former Rep. Tom Perriello in the gubernatorial primary. But a share of the credit for wins in statewide and even state assembly contests would go to Planned Parenthood, which announced in August it would spend $3 million to help Northam.
      4. Can Democrats take full control in Washington state?
      One more down-ballot race to watch: a state senate contest in Washington.
      If Democrat Manka Dhingra defeats Republican Jinyoung Lee Englund, control of the senate would tip into Democratic hands. Democrats already control the state house and governor’s office — which means a win in that race would give them the “trifecta”: unified control of Washington’s government.
      This is incredibly important. Right now, Republicans have that “trifecta” in 26 states, which gives them broad authority not just over laws and budgets, but the redistricting process every 10 years. Democrats, though, have trifectas in only six states — California, Oregon, Hawaii, Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island. It’s perhaps the most vivid example of the party’s collapse during Obama’s tenure, and an imbalance that reflects Democrats’ broad structural disadvantages at the state level that entrench Republican dominance there.
      5. Will there be a shocker?
      The reason so much focus is on Virginia is that Tuesday’s other big contests seem like sure things. De Blasio in New York City, Murphy in New Jersey and Curtis in Utah have all appeared to be on course to cruise to victory for months.
      But close elections have a way of sneaking up on people. If any of those three contests suddenly turn tighten up, it would set off alarm bells across the Democratic Party in de Blasio or Murphy’s cases or the GOP if it’s Curtis, prompting the election night narrative to change suddenly and dramatically.

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      Here’s the real truth about getting pregnant on your period

      One terrifying thing about a human body is that it’s primed to spring surprises on you at any time. If, for example, you thought that menstruation protected you from pregnancy, you would be mostly right—except, of course, for when you’re not. According to the American Pregnancy Association, the frustrating answer to the question “can you get pregnant while on your period?” is both yes and no.

      So glad we’ve cleared things up!

      What the APA means to say is, yes: It’s possible to get pregnant during your period. The probability of that happening, however, is very, very low. And period sex can be great. So in order to have it safely, here’s what you need to know.

      How can you get pregnant on your period?

      Like so many annoying things in life, this is a math problem: The average, 28-day menstrual cycle begins on the first day of consistent bleeding. Typically, that bleeding lasts between three and seven days, followed a few days later by the cycle’s most fertile moment—ovulation, often occurring between days 12 and 16, with fertility theoretically peaking on day 14. Post-ovulation, the egg can be fertilized for 12 to 24 hours.

      Sperm, meanwhile, can live inside your internal plumbing for as many as five days.

      A person whose body keeps the clock described above could, hypothetically, have unprotected vaginal intercourse to completion up until the last day of their period at low risk.

      Photo via Pixabay (CC-BY)

      If you keep vigilant tabs on your menstrual cycle and know it unflaggingly adheres to the 28-days plan, congratulations—I’m still not going to tell you to have unprotected sex, though. During your period, your cervix is more open than usual, making you extra susceptible to sexually transmitted infections. Condoms are recommended.

      Many menstrual cycles fall outside the projected 28-to-30 day range, and therein lies the biggest problem: If you’re operating with a shorter-than-average cycle, the window between menstruation and ovulation is smaller. Sperm’s longevity, rudely enough, remains unchanged, elevating the risk of pregnancy in this scenario.

      And then, many people spot between periods, which can make a menstrual cycle difficult to track. Some people have erratic periods that descend whenever they damn well please, which makes this math frankly impossible.

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      How can you tell when it’s safe to have sex?

      Generally, though, the lowest risk moment in the menstrual cycle, pregnancy-wise, falls during the week or so right before your period. According to the APA, it’s safe to assume the fertility window is open between days 11 and 21 of your cycle. For those who really really want to have period sex (again, no judgment, there exist a bevy of very compelling reasons to have period sex), the earliest, bloodiest days are probably your best bet.

      To be clear, though, just because it’s possible to get pregnant on your period doesn’t mean you will. It’s rare.

      But conception concerns aside, some people report that cycle awareness helps them make the most of hormone-related peaks and valleys in productivity. Some even say it makes for less painful periods. And while fertility awareness methods of pregnancy prevention are imperfect and certainly less effective than many other contraceptive tools on the market, those who are actively trying to conceive could certainly benefit from familiarizing themselves with their menstrual cycles. Apps like Clue and Period Tracker offer quick and convenient ways to do that, although more precise methods exist, too.

      Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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      Still freaked out about period pregnancy?

      If you and your partner aren’t mutually monogamous, STI-tested and cleared, and you aren’t using a backup contraceptive, I’ll continue to sing the praises of condom use—and even throw some suggestions your way. You can get pregnant on your period, so protection is a must.

      Also, please keep in mind that vaginal intercourse isn’t the only form of intercourse out there. Anal is an option, as is oral. Even if your direct concern isn’t pregnancy, whatever way you’re going to have sex, please take the time to make sure you’re doing it safely.

      Photo via Pixabay (CC-BY)

      Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance. 

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      The long, hard road to legal birth control

      The Trump administration recently announced a rule that would roll back an Obamacare mandate that requires employers to cover birth control in health insurance plans. This is just one of the administration’s many efforts to threaten or diminish women’s access to contraception.

      Even though women still battle for affordable birth control today, not long ago, selling birth control was illegal in many U.S. states. It took four people, multiple arrests, three clinic shut-downs, and a wave of government backlash before the birth control pill was created and ready for wide distribution.

      In the early 1900s, activists Margaret Sanger and Katherine McCormick were champions of the radical idea that women could enjoy sex without reproductive consequences. While the two women defied taboos and worked tirelessly against legal restrictions, pioneering endocrinologist Gregory Pincus and gynecologist John Rock joined the women to create a future where sex wasn’t synonymous with getting pregnant.

      The invention of the pill led to opportunity, democracy, and massive changes to sexual, medical, and basic human dynamics. Here’s a brief history of the creation of birth control, the “magical pill” that changed the reality of sex and choice for women forever.

      Photo via lookcatalog/Flickr

      When was birth control invented?

      Women have been using “birth control” for centuries—early 19th-century American devices like the “womb veil” preceded the rubber diaphragm and cervical cap, which were popular in the mid-1800s. So, the concept of blocking the cervix to prevent pregnancy isn’t new by any means, but giving women widespread access to medication is.

      Before the pill was even manufactured, Sanger tried to create a cultural space in which the pill could be accepted. After being indicted for a series of essays on birth control that breached obscenity laws, Sanger fled the country to avoid trial. Shortly after returning to the states, Sanger coined the term “birth control” and opened the first women’s birth control clinic in October 1916 in Brooklyn. The clinic was only open for nine days before it was shut down by an undercover policewoman. It reopened again, then was shut down again. In November 1916, it was shut down for a third time resulting in a series of arrests for Sanger.

      Five years after the first clinic was opened, Sanger founded the American Birth Control League in 1921. It is now known as Planned Parenthood and has been helping to provide access to vital healthcare ever since.

      Though Sanger obviously had a large hand in the pill coming to fruition, identifying one person as the sole creator of the first birth control pill is controversial. Three men also studied the movement in the 1950s: A chemist in Mexico City named Carl Djerassi, endocrinologist Gregory Pincus, and gynecologist John Rock.

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      Djerassi was the one who created the chemical solution for the pill first—coupling the ovulation-controlling hormone progesterone with the steroid norethindrone—but Pincus and Rock were able to test, produce, and distribute their own version around the same time.

      In 1951, Sanger met Pincus at a dinner party and she later persuaded him to start researching how a birth control contraceptive could be created. Pincus and Rock conducted their first test of synthetic progesterone on 50 women in 1954, some of which did not give their consent for the test or have any knowledge of what was being tested on them, causing later controversy. For example, one of the trials forced a group of “hospitalized schizophrenics to participate in an experiment whose long-term side effects were unknown.”

      Photo via the New York Times/Wikimedia Commons

      Kitty Marion holding copies of the Birth Control review in 1915

      In 1956, Pincus and Rock moved their tests to Puerto Rico, where the birth control laws were less strict than the U.S. and the two could have little to no limitations with their testing methods. Pincus went on record with the media shortly after, saying the pair created the first birth control pill. However, this was before they had worked out several severe side effects. Regardless, news spread fast and thousands of women wrote to their doctors asking for a prescription.

      When did birth control become legal?

      The birth control pill was approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA) in 1960. Since there was so much publicity when Pincus jumped the gun, the FDA approved the birth control pill, but on one condition: It had to be labeled explicitly as a solution to menstrual disorders, not as a contraceptive. Three years later, the pill was finally approved for contraceptive use.

      Photo via the Science Museum, London/Wellcome Images via Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY)

      The pill was far from perfect, though. According to Planned Parenthood, the first brand, Enovid, had more hormones than necessary to be effective, containing 10,000 micrograms of progestin and 150 micrograms of estrogen, which stop ovulation. By comparison, birth control pills today contain between 50 to 150 micrograms of progestin and 20 to 50 micrograms of estrogen. The larger dosage of the first FDA-approved birth control pills causes heart problems, blood clots, and strokes for many women, often leading to lawsuits. A lower dosage significantly decreased the risk of harm, but as with any medication, there are still some risks associated with birth control today.

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      What is birth control like now?

      You might be surprised to learn that the pill is Americans’ most common form of birth control.

      According to a 2012 survey from the Guttmacher Institute, nearly 62 percent of women in the U.S. in their “reproductive age” currently use a contraceptive method. Some 5.7 million women rely on the male condom as a birth control method, likely because the condom also protects against sexually transmitted infections, something the birth control pill can’t prevent. According to the same survey, the millions of women who take the birth control pill rely on its added benefits, like managing acne, severe menstrual pain, irregular periods, and endometriosis.

      Photo via Nate Grigg/Flickr

      Other contraceptive options like the birth control patch, implant, shot, or vaginal ring have become increasingly popular. The implanted intrauterine device (IUD) has gained massive popularity over the last year—after Trump was elected in 2016, Planned Parenthood reportedly saw a 900 percent increase in the number of patients seeking IUDs. Still, the pill reigns supreme in the world of contraception use. As the conversation about birth control accessibility continues and women seek viable solutions to an age-old problem, the same fight Sanger fought rages on.

      Still, the pill reigns supreme in the world of contraception use. As the conversation about birth control accessibility continues and women seek viable solutions to an age-old problem, the same fight Sanger fought rages on.

      Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.

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      Doctor Warns Women Not To Do The “Cucumber Cleanse” In Brilliant Viral Post

      The cucumber is a versatile vegetable. It can be used in any number of sandwiches and salads. At IFLScience we have a colleague who happily just munches down whole cucumbers, unseasoned, during editorial meetings.

      But now it appears it has become a little too versatile, with a new baffling and concerning trend of “cucumber cleansing” taking off. Brace yourselves, it’s much weirder than it sounds.

      Proponents of the “cucumber cleanse” suggest that you peel a cucumber and “insert it into the vagina and twist around, in and out movements to cleanse the yoni”. They suggest it “resets your pH balance” (which is nonsense) and leaves you smelling fresh (which is also nonsense).

      Several instructional videos exist, and it appears to be a thing that actual people are doing. 

      Here one “expert” in the practice explains the benefits…

      “So how do you cleanse your vajayjay?” Gigi writes. “If you didn’t know, a natural cleaner and one of the tools you can use for restoring pH to your yoni is a peeled organic cucumber. The same can be done with cleansing the throat & the mouth. Using a peeled cucumber you can clean your mouth and throat of any bacteria or viruses.”

      This, unfortunately, isn’t a joke post. Some of Gigi’s followers are very devoted. “I’ve slept with mine inside of me, smelled like a day spa when I woke up,” one commented. “I do it once a month a few days after my cycle, I wasn’t sure how often I should do it but it feels so refreshing,” said another.

      Enter Dr Jen Gunter, she of debunking Goop’s bullshit fame, to warn that it’s not only a waste of good salad, but it could have negative impacts on your health. 

      In a brilliant and hilarious blog post titled “Don’t cleanse your vagina with a cucumber. Please.” Dr Gunter explains (largely in block capitals because “I am yelling”) that there are a number of reasons that you shouldn’t put a peeled cucumber into your vagina to cleanse it.


      Both excellent reasons not to turn yourself into an unorthodox salad bowl.

      “This idea that some kind of vaginal cleansing is required, be it a peeled cucumber or the ‘feminine washes’ sold at drugstores, is misogyny dressed up as health care and I am having none of it. Vaginas are not dirty,” she writes.

      She then explains how doing the “cleanse” instead puts you at risk of diseases.

      “By damaging lactobacilli and the mucosa, attempts at vaginal cleaning increase a woman’s risk of contracting HIV or gonorrhea if she is exposed. Paradoxically it will also cause odor.”

      What’s more, the whole exercise could also be pointless as “NOTHING EXTERNAL CAN ‘BALANCE” VAGINAL pH’: The pH in the vagina is controlled by the good bacteria, the same bacteria that attempts at ‘cleansing’ actually damage.”

      She goes on to warn that cucumbers can contain nasty fungi, as well as describing a case where someone perforated their vagina and bladder with one.

      So, all in all, the only thing you should put cucumbers in is your mouth.

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