Should You Get An Epidural? 5 Natural Birth Experts Share The Pros And Cons

If you’re gearing up to have a natural birth, an epidural probably isn’t part of the plan. Though mainstream health experts agree that the meds are generally low-risk for both women and babies, they can still come with some unsavoury side effects—both during labor and in the days and weeks after giving birth.

Just as important, epidurals can cause some women to feel like they missed out on the full, unfiltered experience of labor—or like they failed at having a natural birth altogether. And yet, something about avoiding hours (and hours) of unimaginable pain and agony is undeniably tempting.

So what’s the right move? Turns out, there isn’t one. The decision over whether to get an epidural is personal, and it involves weighing your own personal list of pros and cons. And while most holistic-minded birth experts don’t recommend them automatically, some agree that epidurals can be right for some women. (Bet you didn’t see that coming, huh?)

Here, 5 birth experts weigh in on when epidurals may be a good strategy, as well as the important reasons why the drugs still aren’t for everyone.

They can be helpful, but they’re not for everyone

I was very against epidurals before becoming a midwife. I felt like they numbed women and were forced upon them unfairly. Now, I see the value in certain situations—but they’re not for everyone.

For most women, epidurals provide significant pain relief. I have had patients who have come in completely exhausted after not sleeping for days due to contractions in early labor.

“The epidural can allow the woman a break to sleep in order to recover and have the energy to push the baby when the time comes.”

I have also seen patients who have a strong urge to push when the cervix is not yet fully dilated. Pushing on the cervix can cause the cervix to swell. This actually makes it more difficult. I have recommended an epidural before for a woman who couldn’t help the urge to push and her cervix was beginning to swell. The epidural allowed her to relax and allowed the cervix to full dilate.

But they’re not for everyone. Women are typically more effective pushers without an epidural. This is because the urge to push is so strong that women can’t not push.

“Epidurals also make it so a woman can’t walk or change positions during labor. That can slow labor, since the baby the baby has a harder time navigating through the birth canal when the woman can’t change positions.”

Epidurals can also cause low blood pressure, which can make a woman feel faint or and require additional medications.

Ultimately, it’s a decision that each woman needs to make for herself. But if you choose to use one, I encourage my patients to wait until their contractions are really strong. Otherwise, women could be stuck in bed for days with an epidural in place.

—Kara Manglani, midwife and former pediatric critical care nurse, and founder of The Fertile Times

RELATED: This New Mum’s Raw Photo Shows the Waist-Down Reality of Giving Birth

They’re linked to increased risks and more medical interventions

While epidurals are the most widely used form of pain relief for women during labor, this relief comes with increased risks. A 2011 Cochrane review found that epidurals cause increased use of assisted birth (like vacuum extraction or forceps), low maternal blood pressure, use of synthetic oxytocin to speed labour, maternal retention of urine, longer pushing phases, and C-sections.

“Epidurals are also linked to an increased risk for maternal fever, which can lead to invasive procedures in the newborn to rule out and treat suspected infections.”

Monitoring, preventing, or treating those side effects involves increased use of interventions. They often include continuous electronic or internal fetal and uterine monitoring, IV lines, frequent blood pressure checks, oxygen masks, ankle bands to stimulate circulation, and medication for itching. These interventions keep women in bed and attached to equipment, and they can have a substantial impact on how one feels about their childbirth experience.

—Naima Black, doula and certified lactation consultant with the Maternity Care Coalition

They can make breastfeeding tougher at first

In order to get an epidural, a woman needs to get IV fluids.

“Breasts, by design, have space to hold fluid—so the IV fluid can get into the breast tissue. That can create a few problems with breastfeeding initially.”

First, the IV fluid competes for space with colostrum—the thick, nutrient-dense milk that comes in after a baby is first born. The IV fluid can also cause breasts to become engorged. When the tissue is taught like that, it can be hard for a little mouth to wrap itself around it.

These problems are typically resolved within a few days, though they can sometimes have a negative effect on milk production in the longer term. In the meantime, if the baby isn’t able to get enough milk directly, mums can hand express or pump to help bring in the milk.

Leigh Anne O’Connor, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant

RELATED: Mum Posts Hilariously Brutal Account Of Childbirth On Facebook

They can make it harder for mums and babies to recover from labour

When a woman enters my office with a baby under five days old, I can immediately tell if the baby had an epidural or not. Although some babies born with an epidural nurse beautifully, most do not.

“Epidural medicine can stay in a babies’ body for up to two weeks. It can make them sleepier, as well as make it harder for them to do the suck-swallow-breathing pattern during breastfeeding.”

Epidurals can make it harder for mums to bounce back too. When I still did home visits, most of the women who didn’t have epidurals would meet me at the door, while those who had received epidurals would often be moaning in bed. It’s hard to recover from being paralysed from the waist down!

Ultimately, my take is that it’s totally normal to be in pain, scream like a manic, and push out a baby. It is the way we were created. So, after our insanely painful labors we just bounce back!

Sara-Chana Silverstein, International Board Certified Lactation/Breastfeeding Consultant and doula

They can help women cope with fear about pain

“Personally, I’ve seen epidurals work really beautifully, particularly in cases where a women needs to rest and relax.”

I had a client who wanted an unmedicated birth, but was also open to pain management (via epidural or other narcotics) if she felt she really needed them. After laboring all night and into the next day, she was exhausted. Her baby also wasn’t in the optimal fetal position, so she had intense back labor. All of this was causing her to tense up during every contraction, which makes it harder for the cervix to dilate.

At 4 centimeters dilated, she opted for the epidural—and the relief she felt was magical. She was able to sleep and rest for a few hours, and just when she thought she’d be in labor for much longer, her cervix was fully dilated and she was ready to push. Her beautiful baby boy was born 30 minutes later. The epidural allowed her body to open up, and also relieved her anxiety over pain.

Katelyn Davis, birth doula and certified women’s health coach

This article originally appeared on Rodale’s Organic Life.

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5 Early Miscarriage Symptoms That Should Be On Your Radar

If you’ve been trying for a baby, seeing that positive pregnancy test is so exciting. But as you enjoy the first weeks of pregnancy (save for bouts of nausea and extreme exhaustion), you may also have one back-of-the-mind fear: What I have a miscarriage?

Needless to say, there’s a lot of anxiety surrounding miscarriages: In one 2015 study, which surveyed men and women, researchers reported that 41 percent of women who’d miscarried felt like they did something wrong, 47 percent felt guilty, 41 percent felt alone, and 28 percent felt ashamed. Many respondents also incorrectly believed that lifting heavy objects, taking birth control pills, or enduring stress may have caused their miscarriages.

But early pregnancy loss (before 13 weeks), or miscarriage, happens in about 10 percent of known pregnancies. And half the time, it’s due to chromosomal abnormalities, which cannot be prevented—though that doesn’t make it any less of an emotional experience.

Most times, miscarriage is an isolated event—couples will often go on to have successful pregnancies and the babies they planned for. Still, if you’ve been through this experience, any twinge, bleeding, or cramping can make you fear that you’re experiencing early miscarriage symptoms. If you’re worried at all, certainly reach out to your doctor who can tell you if you need to be examined. And, just because you notice some of these signs of early miscarriage doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong either.

That said, it doesn’t hurt to be informed about potential red flags. Here are five early miscarriage symptoms you need to know about:


Once you’re pregnant, you don’t expect to start bleeding again. But take a deep breath: It may be completely normal. For one, implantation bleeding may be an initial sign that you are pregnant. “As the fertilised egg burrows or implants into the uterus, you may see some spotting,” says Kecia Gaither, an ob-gyn and maternal foetal medicine specialist. You can also experience bleeding behind the developing placenta, she says. “Red flag” bleeding is bright red, “like a period accompanied by uterine cramping,” she explains. It may also contain tissue or clots. That said, half of women who miscarry experience no bleeding.


When it comes to cramping, menstrual-like cramps can be totally normal as your uterus begins to expand. Other times, cramping can be a sign of an early miscarriage. “The cramping is from the uterus contracting trying to expel the pregnancy,” says Gaither. If you notice pain — particularly with bleeding — see your doctor, she advises.


Just like cramping, you may also feel a lower backache that can range from mild to severe discomfort. Though, again, this can be normal in a healthy pregnancy, too. The best advice is boring, but true: Always talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about your symptoms — they’re there to help you in every way they can.


One of the scariest things for a newly pregnant mama is the worry that you’ll have a miscarriage and have no idea. It’s something called a “nonviable pregnancy,” says Gaither. (You may hear women also call it a missed miscarriage.) “It may persist for days until either the body expels it naturally or your healthcare provider intervenes medically or surgically to remove the pregnancy,” she says. You may notice that symptoms you felt before (nausea, for instance) have disappeared, though these may not go away until hormone levels have decreased.


You’re always on time. Your period comes like clockwork. But if your period arrives a couple days late (and you’ve been having unprotected sex), you may have experienced a chemical pregnancy, which means the egg and sperm met, implanted, and your body produced the hormone HCG, but things failed to develop further. A chemical pregnancy may make up 50 to 75 percent of all miscarriages. You may have no idea that you even were pregnant in the first place.

This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US

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What Your Eyebrows Say About Your Personality, According To Science

Well groomed eyebrows are usually a major sign you have your sh*t together (or at least a seriously legit beauty routine). But according to findings from a recent study, they can also be an indicator of narcissism personality disorder. 

The study – published in the Journal of Personality – found that eyebrows say a lot about our personality and psyche. 

Study authors Miranda Giacomin and Nicholas Rule took photographs of participants’ faces cropped just on the brows and compared the different qualities of their caterpillars (like grooming, distinctiveness and femininity) to the participants’ self-reported levels of narcissism. 

They found that those with distinctively well groomed, thick eyebrows typically scored higher on the grandiose narcissism scale. 

Due to the role of eyebrows in facilitating facial recognition, it’s thought that larger, more ‘perfect’ brows allow narcissists to be more easily recognised, which fulfils their desire to be remembered and liked by others, and to be aesthetically unique and recognisable.

It’s not all bad though – the grandiose form of narcissism is where the individual has a more flamboyant, assertive and interpersonally dominant personality style, which can be valuable traits.

Aside from perfect brows, other indicators of narcissism include hypersensitivity, obsessively talking about oneself, and a severe lack of empathy. 

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What You Should Know About Failing, According To Paige Hadley

Chasing after a big dream can be heartbreaking. Just ask netballer Paige Hadley, who has gone through many devastating moments of her own in the last four years, starting with an ACL injury and peaking when she wasn’t selected for this year’s Australian Commonwealth Games team. But the NSW Swifts vice-captain has learnt, as painful as a potential outcome can be, you have to let go of control and put all your heart into the process.

“I was injured at the end of the season last year, which obviously is one of those things that you can’t help – injuries happen in sport,” the 25-year-old says. But it happened at the worst possible time, before she headed overseas to represent Australia at the Netball Quad Series against South Africa, England and New Zealand (anyone else just love the impeccable timing of the universe?). How she performed in this series was critical because the Commonwealth Games team would be selected when they returned home.

“We went with a squad of 14 – so they need 12 players every game – I missed out on two of those games,” she says of the missed opportunity to show what she could do on the courts. “Having been injured, doing rehab, then I finally got back in the green-and-gold and just to fall short…”

Paige played the last game in the series against New Zealand, had really good feedback, and was “on a massive high”. But two days after arriving back home, she got the news: she hadn’t made the Commonwealth Games team.

“I remember I got home from training and I was sitting in my car and I got the call saying I wasn’t selected as a team mate or as a training partner – only three people missed out on being a training partner.

“For me it was hard. Obviously four years ago I did my ACL, the same year as the Commonwealth Games, and I then I had that big goal in my head of the 2018 Commonwealth Games and I wanted to be on the Gold Coast and I unfortunately didn’t make it and I think for me it was a crazy experience.

“For the first time in my life, I didn’t cry when I didn’t get in. I thought, ‘Why am I not crying? This has been the biggest goal for the last four years. What’s wrong with me?’ Coming away from it I realised that I have built up such resilience. I had put everything that I had on the line for that team and I had given everything. I trained really hard, I had rehab, I got back in the Aussie team [for the Quad Series].”

"I played my heart out, I had the opportunity and unfortunately at the end of the day I wasn't to be selected."

“And I realised that it’s OK. And it’s not the end of the world and that I’ve got an amazing team, the Swifts, to come back into as a vice captain and to lead those girls. At the end of the day it was a really hard experience and I obviously missed out on that opportunity, which doesn’t come every day,” Paige says.

“But I’ve realised that selection doesn’t define who I am or define where I’m going or define what I can be. I think it’s crazy that every setback makes me an even better person. I’m so excited for this [Super Netball] season and to be able to play with my best mates in the red team and get out there and really kick butt.”

Winning this season’s trophy is top of the list for Paige. And with that is proving that she should never be overlooked for an Australian team again.

“The World Cup is next year and I want to be there. I know I want to be the best netballer in the world.

“I need to focus on my team [NSW Swifts], and if I’m playing the best netball that I can play, and if I’m absolutely dominating for my team, if I’m doing everything right, then I put it back on her [Australian netball coach Lisa Alexander] and make her realise – it’s her decision and she can pick who she wants – but it’s going to make it hard for her to not pick me.

“For me it’s not about worrying about that outcome but the process in this team and how we are going to win that title. At the end of the day if we’re winning and we’re in the Grand Final, it means I’m doing something right.”

Watch Paige Hadley and the NSW Swifts play in this year’s Super Netball season.

 Discover what the Women’s Health initiative WinS is and how you can get involved here.

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The Struggles of Having a Vagina

Having a vagina has its advantages and disadvantages—but sometimes it feels like there are way more of the latter. If you’re a woman, then you’re all-too-familiar with having to decide whether to wax or shave—or how much thigh strength is necessary to hover over a public toilet. And that’s not even the worst of it! Here are some of the struggles all vajayjay owners have to deal with:

Unpredictable Periods
One month it might be easy and light, but the next it’s like a red monsoon. There’s also random spotting—and that doesn’t even get into the painful cramping that coincides with Aunt Flo.

Yeast Infections
Getting a yeast infection is bothersome and embarrassing, but it’s worse if you’re prone to these and other bacterial infections.

MORE: Foods your vagina wants you to eat

Wondering If It’s “Pretty”
All vaginas look different—but there are now surgical procedures designed to improve the appearance of your lady parts. Trust us: So long as yours is healthy, it looks perfect just the way it is.

The Pubic Hair Dilemma
Are you supposed to have no hair, some hair, or a full bush? What do they want from us?!

Freshness Issues
Who hasn’t discouraged or even turned down oral sex because you forgot to shower before getting frisky? This may just be one of life’s biggest travesties.

MORE: What female runners should know about their last parts

Ingrown Hairs
So. Freaking. Painful.

No one is comfortable with the idea of a human coming out of what is normally a pretty tiny hole.

Cycling Soreness

Sometimes it makes you wonder if indoor cycling classes are even worth it.

MORE: Six reasons your vagina hurts

No explanation necessary.

Vaginal Dryness
Why oh why do men think it’s okay to skip foreplay?

MORE: The right way to schedule sex

Squatting to Pee

Guys can just unzip and relieve themselves anywhere. Meanwhile, you’re stuck doing a chair pose hovering over the toilet seats in public restrooms.

Camel toe
Woe is the woman who doesn’t do a mirror check on that new pair of super-tight skinny jeans before wearing them out in public.

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This New Internet Trend Has Women Embracing Their Stretch Marks

Barcelona-based artist Cinta Tort Cartró is turning stretch marks into works of art and encouraging women to embrace their natural scars in the process.

The 21-year-old’s popular Instagram account features images of women’s bodies, with rainbow stripes covering the perceived flaws. The pictures have gone viral, with thousands of women voicing their support of the project.

#estrías 💜💖❤💛💚💙 Cada unx de nosotrxs es diferente y, a la vez, cada cuerpo es de una forma u otra y tiene su propia esencia y energía. Hay muchos tipos de cuerpos, igual que hay muchos tipos de estrías. De eso me dí sobre todo cuenta el día que hice estas producciones. Pintando a Yacine, a Mònica y a Roser observé detalladamente su piel, la delicadeza que había en ella y, a la vez, la belleza y la esencia que estas escondían. Hay personas con más o menos estrías, con estrías muy gruesas, menos, o más o menos marcadas, y en esto, en la diversidad, hay la riqueza. Las estrías de Yacine me llamaron mucho la atención, pequeñitas, poco palpables a primera vista y verticales, era la aventura de descifrar todo lo que ellas escondían. Todos los cuerpos tienen (más o menos) manchas, pelos, pecas, estrías, curvas, rectas, heridas, arrugas… y todos son igual de válidos. Ya es hora de que empezemos a amar el nuestro porque, al fin y al cabo, esta es nuestra herramienta de comunicación con el mundo. Y si no nos gusta la herramienta que utilizamos para ello, dificilmente podremos sentirnos libres. Una vez más: quererse es un acto revolucionario. 💜

A post shared by Cinta Tort Cartró ☾ (@zinteta) on

“I spent years hating them and trying to find a way to eliminate them, until I realised that if I did not accept them I was not accepting myself,” Cartró wrote on Instagram.

“Stretch marks are part of our essence, our moments, of our lives, of our stories and of us.”

Inspiring stuff.

#estrías 💙💜💖❤️💛💚 Hola a todxs! Hoy ha sido precioso. Hoy he trabajado en medio de la montaña de mi pueblo, rodeada de la naturaleza más savia y pura. Resultados mágicos, estad atentxs! Quiero agradeceros el apoyo constante, vuestros mensajes y correos… y, aunque no os haya respondido a todxs, intentaré hacerlo durante estos días. Estoy muy en shock, muy emocionada, piel de gallina. Esto es precioso, gracias. Hi people! Today I worked in the mountain, surrounded by pure and sap nature. Magical results, stay tuned! Thanks for all the messages, for the constant support… I will try to answer all of you during these days. I'm very excited and shocked. This is beautiful. Lots of love. Cinta.

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Are All Calories Equal? A New Study Has The Answer

Counting calories is often the focus when it comes to losing weight, but new research has found that we should also be just concerned about the source of the calories we’re consuming.

A team of 22 researchers carried out a review of current studies on the relationship between diet, cardiometabolic diseases (which include chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and strokes) and obesity. Their findings – published in Obesity Reviews – demonstrated that all not all calories are created equal, especially those sourced from sugary drinks.

“Calories from any food have the potential to increase risk for obesity and cardiometabolic disease because all calories can directly contribute to positive energy balance and fat gain,” the study states.

“However, various dietary components or patterns may promote obesity and cardiometabolic disease by additional mechanisms that are not mediated solely by caloric content.”

For example, they showed that a can of soft drink is far less healthy than a medium size potato, despite containing the exact same amount of calories. Their research also suggested that eating polyunsaturated fats found in nuts, seeds and vegetables oils was associated with a lower risk of disease, compared to an equal amount of aturated fats found in red meat.

“We have a long way to go to get precise answers on a lot of different nutrition issues,” the study’s lead author, research nutritional biologist Kimber Stanhop, said in a statement.

“Nevertheless, we all agree that a healthy diet pattern consisting of minimally processed whole grains, fruit, vegetables and healthy fats promotes health, compared with the refined and palatable typical Western diet pattern.”

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5 Women Share The Biggest Regrets About Their Divorce

Okay, maybe your divorce isn’t as dramatic as that HBO show with Sarah Jessica Parker. But that doesn’t mean it’s not confusing, emotion, and at times, terrible.

Divorce tends to bring out the worst in all parties involved. Think: screaming, crying, and prolonged custody battles over your goldfish. And it’s not uncommon for women to look back with a few regrets about who the whole split went down. (Hey, it happens to the best of us.)

Here’s what five women would change about their big breakups:


“I got divorced when I was 47 after being married for five years. I had been traveling in Asia with my husband and writing about it for my website, and after the divorce, I moved back to Los Angeles to start fresh.

“When I got married, I changed my name and moved across the world. I was so all-in that when it didn’t work out, I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?!’ You never imagine that it won’t last. I felt like a failure and I was so sad. I joked to friends that I lived in Sucksville and it seemed like those feelings would never change or end. I felt shattered. I kept thinking, ‘If I had never met him, I wouldn’t have had to get divorced,’ or ‘If I hadn’t needed him, I wouldn’t be in pain now.’ I was living my life backwards.

“It took a while, but eventually I started to heal. I read Supersurvivors and it really resonated with me, and helped me realise I needed to forgive myself and stop fantasising about changing the past. My favourite passage reads:

‘Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different…Forgiveness means breaking the psychological ties that bind you to the past, giving up the quest to change what has already happened…Rather than dwelling on the past, she found herself asking the hopeful and forward-looking question “What now?”‘

“Now, I’m thrilled with my life, and I understand that getting divorced sucks, but being divorced can be great. My one regret is that I wish I hadn’t been so hard on myself. I would call my old self and say, ‘I know you live in Sucksville, but it will get better.’”—Lisa, 50


“I was married to another woman for 18 years before getting divorced. I couldn’t shake my desire to have kids and start a Buddhist spiritual practice and lifestyle, and she just couldn’t support me in those needs. I was preparing to end the relationship for those reasons, and that’s still ultimately why I left. But then I met someone who was interested in starting a family and pursuing the same lifestyle as me, and everything just clicked.

“When my wife and I finalised out divorce, I also lost my job, and so even though my new relationship was just beginning, circumstances made it escalate very quickly. I ended up moving from Colorado to North Carolina to live with her.

“I feel like it was probably hurtful to my ex to ‘monkey-bar’ from our very long relationship into a new one (with a much younger woman). My very valid reasons for divorce were completely shrouded by her pain of being replaced so quickly. I’m happily remarried now, and my ex has moved on, but she still refuses to communicate with me, which I miss.

“I feel like if I had let my reasons for leaving be the reason I left—instead of someone else—maybe we could still be friends these three years later. I regret that I hurt her and left so quickly for someone else.”—Susy, 39


“I met my ex-husband when I was 14, and we were friends from then until I was 22 before I even considered dating him. He pursued me for nine solid years. We had a great friendship and I could talk to him about anything. We started dating when I turned 23, and got engaged, married and had our amazing son shortly after.

“Then real life set in—bills, responsibility, scheduling, parenting. It’s not just happily ever after; no one tells you the amount of work you have to put into it. We got divorced after about eight years.

“My biggest regret is losing my friend and not ending it on a better note. Even though we have a child together, we have not spoken to each other since May of 2017. We have so much history. I understand we are not compatible but I hate the fact that we threw away a strong history and friendship.”—Kiedra, 33


“I’m from South Africa, and met and married my American husband there. We relocated to the U.S. in 2010, which was meant to be a temporary thing for his work, but it wasn’t. I never wanted to move—I didn’t know how I would survive away from my family and I wanted my kids to be a part of that. He manipulated me, promising we’d go back, but then emotionally abused me, and only let me take one child at a time when I’d try to plan visits back to South Africa. When it was clear we were never going to move back, I initiated a divorce.

“I wanted it to be finalized sooner but it couldn’t be. My husband threatened to take away my opportunity for citizenship, which I needed so that even if I left, I could still see my children if they stayed in the U.S. It was a long and grueling process, but we got through it. I’ve been here so long now that I’ve established work and am currently studying, and my children have lived here longer than in South Africa, so it makes sense to stay for now.

“I wish my husband and I had understood the importance of each other’s culture more. It’s been a long road to let go and be whole again.”—Shenase, 39


“I just finalised my divorce last summer—a pretty brutal process that took over a year to finalise—and have since had some time to reflect on how I wish I could’ve done things differently. My ex-husband cheated on me with multiple women, and there was no going back for me once I found out. He tried to repair it and I responded with extreme disdain. I was disgusted, and I said things that you can’t take back, and we became increasingly nasty to each other. We drove the knife deeper into our hearts.

“I don’t regret the divorce—sometimes people just aren’t meant to be together—but the separation doesn’t have to be as brutal as we made it. There are things you can’t un-say, and though it was bad at that point, had we acted with more civility, I think we could have landed somewhere that wasn’t ‘I hate you forever.’ I’m not angry with him anymore, and we had some wonderful times together, so I’d love to be able to have a civil relationship with him. But we made each other enemies, and it’s a shame.

“I also regret not protecting myself better. I had assets going into our marriage and he didn’t, and we used my money to start some businesses together. I hadn’t properly protected myself financially, and I lost a lot of money in the divorce. I don’t think you have to be as extreme as getting a prenup, but at least have a lawyer draft up a list of what you both have going into the marriage. If there had been some documentation of the assets I brought into it, I think I could have limited some of those losses.”

This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US

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"Can Sex Really Stretch Out My Vagina?"

Flashback to your very first period: Whether you were a young girl or older teen, the thought of sticking a little plastic tampon in your vagina may have seemed, well, daunting. (I have to put this where?!) But as a grown woman, you’ve learned your vagina is pretty resilient and totally flexible—after all, it can stretch to accommodate everything from a tampon, to a penis, to a human baby. Still, no matter how wise you may be about your lady parts, chances are you may still feel confused about what’s going on down there from time to time, especially when it comes to how your vagina responds to sex. One question that may have crossed your mind while getting it on: Is it possible for sex to stretch out my vagina?

In short: not exactly. “The vagina is basically a muscular rubber band that that stretches during sex and returns to its original shape and size,” ob-gyn Michelle Met tells Women’s Health.

That said, the very first time you have sex does come with some size changes for the vagina. “Generally a band of tissue called the hymen will break or tear which can sometimes lead to mild bleeding,” she says, “and the vaginal opening increases in size.”

The vaginal wall may also stretch if you have sex with different-size partners, explains Metz. But, as mentioned, your vagina generally bounces back into shape after you’re done getting down. “It’s pretty impossible for sex alone to permanently stretch out the vagina,” Metz says.

However, in some cases, although your vagina may not expand for good, you may experience some soreness or small tears like paper cuts down there, she says. “That’s a sign that the vaginal skin stretched a bit too much.”

While this isn’t something to be too concerned about, if you’re having extreme discomfort every time you have sex, it’s probably a good idea to reach out to your ob-gyn. Metz says for some women with smaller vaginas, she’ll use tools such as a graduated vaginal dilator to help the body get used to a larger and larger diameter (a.k.a. the size of a real-life penis). “And sometimes I send patients to a pelvic floor physical therapist.”

Metz adds that in some cases, these challenges with sex may be caused by a more serious medical condition. “You should definitely consult your ob-gyn because some of those conditions can require surgical correction,” she says.

But even in cases where there are no underlying medical issues, it’s totally possible to experience discomfort and soreness after sex, especially if your partner is particularly well endowed. If you’re having trouble enjoying sex with a larger partner (and actually wish your vagina would stretch the eff out), there are some things you can do in these cases, too. Metz recommends having sex more often and longer to improve the stretchiness and elasticity of your vagina. You can also try easing into this with a dildo, before experimenting with your partner. 

However, at the end of the day, if you’re stressing about your vagina going all wide-set on you, we’ll stop you right there. Bottom line, according to Metz: “It’s pretty impossible for sex alone to permanently stretch out the vagina.”

This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US

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These Images Are Damaging New Mums’ Mental Health

New research from the University of Illinois has found that nearly half (46%) of women feel frustrated, depressed and hopeless when they’re unable to lose weight postpartum as quickly as celebrities claim to.

Published in the journal Health Communication, the study interviewed 50 women about the media’s representations of pregnant and postpartum bodies, and the impact these images have on their self esteem.

And although the study had a small sample size, its findings make complete sense.

“Participants felt that media portrayals of women ‘losing all their baby weight’ in a short time frame set unrealistic expectations and did not account for the realities of giving birth, such as hormones, physical healing and the stress of caring for a baby,” lead author Toni Liechty said.

She added that women are particularly concerned about their appearance and vulnerable to low body image during the perinatal period – the time frame shortly before and after giving birth.

Social media, on the other hand, was perceived “as having a unique influence because (these messages were) viewed as coming from ‘real people,’ including friends and family,” Liechty said.

The research highlighted that social media was refreshing to many women, thanks to its opportunities for sharing honest and authentic information.

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