These Are The Safest (And Most Effective) Face Washes During Your Pregnancy

The best pregnancy-safe face wash is likely not the one you’re using right now. Even if you’re a conscious beauty user, and you’ve nixed the most offensive, toxic ingredients, strange things are happening to your skin now that you’re pregnant (same with your hair, your vision, you get it).

During pregnancy, everything changes. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. Your skin is bouncing back and forth between dry, super dry, oily, super oily and some insane combo that can not be controlled. And all of the products you have been relying on for years may not be safe for baby or for you, Mama. Suddenly smells are offensive, essential oils are not safe, and anything with retinols are on the no-no list. It’s not just the basics like phthlates and parabens that need to go, but so many of those ingredients that you can’t pronounce affects not only your hormones, but risks getting passed along to baby.

Skincare expert Rosalia Fiske (Licensed Esthetician) shares, “Ingredients that pregnant women should be concerned with are acne-focused skincare, such as retinol, certain essential oils and hydroquinone. That being said there are clean cleansers with the right essential oils that will do no harm to mother and baby. Those essential oils are considered hydro essential oils. Hydroessentials, which are water-soluble fractions of the essential oil, are safe as they do not penetrate the blood stream.”

Fiske surprisingly points out that salicylic acid in a cleanser is actually okay for use. “This Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) is an excellent exfoliant and can be used to treat acne prone symptomatic pregnant women. In high concentrations it is considered a risk during pregnancy and should be avoided, especially in professional resurfacing situations. Small percentages used in cleansers like 2% are considered safe (always read your labels and check with your doctors). Hydration is the bottom line best goal before, during and after pregnancy but of course with safe ingredients.”

The good news is that brands and retailers are also demanding pregnancy safe skincare. Beautycounter, a leader in the clean beauty movement, was a founding member of the EWG Verified program which launched in 2015. This third-party certification provides a stamp of safety from ecotoxicity and/or contamination concerns and demands full product transparency. EWG’s “unacceptable” ingredient list is long, and they require that all ingredients are shared with consumers. If you haven’t tried their Healthy Living App yet, you scan your product and find out what is good (or not so good) about it. They make it so easy (and a little addictive) to know if your products are safe.

Lindsay Dahl, SVP of Social Mission at Beautycounter reminds us that, “Face washes can contain a variety of unregulated and sometimes harmful chemicals, such as phthalates (known to disrupt the hormone system and used in fragrances), questionable preservatives like parabens and harsh surfactants.” The good news? “Many safer ingredients exist that can be used for vulnerable times (like pregnancy!). Consumers should look for the EWG VERIFIED logo, which indicates that the company has fully vetted ingredients for safety.”

Ahead are our picks for best pregnancy safe face wash. And if they’re safe enough for pregnancy, they’re safe enough for you to keep using long after bb is born!

Pai Skincare Camellia & Rose Gentle Hydrating Face Cleanser + Cloth for Sensitive Skin

This organic, hydrating cream cleanser features rose, camellia, castor, almond and more of the best hydro essential oils that cater to dry skin woes (hello pregnancy!). Fiske loves this one because it doesn’t strip dry skin that lacks oil and it’s soothing to dehydrated skin that lacks water. It’s strong enough to remove eye makeup, yet maintains the skin’s moisture barrier leaving it balanced and calm. It comes with a two- sided cloth (muslin/flannel) to be used with just a pump of cleanser.

$40 AT AMAZON

Ursa Major Fantastic Face Wash

This foaming face wash is chock full of naturally-derived ingredients such as soothing aloe, brightening sugarcane, moisturizing rice seed and cleansing coconut-derived surfactants. It has none of the bad stuff (including synthetic fragrance or color) but does have a natural, woodsy scent with notes of cedar, spearmint, lime, lemon, rosemary, black spruce, owyhee, vetiver and lavender. That’s plant-powered skincare (as they call it) at its best.

$28 AT AMAZON

Acure Brightening 100% Vegan Facial Cleansing Scrub

Sea Kelp and French Green Clay are the ingredients behind this softening, detoxifying cleanser. It’s paraben free, sulfate free, mineral oil free, petrolatum free, formaldehyde free and cruelty free— but full of plant extracts and antioxidants. With more than 10,000 reviews on Amazon, Eileen raves, “I have been using the ACURE Brilliantly Brightening Facial Scrub for over 3 years. It is fantastically luxurious at a very affordable price.” Use the scrub 2-3x per week to keep skin-tones even (pregnant and new mamas, you know what we mean!).

$9.99 AT AMAZON

Honest Beauty Gentle Gel Cleanser with Chamomile and Calendula Extracts

Of course the company that started with baby products can make skincare safe for pregnant mamas! This hypoallergenic, gentle gel cleanser contains a botanical blend of chamomile & calendula to help calm & soothe. It’s made without parabens, phthalates, SLS, dyes, SLES, PEGs, and synthetic fragrances. Since the Sweet Orange + Vanilla Body Wash is already a baby staple, we trust Jessica Alba with our own skin.

$12.99 AT AMAZON

Countermatch Refresh Foaming Face Cleanser

This hydrating foaming cleanser removes makeup and impurities without disrupting the skin’s moisture barrier. That means that it will seriously absorb your skincare product, so follow with serum and cream. EWG Verified— it includes unique ingredients like plum oil, squalane (derived from olives), and coconut acid without anything from the no-no list. Safe to use morning and night, work the cleanser into a velvety foam and then massage onto damp skin. Users attest to softer, more radiant and hydrated skin after just one use.

$32 AT BEAUTYCOUNTER

TULA The Cult Classic Purifying Face Cleanser

Tula’s Cult Classic Facial Cleanser is loved. Seriously. Created by an MD using probiotics (she’s a gastroenterologist, after all), this cleanser is gentle and effective— never overdrying— but tough enough to remove your makeup including eye makeup. The probiotics calm and soothe, on the inside and out. The smell is light and clean and the gel formula turns into a light foam when you use it. With none of the bad ingredients, it’s now a star in the Conscious Beauty division at Ulta Beauty.

$28 AT ULTA BEAUTY

Burt's Bees Refreshing Foaming Face Cleanser with Cucumber and Mint

You had us at “Burt’s Bees.” This gentle foaming cleanser has cucumber and mint to nourish and hydrate, plus vitamins A, B2 and E. It’s allergy and dermatologist tested, hypoallergenic and formulated without parabens, phthalates, petrolatum and SLS. Male and female customers love this product (and full product line) as it can be used on the reg, day and night.

$9.47 AT AMAZON

REN Clean Skincare Perfect Canvas Clean Jelly Oil Face Cleanser

Perfect for sensitized skin (hello pregnancy), this formula is 100% naturally derived, right down to the surfactants that turn the product from a rich oil into a rinse-clean milk. It not only thoroughly cleanses your skin of makeup, but also of SPF and pollution. Pro-tip: leave it on for 10 minutes without water, and it doubles as a nourishing mask. REN has been a leader in clean skincare (all the way down to its packaging, which is fully recyclable where facilities exist) and has been a staple in our beauty regimen since before clean became cool.

$32 AT AMAZON

Countercontrol Clear Pore Face Cleanser

We were once told to exfoliate only 1-2 times per week, and that’s because exfoliants can be harsh. But not this one. Countercontrol is meant for daily use thanks to the jojoba beads that slough away dead skin combined with soothing aloe vera and light oils from orange, grapefruit and eucalyptus. Taylor C loves it for her combo skin, “The Countercontrol Cleanser has the perfect blend of exfoliating and cleansing properties for my combination skin. It brings balance to my face, ridding the makeup/impurities, and I love the fresh but subtle and clean scent!”

$26 AT BEAUTYCOUNTER

Tata Harper Regenerating Face Cleanser

Before you think this price is just too much, know the reviews are glowing. Jessica says, “This is the best exfoliating face wash I have ever found!! Don’t question yourself, just buy it!” Well then, enough said. Also, Fiske loves it for oily/combo skin mamas (all of us during pregnancy) noting the willow bark extract can penetrate deep into the pores, cleansing the skin from deep inside as salicylic acid normally would. Harper’s ingredients read like a list of mother nature’s best (olives, sunflower, apricot, pomegranate) and her products are made fresh in Vermont on her own farm.

$82 AT AMAZON

Peet Rivko Gentle Face Cleanser

Meet your new basic (in a good way) face wash— the one you will use every morning and every night (kind of like that Cetaphil you used growing up). Credo, who only does clean beauty, created this Peet Rivko Gentle Cleanser to make it simple for all of us. It’s great for all skin types, especially sensitive, and features ingredients like aloe vera, comfrey and green tea. This non-foaming cream cleanser is free of fragrance, essential oils and floral extracts. If you are ultra-sensitive to smells and everything else during pregnancy, heavy scents like lavender or rose will do you in.

$28 AT CREDO BEAUTY

Now that you’ve got your best face wash for pregnancy, check out our other mom approved beauty must-haves.

The post These Are The Safest (And Most Effective) Face Washes During Your Pregnancy appeared first on Scary Mommy.

10 Things You Need To Know When Someone’s Baby Dies

Chrissy Teigen and John Legend announced the loss of their son. Not surprisingly, it seems that many of the comments on social media are lacking support.

You will likely not personally encounter a celebrity who has lost a baby. But you will encounter baby loss parents both in person and online.

So I bring you my top 10 list of what you need to know when someone’s baby dies:

Always be kind.

I get that many hurtful words are said with the intent to be kind —- and I’ll talk about that in a minute. But first — check your posture: Are you doing everything you can to empathize? Even if you cannot relate, do you assume this person is doing the absolute best they can under the circumstance? Before you do or say anything — first, be kind.

This loss is not a lesson. (And read that again and again if you need to.)

A parent may at some point in life after loss discover something about themselves or the world as a direct consequence of this loss. But that does not make this loss a lesson. God nor the universe puts the death of a child on someone so they can learn something. It’s tragic. Period. So if you are either trying to find the lesson in someone else’s loss — or want to teach them a lesson — full stop. No.

This is not God’s will.

Not everything that happens on this earth is God’s will. (Why would God create a life just to turn around and say, nevermind?) Things happen on this earth all the time that are not God’s will. (And if that were not the case, why does the Bible say to pray for his will to be done?) Whether we agree theologically or not — the thing is, YOU don’t ever have the right to tell someone their loss was God’s will. Not. Ever.

Say something (hopefully supportive).

You do not need to tiptoe around the loss in order to avoid reminding them about it and making them sad. They have not (nor will they ever) forget. While you don’t get to demand that they pour out all their feelings out to you — you should still acknowledge that they have feelings. As they should. If you don’t know what to say, a simple, “I’m deeply sad for your family,” will do.

Say their child’s name.

If the greatest fear of a parent is to lose a child — the second greatest fear is that once their child is gone, they will be forgotten. You do not bring distress when you mention a child’s name who has passed away. You bring a gift. The gift of remembrance. Say the name. Remember their baby.

If you are close with the person, make an effort on special dates to express that you remember their baby and are thinking of them.

Holidays, due dates, Mother’s Day/Father’s Day, birthdays — all of these days are incredibly lonely and can be distressing for a loss family. Put an alert in your phone to send them a simple message or card to let them know you’re thinking about them and their baby.

Keep the cliches in check.

In my upcoming book, I have almost an entire chapter dedicated to why platitudes hurt. Here’s the cliff’s notes version: platitudes offer quick and easy comfort … to the comforter. And they almost always distress the bereaved. A quick saying makes light of a loss, even when unintended, and indicates that there is a reason or explanation that is acceptable for why the baby died. And if there’s a reason, a parent shouldn’t have to hurt so much. And if they don’t have to hurt so much, you don’t either. But there is no reason good enough. And most certainly, you do not get to tell them the reason you think their baby died. Again, keep it to a “I’m so sorry …”

Don’t judge their reaction.

Popular opinion says, the further along a pregnancy, the more a woman and her partner are emotionally impacted. But that is not what science says. The impact of a loss transcends gestational age and is a reflection of many more factors such as the physical nature of the loss, if the loss was traumatic, the parent’s relationship to this baby and pregnancy, and more. As in — the way a couple experiences a loss and responds is profoundly unique. And their response, whether intensely private or public, is not up for debate. Honor the response and wishes of the grieving couple. And do not imply they are grieving too much, too little, too short, or too long. Let them grieve however they need to.

Your pain does not invalidate their pain.

If you’ve ever been tempted to say (or think), “You think this hurts? Try _________.” Um. Not helpful. This is not the pain Olympics. You can both be deeply hurting over different, even seemingly contradictory things. And likewise, their pain does not invalidate yours.

Don’t be the peeping Tom of grief.

I know that when a celebrity grieves, it impacts many of us. But there is a difference between grieving as a community — and infringing on personal space out of curiosity (or worse.) If someone is a celebrity — recognize that they don’t owe you anything. Sharing their talents with the world does not mean their private affairs get to be fodder for your entertainment. And if they are not a celebrity, privacy and respect are equally due. You can be appropriately concerned … and be respectful. Don’t ask intrusive questions. Don’t demand a deep emotional conversation. Listen to what they want to say? Yes. Expect all the nitty-gritty they are not ready to share? Heck no.

I know I promised 10 things, but here’s a bonus: if someone has had a baby die — show up. Go to the funeral. Bring them a meal. Send a card with money for medical expenses — or just for something nice. Send condolences. Respect their privacy, yes. But if you know of a need, or can communicate with someone coordinating their care, be a person who shows tangible love and support whenever possible.

I know my tone is maybe just a little more direct than you are used to here. But I would like to emphasize that the onus is on all of us to learn to support the grieving better — not for the bereaved to learn to grieve better.

To Chrissy and John — we are thinking of you in this time of deep grief and mourn your Baby Jack with you. He will be missed by us all. Sending our love and support to you, and we hope you are held by your loved ones as we hold you close in our hearts.

The post 10 Things You Need To Know When Someone’s Baby Dies appeared first on Scary Mommy.

The Questions ‘Old’ Moms Ask Themselves When Considering A Late-In-Life Baby

Becoming an “old new mom” was never part of my plan, but here I am. And while I’m so grateful for my beautiful family, having a child later in life has definitely been a different experience. The path leading to my geriatric pregnancy looked much the same as it does for lots of women. Very career-driven, I spent the better part of my twenties and early thirties in college earning my doctorate and working (as my dad would say, “like a borrowed mule”), so my focus was simply elsewhere. It wasn’t until right around the time that I met my husband at age 34 that I first began to hear the faintest sound of my biological clock ticking.

Over time, as tends to happen, that ticking became louder. When my husband and I got married, I was blessed to become a stepmom to the sweetest boy ever born … but I couldn’t shake the strengthening desire to add to our family. And so, one fall afternoon in my 37th year of life, my husband and I decided that our DNA was worth combining and that we wanted a baby.

A few weeks later, I was staring at two little pink lines that would change my life (and brain) forever. I didn’t know it then, but I would be joining a growing sisterhood of women having babies at an “advanced maternal age”.

As excited as I was about becoming a mother, pregnancy and childbirth were definitely not kind to my aging body. Right before I went in for my scheduled C-section, I remember someone asking me if we would ever have another baby. Practically snorting at the absurdity of that question, I emphatically answered, “HELL NO! WHO ON EARTH WOULD DO THIS TWICE…ON PURPOSE???”

And then it happened.

I woke up in the recovery room and held that sweet little newborn baby in my arms and gazed upon his angelic face for the first time. He had his daddy’s eyes and his mama’s nose. I was captivated, overpowered by a wave of emotion that I still struggle to describe. I literally burst into tears because I couldn’t take how beautiful he was. Without a doubt, I was in love and my former self who didn’t “get” what this motherhood thing was all about was gone … forever.

Fast forward to the present. I am now 40 with a two-year-old, whom I love more and more with each passing day. Our son is a smart, funny, vivacious little firecracker who has been an absolute blessing to our family. Now that he is walking (running), talking (yelling), and potty trained (eh, mostly), our life has started to settle into a nice, comfortable rhythm … which, of course, means that all I can think about for the past eight months is having another baby.

Wait. WHAT?!? I mean, clearly this child has broken something in my brain, right? Seriously … have I lost my ever loving mind?!?

Like any logical person facing this conundrum, I’ve made a list of the pros and cons. The tally is solidly in favor of us being one and done … but all the logic in the world doesn’t stop the thoughts, the questions, and the longing. And, since so many more women are having kids later in life, it has become increasingly clear to me from conversations and online message boards that what I’m experiencing is a very common predicament … paralysis by analysis that places you squarely on the fence. Without a doubt, the emotionally taxing decision of whether to attempt conception amid diminishing opportunities is one that unites older moms because we likely feel some version of the same stress, uncertainty, and pressure.

So, if you’re an old mom on the fence trying to explain this to someone (or married to an old mom on the fence and trying to figure out what the hell is going on in her head), here are a few questions that are likely being considered … about 100 times per day.

Is it worth the risk?

The statistics for pregnancy after 40 are scary, and the risks to both mom and baby are very real. First and foremost, it’s harder to get and stay pregnant. And, if you’re lucky enough to conceive and carry to term, there are a host of other concerns. I could share some of the stress-inducing numbers, but if you’re on the fence with me, you’ve probably been secretly reading them on your phone anyway. And, as if that wasn’t enough, many of us are also having to weigh these risks in 2020. So in addition to just the normal, everyday uncertainties, we also have to consider a global pandemic that puts pregnant women at a higher risk (and older, high risk pregnant women presumably at an even higher risk than that).

Given the variables, it feels ludicrous to even think about having a baby right now. But then you read an article about a lady who had three healthy pregnancies after 40 … or you know a woman who knows a woman who became an old new mom during the pandemic with no problems whatsoever, and you think, see? A seemingly endless number of other women are out there dodging the complications every day … so why not me? And is there really anything worth having that doesn’t come with at least a certain amount of risk?

Am I just too old?

The pregnancy amnesia that comes with motherhood is a force to be reckoned with … it has to be, otherwise the world would be full of only children. But, even looking back through the strongest of rose-colored glasses, I still remember how hard it was growing a baby in this old body. What weighs on me heavily is that I’m 100% certain that pregnancy would be even worse now because I’m almost three years older … and chasing around a perpetually busy two-year-old.

Would I seriously be able to keep up with an energetic three-year-old while pregnant (especially if it’s even harder than the last one)? And forget about pregnancy, will I be able to put myself back together while keeping up with a newborn baby AND a toddler (who still doesn’t consistently sleep through the night)?

Regardless of how sad it makes me feel to admit it, I have to consider the simple fact that maybe I’m just too old to do it again. I mean, sure, lots of other moms do it. In fact, not only do I know a surprising number of women who have had multiple kids later in life, but when I think about them collectively, they all have one thing in common … they all seem much younger than they actually are. Maybe it’s because no one expects to see a member of AARP at back-to-school night … or maybe having kids later in life is actually some weird fountain of youth that keeps you younger out of necessity.

In my quest for statistics related to older mothers, I was surprised to find that the older the new mom, the more likely she is to survive to an unusually old age. In fact, there was one study that found that women who lived to at least age 100 were four times more likely to have had children while in their forties.

It really doesn’t matter how many studies I find, the future and how it will be impacted by my age still fill me with worry (even for our two-year-old). Will my body be able to keep up? Will my kid feel weird about having an old mom? Will I live long enough and be healthy enough to enjoy being a grandmother one day? Clearly there’s no way to answer these questions without a crystal ball, but the uncertainty is stressful.

Why does time seem to be going so FAST?

Seriously? When I was pregnant with my son, time moved so slowly that I was convinced that the secret to eternal life was to be pregnant. Those 10 months felt like 10 years. Since his birth, however, the clock feels like my sworn enemy. At the same time that I’m keenly aware of my fertility slipping away, so are the last moments of my son’s babyhood. It feels silly to be emotional about that because the point of having kids is to watch them grow up, but I can’t help but be overcome with sadness each time I’m forced to pack up clothes or toys he has outgrown.

As I agonize over this decision about whether or not to have another baby, I have also become acutely aware that each of my baby’s firsts is also quite possibly a last for me. There will be a last time I hold him in my arms to feed him, and a last time I rock him to sleep at night. (Even typing those words makes my eyes well up with tears.) Right now, every milestone feels like a bittersweet reminder of my aging ovaries and I find myself clinging to those baby moments in a desperate attempt to keep them from slipping away … and, despite my desperation to hold onto them, I can still feel them leaving my grasp.

At the same time, there is also this intense (albeit self-imposed) pressure to jump off the fence in an effort to beat the clock. If we decide to try for another baby, the longer I wait, the less likely it is to happen (especially since my husband and I decided years ago that measures involving medical intervention just wouldn’t be for us). My guess is that the decision that your family is complete might be a difficult one to make in any situation, but there’s a difference between making that decision on your own and having time make it for you. In a matter of months or, at best, a few short years, there will be no choice to make because these ovaries aren’t going to keep pumping out viable eggs forever, a fact about which I’m reminded at least daily.

Maybe it’s not just my fertility slipping away that I’m mourning. Maybe the impending loss of my fertility is also a reminder of my youth slipping away, as well … a reminder of my own mortality, and of how quickly our time on this Earth really is. Whatever it is, the clock seems to be ticking faster and faster … and the more I want it to slow down, the faster it goes.

Why didn’t I start earlier?

Sometimes my sadness at the possibility of having no choice but to be one-and-done turns into anger, even if for a moment. Why? Why didn’t I start earlier? In my attempt to have it all, did I put myself in this regretful position of having biology plan my family for me?

The truth is, I met my amazing husband later in life, and there’s nothing that could have changed that timeline. Having him as my husband makes me the luckiest woman on Earth, but there are still moments when I feel frustration that I’m in this position of having to weigh the risks and reward of motherhood under such a time crunch. Deep down, I know that if I was 10 years younger, this would be a non-issue.

Obviously there are never guarantees, but at least I’d have time to let our son get a year or two older before having to make this decision. It’s a hard feeling to be on the fence because you don’t want another child yet, but yet might be too late.

What if I regret this decision?

Regret is an unavoidable possibility when you make decisions … it’s just a part of life. But, we’re not talking about the same regret you might feel after having one too many slices of pizza or spending too much on a pair of shoes. No, the regret that might come as a result of this decision might be hard-hitting and could quite possibly last for the rest of my life. (I know that sounds overly dramatic, but these are the thoughts that go through my head!)

To make matters worse, there are several layers of possible regret to consider. What if I decide that I want a second baby and I’ve waited too long? What if we decide to go for it and there are serious complications and, God forbid, one or both of us doesn’t make it? On the flip side, if we decide our family is complete as is … will our two-year-old wish for a sibling to grow up with when he’s in elementary school and his older brother (my stepson) is an adult? Will I send him off to college and feel anguish at the fact that I didn’t have another child when I had the chance?

Courtesy of Suzy Lofton

I know that the weight of caring for two little ones will probably have days where it feels like too much or places temporary stress on our otherwise happy little life, but I struggle to see how I could ever regret adding another little person to our family … but what if the statistics turn out to be true and this decision ends up causing all sorts of unnecessary heartache and stress instead?

Am I just being plain old selfish?

Is my biologically-driven desire to procreate completely ignoring the reality of the impact it will have on my husband, our boys, and the rest of our family? I mean, let’s face it, we’ve already shelved our early retirement plans because we will have a kid in high school. I know we can provide a good life for our sons, including fully-funded college accounts, and still remain financially comfortable. Having another mouth to feed, another college fund to build, and additional daycare expenses (among other things) clearly takes away from the people who are already in this family.

And let’s not forget that my deciding I want to go through another pregnancy and newborn phase would clearly put everyone else in this house in the predicament of having to go through it as well. What about our toddler, who is the textbook example of a mama’s boy … would another baby take away from him and somehow make me a lesser mother? Would either of our boys feel less important or less loved? And then there’s my own aging parents (who, incidentally, had me in their mid thirties) … as the likelihood that they will need additional support increases, can I balance that with also taking care of a house full of little ones?

Am I tempting fate?

To be honest, I lucked out with our son. I got pregnant right away. I had an uneventful (albeit uncomfortable) pregnancy. I had a planned C-section with a skilled doctor and our son’s birth went completely as planned. What if I’m not that lucky this time? What if it isn’t uncomplicated or things don’t go as planned? I won the kid lottery once … should I quit while I’m ahead?

Which should I listen to – my head or my heart?

Look, I’m a smart girl. I know the risks … and the work … and the devastation it will likely cause to my body. I know that we have finally settled into a routine and life is starting to feel a little bit easier. I know another baby means losing the guest room, possibly buying a larger car, and two daycare payments. I know it will mean months (or years) of interrupted sleep, and diapers, and spit up, and crying.

I know all of this. But that doesn’t stop my heart from aching for a sweet, newborn baby, from marveling at our adorable son and wondering what other awesome little person we could create. It doesn’t stop the twinge of jealousy I feel at pregnancy and birth announcements. It doesn’t stop me from picturing our lives 10 years down the road and seeing two kids at home (my stepson will be in college by then). All of the logic and sound judgment in the world can’t stop the wondering and yearning.

There are so many upsides to being an older mom, but this has definitely been one of the unanticipated challenges for me. Make no mistake about it – the seemingly constant internal monologue and almost-daily back-and-forth, being driven by a biological clock that seems to tick louder every day, can feel positively suffocating at times.

In those moments, I have to force myself to stop, breathe, and remember just how grateful I am to have the life I have right now. There’s a picture in our bedroom that says, “I remember the days I prayed for all that I have now” and it’s so true. I can’t let my fence-sitting make me lose sight of how fortunate I already am.

I honestly don’t know how this story ends or on which side of the fence I’ll land. Until then, I’ll keep cramming our closets full of baby clothes and toys until I can decide what to do with them.

No matter the outcome, given the growing sisterhood of old new moms out there who are struggling with this very same decision, I know I’ll be in good company on either side of the fence.

The post The Questions ‘Old’ Moms Ask Themselves When Considering A Late-In-Life Baby appeared first on Scary Mommy.

My Against-The-Odds Pregnancy Losses Impacted The Way I Think About Luck

Here’s what nobody told me about pregnancy loss: It stays with you even after giving birth to a healthy child. I had my daughter in 2017 after four pregnancy losses and, here we are, in 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, and I’m right back in my grief.

My employer recently announced that staff should return to the office starting next week. My reaction: Panic. For the past six months, I have spent most of my time at home. I do not run errands or visit with friends. I am privileged to be able to shop online and get groceries delivered. I have been holding my breath, operating under the assumption that I am going to get this virus and, when I do, I will be one of the people who ends up in the hospital with acute respiratory distress syndrome. And if I survive, I will be one of the people who has long-lasting, life-changing symptoms.

Why do I assume this? Because I have a deeply rooted belief in my own unluckiness.

***

My company has a short list of people who are exempt from returning to work—people who have certain medical conditions, people who are caretakers to others in high-risk categories. There is no category for people who have posttraumatic stress from pregnancy loss that is manifesting as health anxiety. There is no category for people who simply don’t feel safe. In this new world, safety is not a right; it is a privilege.

In 2015, I experienced the first of what would become four pregnancy losses. It was ectopic, the embryo hopelessly stuck in my fallopian tube. After emergency surgery to end the embryo’s life and save mine, I was told that this event was relatively rare, occurring in just 2% of pregnancies. My friend’s husband, an OB-GYN, assured me, “I’ve never seen a woman have two ectopics.”

Except I did. But not before losing two more pregnancies first.

My second loss was a miscarriage. “It’s very common,” I was told. These words were supposed to comfort me. The doctor gave me pills to help “expel the embryo,” but the pills did not work (something that happens for about 20% of women). It took more than a month—of bleeding and waiting and crying—before I could pee on a stick and not see a positive result.

When my third pregnancy went past the first trimester, I thought I was in the clear. This is what I’d been told. Google assured me that only 1.6% of pregnancies end after a heartbeat is confirmed. We saw and heard more than a heartbeat. We saw our son—we named him Miles—dancing across the ultrasound screen several times before his heart stopped at 17 weeks. I was told I could give birth to him or have a dilation and evacuation (D&E). I chose the surgery, and it’s a decision I’m unsure of to this day.

My second ectopic happened a few months after we lost Miles. My doctor described this ectopic as “strange,” which is not the word anyone wants their doctor to use. He could not see on ultrasound where the embryo had implanted. I’d already had one fallopian tube removed, and he couldn’t see anything amiss in the other tube. It was possible the embryo had taken up residence in my stomach cavity, a rarity within a rarity. I was given a shot of a drug that’s commonly used for cancer (“it’s a good cell-killer,” the doctor said) and monitored with blood testing several times over the course of two months.

Yes, it was two months before I was officially unpregnant.

***

Google tells me that only 1.7% of COVID-19 deaths are in my age group (I’m 40). I know this is supposed to calm my fears and make me feel capable of doing things like return to the workplace, but as Elizabeth McCracken says in her memoir, “Once you’ve been on the losing side of great odds, you never find statistics comforting again.”

Since my pregnancy losses, most of which were unexplained and all of which were described as “incredibly unlucky,” I have had ongoing health anxiety. I am convinced there is something inherently wrong with me, something that explains the loss of my babies and possibly foretells other medical sagas to come.

My doctor must roll her eyes every time she gets a message from me requesting a blood test to check for the latest ailment on my mind. For a while, I was obsessed with my fasting glucose levels (something that was brought to my attention as being high when I was pregnant). I went as far as to read an entire book on metabolic disorders and consult with a specialist before deciding that the results of my four (yes, four) blood tests were good enough for me to stop worrying (for now). I’ve gotten a C-reactive protein test to assess inflammation in my body (I don’t have much). I’ve gotten a complement C3 test because I read it can be a good indication of immune function (honestly, I don’t even know how to interpret the results). I did a complete nutrition panel, which revealed that my body does not make glutathione, something that a naturopathic medicine doctor told me was “very odd.” Glutathione is a major antioxidant so not having any has led me to think I’m destined to get cancer. And on and on.

This was all before COVID-19.

While writing my book, All the Love: Healing Your Heart and Finding Meaning After Pregnancy Loss, my co-authors, Meredith Resnick, a licensed clinical social worker, and Dr. Huong Diep, a board-certified psychologist, made me aware of the long-lasting effects of pregnancy loss on the psyche. One study found that symptoms of anxiety and depression can persist for up to three years following a miscarriage. I would say it could be even longer. I would say post-traumatic stress from loss can be long-term.

As Meredith writes in the book, “Post-traumatic stress is a reaction that occurs after the trauma itself is over. It’s like vapor that rises from the trauma itself.” The vapor, for me, is this health anxiety, this belief that I am medically doomed, that I will be the 1.7% of 40-somethings who dies of COVID-19.

Until COVID came along, I didn’t realize that my losses had imprinted on me this belief in my medical unluckiness. I didn’t realize how much fear was bubbling under the surface of my life. In a way, COVID has put me back in touch with my grief, which is a good thing. Residual grief is, after all, evidence of residual love—for the babies I lost, for the people they never got to be.

I will carry this grief with me always, and when it’s masked (pun intended) as something else, I can dare to remove the mask, confront the underlying fears, and allow my losses to continue to help me grow.

The post My Against-The-Odds Pregnancy Losses Impacted The Way I Think About Luck appeared first on Scary Mommy.

My Partner Made Me Feel Ashamed Of My Pregnant Body

Trigger warning: verbal abuse and domestic violence

 

The hardest part of my pregnancy was my body changing.

Domestic violence hit me the hardest during this time.

This is why I get emotional when I legit see pregnant mommas living their best lives with their miraculous growing bods — oh, I see you.

Being with someone that tugged on my thighs and looked at other women from top to bottom that were fit, built, and gearing up for spring break and me, at my core, feeling the heaviest and ugliest, sweating profusely, very pregnant, trying to walk for 20 minutes on incline at the university gym.

I felt my clothes didn’t hug my bump cutely like others. I refused to buy maternity jeans until mine busted from being kept together with a hair tie — and towards the end, I didn’t want to leave the house at all.

I felt so much shame for my pregnant body — if I’m being honest, hatred for it.

I remember looking under the sheets soon after delivering and realizing I still remained there — pregnant appearing, but now no child within me.

I remember weeping in the shower, leaning against the wall, and seeing my changed body appear beneath me.

I wept for this body I imagined as soon as these nine months were over.

My partner, throwing a women’s fitness magazine at me while we were still at the hospital, telling me that it should make me feel better and get motivated that one day I would look like them again.

I remember being in labor and looking at my nurses and wanting them to hide and their shifts to be over because they were cute and I knew I couldn’t compete — while giving birth.

I remember juggling every day after … losing weight fiercely and way too quickly while breastfeeding because I needed to “get it back.”

I remember having piles of animal crackers on my Boppy pillow at night while my nursing son was absorbing nutrients from my epic body, and me counting the individual animals, trying to tell myself I couldn’t eat too many.

I remember my first post-birth walk, post-birth run.

I remember shorts being gifted to me after he went on a shopping spree, with a pair of tennis shoes, and pulling them up and realizing they were too tight still. Thinking he may have bought that size on purpose so I must fit into them.

Talking to my therapist the other day, who is a male, I told him how I struggle with my after-appendectomy body, my after-baby body, and how I feel like I still get held back because of these voices in my head. I can know they are not my truth. But I hear them nonetheless. I’m tired of them.

As I told him, “When I look in the mirror, still after all this time — I still hear his voice in my head.”

“Saggy. Boob. Bitch.”

“Whore.”

“Slut.”

… And the cheating didn’t help.

You didn’t like that language? Yeah, I didn’t either.

You know what I gotta say in response to this? Wear the dang bathing suit.

WEAR THE DANG BATHING SUIT.

Don’t just wear it — own your body in it. All these scars, stretch marks and pieces of your body that tell your story. Allow them to be seen, honored and heard.

I should’ve been able to walk around the hospital for my first post-birth walk and not feel like every other woman or man would think I still looked pregnant. I should have strutted my stuff, knowing I had an incredibly hard pregnancy; mentally, emotionally, sexually, and physically. I birthed a healthy baby, the sweetest, most beautiful human that made me into an epically changed woman.

Do not, for one more second, keep your soul at home when you decide to bring your body out.

Do not do it any longer.

Go check yourself out right now. Breathe her in. She is mighty, strong, brilliant, sexy, fierce, intelligent, brave, resilient and her body tells the most epic of stories — one of her life.

Wear. The. Bathing. Suit.

And each time you scan the pool or scan yourself, remind yourself that you are a straight up masterpiece.

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It Only Took Seven Days For Me To Break

Trigger warning: miscarriage

How do you tell the world that you are broken and that you hope they don’t look at you with eyes that mirror the way you feel? How do you tell the world about one of your biggest failures and hope they don’t use that to define you? How do you tell the world that you are actually not okay, despite saying it for weeks? How do you process a loss when society tells you not to talk about it? How do you tell the people you love that there is nothing anyone can do to fix it? How do you tell someone you are actually the worst you’ve ever been?

The simple fact is — there’s no pretty way to do it. There’s no perfect way to say: I had another miscarriage, and it has broken me all over again.

But I did. And it has. And I am tired of pretending like I am okay for the sake of everyone else’s feelings. Because I am not okay and I don’t know when I will be, or IF I ever will be.

It has been an absolute whirlwind since I found out I was pregnant. In the span of seven days, I went from a positive pregnancy test, to a negative pregnancy test that was supposed to serve as a confirmation of the first, to a blood draw, to spotting, to outright bleeding, to a blood redraw, to confirmation that I was no longer carrying my child.

My emotions went from shocked, to acceptance, to excitement, to fear, to heartbroken and shattered. In seven days. One week. That’s all it took.

The weight of this miscarriage feels heavier than my first. Having Addison allows me the understanding of just what I’m missing out on as I process losing this baby. The love. The snuggles. The laughs. The feelings. The sleepless nights. The worry. The want to give them everything they could ever dream of. All of it. I am missing out on all of it.

And I have been in the weirdest mental state ever since because of it — balancing between anger, sadness, and numbness. All in a 60-minute span. Rinse and repeat, 23 more times.

Almost no one knows. I wish people understood the fine line I am walking without me having to tell them. I wish I could wear a shirt every day that says, “please be delicate with me, I am breaking” and not have to explain to everyone what it means. I wish someone would just wrap me up in the biggest hug and tell me I’m going to be okay, even if it’s a lie. I’m not saying the world should walk around on eggshells around me, but… I’m also not saying I wouldn’t kind of be okay with it either.

But somehow, the world keeps (unsteadily) turning, and I seem to be falling apart more and more with each turn. It doesn’t seem fair. None of this seems fair. How is any of this fair?

Is it because I wasn’t overwhelmed with joy at first? Is it because I went for one too many runs? Is it because I went bonkers nesting and did too much around the house? Is it because I lugged two bags of mulch when I should have just grabbed one? Or was it none of those things at all?

It eats me up inside to know that I will never know just what it was that ultimately led to me losing my baby.

How do you cope when you don’t have the answers? How do you mourn someone you’ve never even met? Felt kick or hiccup or seen smile or giggle? Never got to hold or name? How do you process all of these feelings and emotions when they continue to consume you so deeply, day in and day out?

Seven days. That’s all it took for my heart to completely shatter. To fall out of my body, onto the floor, never to look the same again. Seven flipping days is all it took for me to completely break. And I have no idea how long it will take to put this new version of myself back together again, but I do know it will be longer than a godforsaken seven days.

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Ask Scary Mommy: I’m Not Excited About My Sister’s Pregnancy

Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s new advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.

This week… what do you do when your friend or family member is pregnant and you’re not excited? How can you be supportive when you are feeling anything but happy? Have your own questions? Email advice@scarymommy.com

Dear Scary Mommy,

My sister is pregnant and I know I should be excited but I’m just… not. I had a miscarriage two months ago and her pregnancy makes me feel sad and envious. I try to put on a happy face, but talking to her has become so painful that I’ve found myself avoiding her. I love my sister and wish I could feel more excited for her, but I just can’t seem to muster those feelings. I feel like an awful person and a terrible sister. Am I? How do I make myself feel happy for my sister?   

First of all, no, you are not a terrible sister or an awful person. You are human. A human with complicated feelings and emotions. What you are feeling is completely normal too.

Second, I’m so very sorry about your recent miscarriage. A miscarriage is a traumatic event with physical and emotional impacts that are not always seen. It may have a lasting impact on you for years to come.

Finally, you aren’t alone. Almost 12 years ago, my sister and I were pregnant at the same time, due within two weeks of each other. I ultimately had a miscarriage; she went on to deliver a healthy baby girl a few months later, while I was struggling with another miscarriage and infertility issues. It took years for me to come to terms with the complicated feelings I had about her pregnancy, and even holding my new niece made me want to cry. But under it all, I loved my sister and my niece immensely. Eventually those difficult and unsavory feelings dissipated. Life moved on, and time does heal most wounds.

For now, I suggest you acknowledge your feelings and give yourself some grace to feel these emotions, as unwelcome and strange as they might be. You might want to consider letting your sister know that you are struggling and the reasons why. She will likely understand, and it could prevent any misunderstandings about why you are having a hard time connecting with her now.

Oftentimes the shame we put on ourselves for unwanted and less-than-desirable feelings is worse than the actual feelings themselves. You may find that just by acknowledging the sadness and envy of your sister’s pregnancy may lighten the heaviness of them.

It may also help to find ways you can be supportive of your sister without triggering your own miscarriage trauma. If there are things that are just too painful, try to avoid them as much as you can. There are many ways to be supportive, after all. If planning a baby shower would be too painful, pass that off to your sister’s BFF. Maybe you can research baby strollers and gift the new baby with a kick ass set of wheels instead. If decorating the nursery makes you feel ragey, make a few freezer meals for the parents after the baby arrives. If talking about baby names makes you want to burst into tears, tell your sister you’d prefer to be surprised and ask if you can stick to celeb gossip for a few months.

Bottom line: you went through an emotionally distressing, life-changing experience. Your feelings – however unpleasant and unwelcome – are valid and understandable. And don’t worry, they are absolutely no reflection of how much you will love your sister’s baby. Trust me, I have an 11-year-old niece who I love to pieces to prove it.

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Everything You’ll Want To Know About Maternity Leave

As if bringing a baby into this world isn’t stressful enough, there’s a ton to figure out regarding maternity leave and paid time off. Not to worry, because we’re here to explain ALL OF THE THINGS. We’ll demystify the (FMLA) Federal Medical Leave Act, including what it covers and what it doesn’t. We’ll tell you what a Health Savings Account is, and how Flexible Savings Accounts work. We’ll explain everything so that you can get back to trying to figure out how to put together the crib.

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Indiana Is In A State Of Crisis When It Comes To Maternal Mortality

Indiana, for all of its faults, does have some benefits, including a relatively affordable cost of living. But when it comes to the price of health care in the state, an individual’s average payout for treatment is higher than many places in the nation, with ER visits more than double the cost of what they are in surrounding states.

Considering these steep prices, Indiana’s healthcare system should be phenomenal, right? As it turns out, Indiana is one of three states with the highest childbirth-related deaths and injuries in the nation.

According to a recent and in-depth study from the USA Today, which compiled evidence from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Health Resources and Services Administration, and the CDC, there are 41.4 deaths for every 100,000 live births for white women, and 53.4 deaths for every 100,000 live births for African-American mothers. When Indiana is compared to places like California and many other rural areas, Indiana mothers are eleven times more likely to die from childbirth.

But perhaps the most shocking finding of them all? Indiana mothers are dying at a higher rate than mothers in Iraq — a country that doesn’t even come close to having the same health care resources as other developed countries, like the U.S. And when it comes to America as a whole, with a maternal mortality rate of 20.7 for every 100,000 births, the U.S. is losing mothers at twice the rate as any other developed country.

This is an outrage and major cause for public concern.

 

Mayte Torres/Getty

What makes it even more alarming is that, given these harrowing statistics, resources that could have helped to prevent some of these deaths (and injuries) have been slashed.

In June 2018, a Planned Parenthood facility in the second largest city in Indiana, Fort Wayne, was shut down. Research shows us that without organizations like these, which provide free and low-cost services to women, including birth control, more unwanted pregnancies will happen. Which means more complications occurring and maternal health declining in surrounding areas.

On the last day of the 2019 legislative session, Indiana Senator Breaux’s new law, which would pay to have doulas provided statewide under Senate Enrolled Act 416, lost its funding. Doulas serve a number of functions throughout pregnancy, including providing care to the mother and advocating for both baby and mom.

Considering Indiana’s rise in maternal deaths, the proposed legislation could have made a significant impact on these mortality numbers, especially when we consider the lack of maternal health care facilities throughout dozens of rural Indiana counties.

Commissioner at the Indiana State Department of Health, Dr. Kristina Box, tells Indianapolis’s NBC-13 that a large number of the maternal deaths in the state occur in rural and urban areas. According to NBC 13, these places are often referred to as “maternity deserts” — a term used by the March of Dimes in reference to under-served areas for maternal health.

When Indiana is compared to places like California and many other rural areas, Indiana mothers are eleven times more likely to die from childbirth.

“We have 33 counties that either have no hospital or the hospital has no OB services,” Dr. Box told NBC-13.

In emergent situations, these counties do not possess the medical resources needed which would allow mothers life-saving care when time is of the essence. Although meant to be a joyous time, childbirth can be dangerous and scary for both mom and baby. In the case of hemorrhage, dangerously high blood pressure, or infection, things could become fatal for both mom and baby if not tended to in a professional and timely manner. And without maternal care being offered and readily available in all of Indiana’s counties, the mortality rate for mothers is going to continue to rise while injuries skyrocket.

According to the USA Today study, which sparked the nation’s interest to investigate maternal death with urgency, we see these deaths are not solely due to poverty or a pre-existing medical conditions, as has been accused in the past.

According to the CDC, a majority of the 700-800 deaths we see each year in America are preventable. But the problem is that we’ve not taken the initiative to make any preventative changes.

We have spectacular doctors and surgeons spread across our nation, but it’s impossible for them to save lives working with a system that fights against them. The U.S. lacks specific protocol for dealing with urgent pregnancy-related health concerns (the most common being hemorrhage and high blood pressure). Much like when someone enters the ER with a complaint of chest pains, this protocol would follow a set of guidelines to assure the mother and baby’s health. 

“We have 33 counties that either have no hospital or the hospital has no OB services,” Dr. Kristina Box told NBC-13.

But what makes this so heart-wrenching and unacceptable is the fact that we know these protocols would help our mothers, and yet, the nation still isn’t doing anything about it. Meanwhile, funding is pulled from programs that promote maternal health.

All of this begs the question: Why aren’t pregnant and postpartum mothers properly cared for in one of the wealthiest countries in the world? Why aren’t mothers’ health being taken seriously? And why isn’t more preventative care provided?

Because until it is, more women will continue to die.

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Sex During Pregnancy: The Full Rubdown On What’s Safe, What’s Normal, What Not To Do

sex during pregnancy

Just because you’re knocked up doesn’t mean you cease to be interested in sex — after all, in most cases, it’s the cause of your current state. Still, it’s understandable if you pump the brakes on your love life as soon as you start to experience those first few signs of pregnancy. A hundred questions might be running through your head and, let’s be real, at least a few probably revolve around whether a penis or a dildo can poke your baby in utero during pregnancy sex.

Fortunately, you’re still allowed to get frisky while you’re pregnant (and, thanks to surging hormones, you might be frisky AF). We’re here to help put your mind at ease and set your libido free as we explore the effects, advantages, benefits and everything in between of sex during pregnancy.

Is sex safe during pregnancy?

In a word, yes. “Sex during a normal pregnancy is perfectly acceptable and actually it is recommended,” board-certified OB-GYN Geoffrey Cly, MD, of HonestObgyn.com told Scary Mommy. “Sex is very important for intimacy, especially since your emotions will be going up and down and many women want to feel that closeness.”

So, during an uncomplicated pregnancy, it’s all systems go where sex is concerned. And it’s a good thing, too. As much as your brain may have pumped the brakes at first, your hormones could be revving up. Explained Dr. Cly, “I have women tell me their sex drive has never been higher and they want to have sex with their partner all the time [during pregnancy]. It is usually the partner, in these instances, who is holding back or concerned they will bump the baby.”

Is sex during pregnancy ever off-limits?

While it isn’t the norm, some pregnancies preclude sex — and, more specifically, climaxing — during certain stages or, in rare cases, altogether. According to Dr. Cly, these include preterm labor, shortening of the cervix (either naturally or after a cervical cerclage), and placenta previa. “This is because the uterus contracts during an orgasm,” said Dr. Cly, noting that uterine contractions could cause labor to kick in early in women with these conditions. Breast stimulation and certain hormones in semen called prostaglandins can also cause uterine contractions.

So, can climaxing cause miscarriage?

No. The conditions mentioned simply make women more susceptible to being sent into early labor by uterine contractions, which can caused by orgasms. But per the Mayo Clinic, most miscarriages occur because the fetus isn’t developing normally. Other reasons your OB-GYN may put a moratorium on sex during pregnancy? If you have unexplained vaginal bleeding, have a history of preterm labor or premature birth, have a history of miscarriage, or are pregnant with multiples. Also, if your water has already broken, sex increases the risk of infection.

If you’re concerned or have any of these conditions, make sure you talk to your health care provider before you put those pregnancy hormones to good use.

Should you take any sex precautions during pregnancy?

In a healthy pregnancy, your baby is protected by the strong muscles of your uterus, amniotic fluid, and an infection-barrier mucus plug that blocks the opening of the cervix. And while that’s a pretty kickass protective trio your body has created, there are additional precautions you can take during pregnancy if you plan to be sexually active.

As always, it’s imperative to protect yourself — and, when you’re pregnant, your baby — from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). These diseases and/or infections can be passed to you if you have unprotected sex or other intimate physical contact with someone who is already infected. You can get STIs from vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

Because STIs can have negative effects on your baby during pregnancy and birth, you obviously want to be cautious. So, if you’re having sex while pregnant, make sure you know your partner’s sexual history. If possible, avoid sex with someone who has other sexual partners. Don’t have sex with your partner if they have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection. And always use a condom, especially if you’re not in a mutually monogamous relationship or if you’re having sex with a new partner.

Need more incentive to glove up before you love up?  Although it’s extremely rare (like, fewer than a dozen cases reported), superfetation is the fertilization and implantation of a second ovum sometime after the start of a pregnancy. As in, it is possible to get pregnant while pregnant. Just FYI.

Are any types of sex off-limits during pregnancy?

As we’ve already established, vaginal sex is generally A-OK during pregnancy unless your OB-GYN or midwife has told you otherwise. What about other types of sex, though?

Sex with toys: The common perception is that vaginal sex is when a male inserts his penis into a female’s vagina. However, it can also include the penetration of the vagina by a woman, man, or non-binary partner with sex toys, fingers, and/or the tongue (more on the latter in a minute). Accordingly, there are a few safety caveats.

“Inserting a sex toy into the lower part of the vagina will not cause any problems as long as that toy has been cleaned properly and does not have any bacteria hiding on it,” said Dr. Cly, noting that rough sex with toys could be troublesome. “Vigorously pushing a toy all the way up to the upper vagina and cervix could cause problems and initiate some preterm labor and preterm contractions. And in severely aggressive thrusting, the toy could disrupt the placenta and cause major bleeding or an abruption. So, if someone wants to use a toy, I would recommend using it on the outside or only in the lower part of the vagina that is close to the outside.”

Oral sex: In a healthy pregnancy with two healthy partners, oral sex is typically deemed safe. Still, there are points of concern. For women receiving oral sex, it is crucial that your partner doesn’t blow air into the vaginal opening. Trapped air bubbles can enter the placenta as an air embolism, which can cause problems with fetal development. Also, the pressure differential caused by trapped air can cause blood vessels to rupture.

As far as giving goes, oral sex is “likely” safe. Said Dr. Cly on the subject, “A pregnant woman can perform oral sex on a male partner, but she might have an increased gag reflex because of the pregnancy hormones.” If you aren’t in a mutually monogamous relationship, use a condom while performing oral sex to protect against STIs.

Anal sex: Anal sex is a bit more complicated. Although it’s unlikely to harm the baby, it’s probably still best to ask your health care provider if it’s OK to have anal sex during your pregnancy. There are two primary concerns.

First, bacteria like Giardia and Group B Streptococcus often colonize the rectum. If vaginal or oral sex follows anal sex, or if there is any touching of hands or genitals after anal sex, that bacteria can be spread to the vaginal tract. There, it can cause infections that could be dangerous for the baby in utero or even be transmitted to the infant during delivery. Second, because anal sex is more likely to damage tissue, it’s easier to transmit or contract STIs through anal sex.

Plus, anal sex might be uncomfortable if you’re dealing with pregnancy-related hemorrhoids (which, ugh, are the worst but common in your state). Anal could even cause the hemorrhoids to become inflamed or ruptured, and anal bleeding definitely merits a call to your doc.

What sex positions are best during pregnancy?

Obviously, your body goes through a lot of changes while baking up that beautiful little human (or humans) in your belly. This means that sex positions which worked before pregnancy or in the early stages of pregnancy might not work later — some may even cease to be safe. Take, for example, the flat-on-your-back “missionary position.” After your fourth month of pregnancy, the weight of your growing baby could constrict major blood vessels and put added pressure on your internal organs.

But, as a general rule of thumb, any sex position you find comfortable during pregnancy is probably okay… within reason. In other words, it’s probably best to avoid sexual acrobatics that could leave you more prone to slipping and falling. Otherwise, get creative! As your pregnancy progresses, keep the lines of communication open with your partner about what works for you. As your belly grows, you might feel more comfortable in positions that allow you to control the depth and speed of penetration, like woman on top. Spooning, in which your partner lies behind you, could be nice since it relieves the amount of pressure placed on your belly.

Wondering if doggy-style is safe during pregnancy? Probably. Just make sure you’re on a soft, non-slip surface (like the bed). “A woman’s center of gravity is different because of the weight of the fluid and the baby in the placenta, causing her to be off-balance toward the end of her pregnancy,” explained Dr. Cly. And, no, your partner’s penis isn’t going to ram into your baby’s head. Fear not; that isn’t where dimples come from.

What are the benefits of sex during pregnancy?

As for whether pregnancy-time sex is good or bad, the general consensus is… good! In fact, there are several benefits of sex during pregnancy. Ask any woman who has had a super-powerful pregnancy orgasm, and she’ll undoubtedly tell you the same — you can thank increased blood flow to the genitals for that. Other positive effects of sex during pregnancy include burning calories, releasing feel-good endorphins, creating intimacy with your partner, boosting your immune system, and enhancing your sense of happiness.

There are even benefits of sperm during pregnancy. “I do recommend couples have sex when they are approaching their due date to help stimulate contractions and cervical dilation. The sperm have prostaglandin chemicals in them that will help soften and dilate the cervix,” said Dr. Cly, adding that climaxing “will help the uterus to contract, and that can help with dilation and descent of the baby.”

Is there a point you should stop having sex during pregnancy?

Unless you’ve been given specific instructions otherwise by your health care provider, you should be able to enjoy sex throughout your pregnancy. Still, use your best judgment. If something seems off, tell your provider. This could be anything from heavy bleeding and cramping to fluid gushes too substantial to be discharge or ejaculate.”This happened to one of my pregnant couples when they were having sex close to her due date,” Dr. Cly shared. “The amniotic fluid broke while they were having sex and she was on top in a cowgirl position. She also had more amniotic fluid than normal. The fluid splashed all over him and he completely freaked out, thinking he broke her water and knocked his baby in the head.”

Naturally, the man hadn’t knocked his baby in the head, and everyone was fine (if not a little traumatized). The moral of the story? You should be fine to have sex all the way up to your due date, but your body is a complex matrix of creation right now. You never know what might happen. Just keep calm and give your OB-GYN or midwife a call if you’re concerned.

Are there consequences of not having sex during pregnancy?

Admittedly, there aren’t many disadvantages of sex during pregnancy to speak of. However, that doesn’t mean there are consequences of not having sex. The truth is you might not be in the mood, and that’s okay. Hormonal surges make some people feel extra sexy during pregnancy. For others, the hormones are overridden by pesky little pregnancy symptoms like nausea, constipation, hemorrhoids, headaches, back pain, and more.

Toward the end of your pregnancy especially, you may consider hanging a “do not disturb” sign on your vagina door. Because your baby and belly are both growing, you’re more prone to aches, pains, and fatigue. This may equal uncomfortable or painful sex during pregnancy in the third trimester. Basically, you might find yourself more interested in what’s about to come out of you than anything that might go in.

Those feelings are valid. Share them with your partner so that you can explore other ways of being loving. If no sex during pregnancy sounds like your speed, you can be intimate through kissing, cuddling, massage, making out, or even mutual masturbation. There is more to intimacy than just sex.

Written by Julie Sprankles.

Read More:

Why I Give My Husband A BJ Every Day

The Best And Spiciest Sex Positions for Each Trimester Of Your Pregnancy

Pregnancy Skin Conditions Can Wipe The Glow And The Smile Off Your Face

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