How to choose the right childbirth class

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pregnant womenYou’re pregnant and have many decisions to make from the color of baby’s nursery to cloth or disposable diapers, bottle or breast feeding and more. One of the most important things you can do for yourself and your baby is to choose a childbirth class to help prepare you for labor. Childbirth educator and doula Ami Burns explains how to choose the right childbirth class for you.

A childbirth class helps prepare you for labor and delivery and the more you know about your options, the more confidence you’ll have in the process of giving birth.

What method of childbirth should I learn?

Popular options include Lamaze -- a philosophy that promotes birth as a normal, natural process, Bradley -- aka “husband coached childbirth,” and HypnoBirthing -- a method that includes deep relaxation and visualization techniques.

Many moms swear by certain methods, while others favor a more general approach. Some classes offer a combination of styles. A comprehensive class will include information about what to expect during labor, including when to go to the hospital, time to practice natural comfort measures like breathing, relaxation and positions for labor as well as a discussion about medication options and common interventions that may become necessary. Some instructors also allot time to talk about getting started breastfeeding and how to navigate the early days and weeks of life with a new baby.

Where should I attend classes?

Your hospital may offer childbirth education and other classes for new parents like breast-feeding, baby care and CPR. This is a great way to not only learn about labor and birth, but also take a tour of the labor, delivery and postpartum rooms. Not to mention finding out where to park and which hospital entrance to use if you’re in labor at two in the morning!

Some parents-to-be seek out independent instructors who favor a holistic approach to labor and birth. Independent classes may be smaller than those held at a hospital, allowing more time for questions and group discussion. Specialized classes for moms planning to deliver at home or in a birth center may also be available.

What if I’m too busy to attend classes?

A traditional, weekly series of classes is a nice way to build community with other expectant families while giving you the opportunity to digest information you’ll learn and prepare questions before the next class. But for many busy parents-to-be, attending an ongoing series isn’t realistic. A condensed weekend format or private classes that can be held in your home on your schedule are good options to consider.

There’s no “right” way to learn about labor

One method isn’t better than another – check out the different classes available in your community by talking to your healthcare provider, friends or searching online. Clarify your goals for labor and do some research to find the best class for you.
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Pregnancy after age 35

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bare pregnant bellyMore moms are getting pregnant in their mid-thirties – and older – than ever before. There are some risks associated with pregnancy after 35, so here’s what you need to know to have a healthy pregnancy and birth.

You’re not alone

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, 1 in 5 women have their first baby at age 35. Some women choose to delay pregnancy to focus on education or careers, while others may have fertility issues and use assisted reproductive technology to get pregnant later in life. Medically speaking, moms who are 35-years-old or older by the time of delivery are considered to be Advanced Maternal Age (AMA).

Understand the risks

AMA moms are at increased risk for fetuses with chromosomal abnormalities - most notably - Down syndrome (Trisomy 21), Trisomy 18 and Trisomy 13,” explains Andrea Kemp, MD, MPH, Director of Obstetrics and Maternal Fetal Medicine at MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn, IL. “The risk increases with age. Other pregnancy risks that may be increased in an AMA patient include higher risk of having concurrent medical problems like diabetes or hypertension complicating pregnancy, but we wouldn't manage any differently, just monitor more closely since we know they're risks may be a bit higher.”

Make informed decisions about prenatal testing

Because of the above-mentioned risks, you will be offered prenatal screening tests. Tests may include non-invasive screenings or invasive tests like chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis. These tests are discussed with all expectant moms – regardless of age -- “The amnio or CVS are invasive and come with a 0.5% to 1% loss risk respectively, but are diagnostic tests with 100% accuracy for chromosomal anomalies like Down syndrome,” Kemp explains. “Patients 35 or older have to decide which if any of these tests they may desire depending on how much assurance of the diagnosis they want while weighing how much risk they're willing to take to get that information.”

Get good prenatal care and make healthy choices

Regular prenatal appointments benefit moms of any age. Talk to your doctor or midwife about prenatal vitamins, recommended weight gain, nutrition, exercise and more. Bottom line – get good prenatal care for you and your baby and share any concerns or questions with your healthcare provider.

Your age may or may not affect labor and birth

Some research indicates that the risk of going into preterm labor or needing a cesarean section increases in your late thirties or after 40. However, maternal age alone won’t affect labor or delivery. Your doctor or midwife will monitor you and your baby for potential medical indications and will discuss any reasons for intervening during pregnancy or labor – the same as with younger moms.

Chances are very good you will have a healthy pregnancy and birth

Yes, there are risks to being pregnant over 35 but many moms have uncomplicated pregnancies, easy deliveries and healthy babies. Share any questions or concerns you may have with your doctor and midwife – and enjoy this special time in your life
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Are you pregnant? The early signs of pregnancy

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pregnancy testWhen you are trying to conceive, each day that goes by before you might actually receive a positive pregnancy test feels like an eternity. However, sometimes it takes weeks after conception to receive a positive pregnancy test, and a false negative can occur if you take the test too early. But if you know your body well and read its signs, you might be able to tell if you are pregnant before the little stick reveals the exciting news. If you've noticed any of the following, you might be expecting!

Missed period

If you have a regular cycle, one of the biggest signs that you might be pregnant is a late or absent period. (Duh, right?) However, this one can be misleading because many things can trigger an irregular period, such as weight loss, travel and stress. Also, those who have just gone off their birth control pill may not yet have a regular cycle to track.

Breast tenderness

Swollen, tender or even stinging breasts are other early symptoms of pregnancy. However, many women also experience tender breasts just before or during their menstruation, so this can be a little confusing as well.

Female intuition

Some women swear they "just know." Perhaps it's women's intuition or a precursor to a mother's instincts. Either way, it's been known to happen. If you have no idea, don't worry! Your maternal instincts have plenty of time to kick in before baby arrives!

Other breast changes

Back to the breasts – these babies may really be trying to tell you something! If you are pregnant, you may notice darkening of the areola and more distinct blue and pink lines on the breasts.

Morning sickness

Morning sickness can rear its ugly head very early for some women – in fact, according to the sixth edition of Your Pregnancy Week by Week written by Glade B. Curtis, M.D., M.P.H. and Judith Schuler, M.S., 70 percent of women are affected by morning sickness. Symptoms include nausea, cramping, vomiting and aversions to certain smells and foods.

Tissue changes

An odd symptom that you may not notice — unless you regularly exam things, ahem, down there — is the change in vaginal and cervical tissue. During early pregnancy, the tissue actually changes color. Your OB/GYN may notice this sign.

Frequent urination

Have you been running to the bathroom more than usual? You could be pregnant! This symptom generally occurs about eight to 10 weeks after your last missed period, but it does happen sooner for some women. However, don't get too excited if you've recently upped your water intake or your use of diuretics.

Elevated temperature

Is your temperature rising? According to Toni Weschler, author of Taking Charge or Your Fertility, if you have been tracking your basal body temperature, a pattern of 18 or more temperatures above the coverline usually points to pregnancy!

Of course, if you think you are pregnant, but are still receiving a negative pregnancy test, it might be best to seek the professional opinion of your OB/GYN. Beyond the urine test, he can take a sample of your blood for a more accurate result.

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Dads and doulas

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dad pregnancy bellyStudies show numerous benefits when mom has a doula – a woman trained to provide physical, emotional and informational support during labor, birth and the immediate postpartum period -- present during labor and birth, but what about dads? Your partner may have questions and concerns about the doula’s role and how he will work with her to give you the support you need during labor. I’ve been a doula for nearly a decade and have supported many dads along the way. Here are some tips to help dads fully participate in the “doula decision” – and of course, during the birth of your baby.

Be an active participant in prenatal meeting

It’s important to meet your doula in advance to ask questions about how she can help during labor, see if she shares the same philosophy and if she’s a good fit. It’s important for partners to attend these meetings so they have a chance to ask questions or share concerns.

Be clear about your expectations

It’s important to express your wishes for labor and birth and discuss how hands-on or off he plans to be. If you choose to write a birth plan, be sure to share it with your partner and the doula. Even if unexpected situations arise – or you change your mind about something in your original plan – if the three of you discuss your wishes ahead of time, the doula will be able to provide the best support she can.

The doula won’t replace his very important role

Many dads-to-be wonder what they’ll do during labor if a doula is present. My husband was concerned about this when we were pregnant with our first eleven years ago. “I didn’t understand what a doula was and thought she was going to shut me out of the process,” he says. Together, we chose not to hire a doula for this reason.

Doulas support the family, not only mom

While doulas traditionally “mother the mother” supporting partners can also be a big part of the job. According to DONA International, the leading certification organization for doulas (full disclosure – I’m certified with DONA), dads tend to stay more involved with their partner instead of pull away during times of stress when a doula provides support. My husband found this to be true when we decided to hire doulas for the birth of our second child. “Because they were there it made me worry less,” he explains. “I was able to be there more for my wife than I thought I could have been and I really enjoyed the process.”

A doula can take the pressure off

Even when dad attends childbirth classes, he shouldn’t be expected to remember everything or be able to “coach” mom. Doulas can help take the pressure off dads, allowing them to relax and give their full attention to their partners. Doula support also gives dad a chance to rest and re-charge which is especially important if labor lasts into the night.

Keep the lines of communication open with your doula and your partner. Together you can create a supportive team to help you have a safe, satisfying birth as you define it.
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10 pregnancy power foods

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pregnant woman vegetable basketYou're pregnant! Congratulations! Contrary to popular belief, being pregnant really doesn't give you the green light to eat ice cream and pickles all day (even if that's what you're really craving!).

While the occasional splurge is okay, and well deserved, you'll need lots of vitamins and nutrients to support that life growing inside of you so you'll need to look beyond the freezer for the best sources. Try to incorporate these 10 pregnancy power foods into your diet.

1. Produce

On the list, of course, are fruits and veggies. You'll need two to four servings of fruits and four or more servings of vegetables according to an article titled "Eating Right While Pregnant" on

2. Vitamin C

You'll need plenty of it — 70 mg to be exact, which you can derive from strawberries, honeydew melon, grapefruit and oranges.

3. Folic acid

While your prenatal vitamins may already include folic acid (a B vitamin), you can also get it from dark green leafy vegetables, beans and chickpeas and even veal. An intake of at least .4 mg of folic acid is recommended to help prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

4. Vitamin A

You'll need vitamin A, but only one source every other day. Overindulging in this one (more than 10,000 IU per day) has been associated with fetal malformation. Think orange — you can find vitamin A in carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and cantaloupe.

5. Calcium

Milk, cheese and yogurt are, of course, great sources of calcium, but think outside of dairy products to get your calcium fill (at least 1200 mg per day). Other great calcium sources include broccoli, spinach, tofu, almonds and trout.

6. Protein

Protein is low in fat and will keep you feeling full. Protein sources include chicken, fish and seafood, dairy foods, eggs, beans, lean beef and soy protein products such as tofu.

7. Fiber

A lovely side affect of pregnancy is constipation. To keep things flowing smoothly, be sure to incorporate lots of fiber into your diet. Fiber can be found in fruit such as raspberries, pears and apricots, as well as vegetables like spinach, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and zucchini. Chose whole-grain breads, cereals, pastas and rice to get the most fiber out of your carbohydrates.

8. Iron-rich foods

You'll need 27 mg — about three servings — of iron every day. You can derive iron from foods such as green peas, pinto beans, beef, chicken and fish as well as broccoli, kale and turnip greens.

9. Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) help with the development of your baby's brain cells. DHA is a major component of your child's brain and other neural tissues including the light-sensitive cells in the eye's retina. You can find Omega-3s in nuts, seeds and fish. However, be wary of the type of fish you select – some are off limits to pregnant women due to their mercury levels.

10. H20

Okay, water is a liquid, not a food, but it is also an essential part of a healthy pregnancy for many reasons. Fluids help your body process nutrients and keep up the volume of your blood, which dramatically increases during pregnancy. Try to get in most of your liquid consumption earlier in the day, so you don't have extra trips to the bathroom during the night.
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Pregnancy fashion basics: Affordable maternity style

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maternity dressMaternity clothes have come a long way since tent dresses. In fact, there are so many hot styles in maternity that it's easy to get carried away. Just remember, you'll only be pregnant for nine months (and you probably won’t need maternity clothes for the first several weeks or even months of your pregnancy), so don't go overboard. Here we offer a few styles and some great tips on how to make the most of your maternity wardrobe.

Transition with your regular clothes

Thanks to the styles today, you can get away with wearing items that are not even maternity, and that way you can wear them long after you say goodbye to your belly bump. A-line dresses, empire waistline styles, long sweaters or tunics with leggings and even ultra low-rise jeans (if you still have some stashed in your closet) can be great picks during the first few months of your pregnancy before you really need maternity clothes.

Invest in a Bella Band

Try a maternity waistband, such as Ingrid & Isabel's Bella Band (which makes a less expensive version called Be by BellaBand), for that in-between time when you can't quite button your jeans, but you can't quite fill out maternity clothes, either. The band goes around your waist, allowing you to leave pants unbuttoned or unzipped, and it provides coverage and a smooth seam. The band is also great postpartum, before you get back into your pre-pregnancy clothes.

You may not need maternity shirts

While maternity pants/shorts may become a must, you might be able to skip the maternity tops for the majority of your pregnancy. Instead, purchase a regular top (empire waist styles are great for this!) in a size larger than you would normally wear pre-pregnancy. However, keep in mind that maternity clothing is cut specifically for a pregnant woman's body so as you begin to round out, maternity tops may be best for fit, coverage and, most importantly, comfort.

Just buy a little at a time

Keep in mind that your body is constantly changing, so give yourself a little wiggle room (literally). Your belly will thank you. Don't buy too many items for any one stage of your pregnancy, or they'll likely go to waste. You'll be surprised at how quickly your body changes, particularly in the latter stages of pregnancy.

Mix and match

When you do get the point where you need to purchase some maternity clothes, try to buy items that you can wear for several occasions — work, weekend, out to dinner, etc. Maternity shifts can be dressed up with a suit jacket and heels (keep 'em low, though – remember, your balance may be a bit off!) for the office and dressed down with a cute jean jacket and mules for running weekend errands.

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Can sex help start labor?

3 Common questions about pregnancy and sex

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pregnancy couple loveYour body is changing, hormones are raging and your sex drive may be, too. Here are answers to some common questions about pregnancy sex and tips for making the most out of nine sexy months.

Is it safe to have sex?

“Sex is almost always safe in pregnancy, unless the woman has a condition called placenta previa where the placenta is growing over the cervix or if the woman has experienced any leaking of fluid and ruptured membranes have not yet been ruled out,” explains Amy Romano, CNM, a Midwife who attends home and hospital births in Connecticut. “Some providers recommend that women with a history of preterm birth or with symptoms of preterm labor avoid intercourse, but there is no research to support this recommendation.”

At your prenatal appointment, ask your doctor or midwife if there are any reasons why you shouldn’t have sex.

If your healthcare provider has given you the go ahead to, well, go ahead, you may still experience some other challenges.

I’m supposed to feel sexy while gaining weight?

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the average recommended weight gain during pregnancy is 25-35 pounds. This amount may vary depending on your pre-pregnancy weight. While many women -- and their partners -- feel super sexy as their breasts and belly grow and their body takes on a curvier shape, others may have a hard time with the added weight. Remember that you’re growing a baby -- not getting fat. If you or your partner find that pregnancy is affecting your sex life in a negative way, talk to your doctor or midwife.

During the first trimester, if you’re exhausted or have morning sickness, sex may be the last thing on your mind. In the second trimester, you’re likely to feel better and have more energy. Many moms report increased sexual desire due to hormonal changes or because they can freely have sex without having to use birth control. By the third trimester, you may want to have a lot of sex but with a huge, beautiful belly, the missionary position probably isn’t going to be comfortable for you or your partner. You may need to get a little creative and try different positions like you on top or spooning.

Can sex help start labor?

Sex is a great way to try and induce or augment labor. Semen is rich in the hormone prostaglandin that helps soften the cervix, and your uterus contracts when you have an orgasm. “If the bag of waters is already broken, it is best to avoid sex with penetration, but oral sex and other forms of intimacy are fine,” says Romano.
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Pregnant Celebrity Moms

How to deal with the top 5 symptoms of pregnancy

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pregnancy painExpectant mothers know about the tiny baby shoes and the adorable cheeks you can’t wait to kiss, but, your mommy girlfriends may not have shared with you ALL the secrets about the road to motherhood. Namely, the not-so-fun parts of pregnancy. Luckily, the cat’s out of the bag here with some of these things you may experience between bump and bundle of joy. Trust us, though, it is all worth it!

Who’s to blame?

In a nutshell: hormones. Almost every prenatal symptom you experience can be blamed on these little unseen culprits, according to Heidi Murkoff, co-author of What to Expect When You're Expecting. “It doesn't seem quite fair to accuse your hormones of causing every bloat, blemish, and emotional outburst during your pregnancy. But…everything that’s happening to your body these days — both the good, and the not-so-good — can be pinned on them.” Now you know why, so let’s get you prepared for what’s to come.

1. Momzilla: Pregnancy hormones

Thanks to hormones, your emotions are likely to go from zero to 60 at any given moment. Jumping from excitement that you can still button your pants to turning on the water works during a greeting card commercial can happen before you know what’s happening. So, ask your partner to turn up his sensitivity chip and bear with you through your emotional rollercoaster. He can then consider himself warned.

2. All-day "morning" sickness

Calling it morning sickness is misleading. Some expectant moms ride the nausea wave all day long, and through their entire pregnancy. Crackers or grapes work for many of your pregnant cohorts, but the key is to get in some nourishment before your expanding tummy goes on empty.

3. Hair everywhere?

Chances are that your baby growing in utero isn’t the only one becoming covered in peach fuzz. Your growing belly, chest, and even face may have seemed to suddenly sprout overnight. Bothered by it? Indulge in a belly or chest wax, which some spas even dub as a pregnancy treatment.

4. Peeing all the time

Frequent trips to the ladies room aren’t reserved for the third trimester. Be prepared for hormones and increased blood flow to your uterus to make you have to go-go-go. From running to the bathroom once per hour during the day and even a few times during your beauty sleep, expect to spend some extra time “powdering your nose.”

5. Dreaded hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids may come haunting your behind at some point during pregnancy. Since there is not much you can do, grab a donut pillow and make yourself comfortable.

Although no one would classify pregnancy symptoms as fun, they are a type of “right of passage” into motherhood. Now that you’ve peeked behind the pregnant curtain, at least you can be more prepared. Pregnancy is a beautiful thing, despite the aliments described above, so embrace the little miracle inside you!
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Mother's Day gifts for expectant moms

Pregnancy gifts to cherish

Don't forget Mother's Day gifts for the expecting moms in your life! Check out these gift ideas that are sure to put a smile on her face.
Pregnant Woman at Spa

As with any present, naturally you want to find the right one. In this case, it should be a gift that is both sentimental and meaningful, something that honors her role as mom, and above all, something that makes her smile. Lots.

Ready for some good ideas?


Pretty, shiny, sleek or bold, jewelry can glam up an outfit with minimal effort. Aim for fine jewelry that is well crafted and classic enough to be beautiful through decades of fashion changes to come.

One sentimental option is a charm bracelet. Slide charm bracelets, such as those by Pandora or Troll Beads, offer many choices for bead add-ons. Better yet, this is a gift that you can keep adding to for years to come.

Another great idea is to buy jewelry with a meaningful gem, such as the baby's birthstone. Other gemstones with meaning include garnets, which signify love, passion and fertility; moonstones, which are thought to boost female energy; and coral, reputed to ease pregnancy and childbirth.


A mom-to-be is growing a precious new life. Honor that by giving her something that can grow for years to come, such as a plant or tree for her garden. Ask her about the trees and plants she really likes, and aim for something that is low maintenance. Some good options are dogwoods, magnolias and lilacs.

For the mom-to-be without much yard space, pick a pretty potted plant that will blossom all season in colors she loves.


It's a universal truth: Pregnancy is often uncomfortable. With heartburn, gas, bloating, weight gain, swollen ankles ("cankles"!) and uncomfortable jabs in the ribs, moms-to-be need serious pampering.

Head over to a reputable spa in your area and set up a spa day for the mom-to-be in your life. Chances are that it's too late for this Sunday (spas get booked early), so instead, choose a convenient day in the next few weeks for a few spa services, such as a pregnancy message, facial, manicure and pedicure. Be sure to consult with the spa and/or an obstetrician to be sure the procedures you choose are safe for an expectant mom.

A gift certificate for prenatal yoga classes is yet another way to pamper the expectant mother. The classes are tailored to her changing physical abilities and balance, and can be a great source of relaxation.

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Hot maternity swimsuits for pregnant moms

Cute maternity bathing suits

Are you looking for a cute swimsuit to showcase your baby bump? The unofficial start to summer is now officially behind us and that means that you can't ignore the need for a maternity swimsuit any longer. Forget the loud florals and unflattering loose drapes of the 80s -- today's maternity swimsuits come in all sorts of flattering, sexy and sleek looks.

Pregnant Woman in Bathing Suit

Back in the 80s, maternity swimsuits consisted of ballooning tops with tight brief bottoms attached. That bubble effect did nothing for a pregnant woman's beautiful physique. Fortunately, designers have become more pregnancy-friendly and started making maternity swimsuits that hot mamas will really want to wear. Thank goodness.

If you are headed for the beach or the pool this summer, here are some very cool swimsuits to get your summer started.

Go cute!

If there was ever a time to don a cute swimsuit and hit the shore, it's during pregnancy. Check out the ultra-cute Liz Lange for Target Ruffle Tankini (, $21.99 for the top, choice of bottoms). Ruffles are hot this summer -- so why not take the trend to your swimsuit?

Another cute choice is the Maternity Halter Tankinis at Old Navy (, $22.50 for the top, choice of bottoms), which comes in a variety of patterns and solids. The pattern tops take this otherwise simple suit and make it very cute. You could even mix it up with a patterned top and solid bottom (or, heck, vice versa).

Get sexy!

Can a one-piece maternity swimsuit be sexy? Absolutely. Just look at the pink Maternal America Jasmine Maternity Swimsuit (pictured, $84) from The tipping defines your fantastic pregnancy curves, and the halter top with keyhold detail shows off your very best (and growing) assets.

Love your maternity curves and want to show them off? Then go for the chic white Belabumbum Maternity Bikini (, $88). A true bikini, this look can carry you through all the trimesters and even into post-partum. And white bikinis? They are so hot.

Fluttery sweetness

Fluttery might sound cute, but on these sleek suits, it's pretty darn sexy. The Maternity Flutter Tankini from Maternal America (pictured below,, $98) is so hot, it could be lingerie. It's more bikini than tankini with ultra-sheer and fluttery panels having from the otherwise bikini top. It screams sex-appeal and sizzles in Papaya.

Another fluttery beauty is the Goddess Maternity Swimsuit (, $129). It's floaty in all the right places, while still showing off your sexy maternity curves. And the flowers add a sweet touch to this hot white suit.

More modest

If sex-appeal is the last thing on your maternal brain, then there are several more modest options that offer more coverage while still looking pretty darn fashionable. The Liz Lange for Target Maternity Swim Dress (, $39.99) harkens back to simpler times with it's sleek lines. This longer swim dress won't hug your curves as much as other suits and the flattering neckline is cut higher so that your precious assets have a little more coverage. Still, you will look striking on the beach in this.

For something stylish but with more coverage, the Retro Dot Maternity Swimsuit (, $129) is a good pick. Reminiscent of something that might have hit the sand dunes in the 50s, this suit has a classic polka dot pattern. The skirt hits lower on the upper thigh than most suits, but the strapless top gives the illusion of sexiness without showing too much skin.

The Maternity Shirred Empire Swimsuit at Old Navy is another option (, $29.50). It has a flattering v-neck on this one-piece suit. The shirring at the sides will flatter your bump without showing off the goods. And the Old Navy description is right: the empire seaming really does make this a graceful suit.

So, what are you waiting for? Hit the beach! (And don't forget the sunscreen!)

READ MORE » Hot maternity swimsuits for pregnant moms

How to sell yourself on a date

When all else fails, smile

#1 Brand yourself

Woman with Real Estate SignThe most dreaded of all get-to-know you questions, whether on a job interview or a first date, is the vague “So tell me about yourself.” (It's technically not even a question as much as annoying demand!)

Instead of snapping back “Well, what do you want to know?” or stammering “What exactly are you looking for?” while stalling for time, the savvy interviewee/dater assumes a question like this will come up and has an answer ready that sums up her essence, dreams, and strengths in one sentence or less. In short, brand yourself. Don’t just rattle off the events of your life in chronological order, but think of it as a personal mission statement.

Bad example:

“Well, I grew up in San Jose, which was really boring, so I decided to buy a car and move to LA. And, well, here I am.”

Good example:

“I'm a certified yoga instructor, huge theatre buff, and am working hard on launching an online pet accessory store, which I’m super-psyched about.”

Some questions to ask yourself when crafting your mantra:

What are your strengths? What are you passionate about? Why do your friends like you? What do you hope to become famous for? If you were ice cream, what flavor would you be?

#2 Do your research

Articles with titles like “Land that Job!” and “Ace That Interview!” always stress the importance of researching the company you are applying for. And there's no reason not to do the same for your date.

With a quick click of a mouse, it’s possible to find out whether your date is married, has a criminal record, or (jackpot!) what his thoughts are about life on his blog.

And while some facts may be more relevant than others, if you feel like a stalker knowing information about him that hasn’t yet made its way into the conversation then don’t freak out and ruin the date. Instead, 'fess up. “So I happened to Google you and thought it was fascinating that…” is a complimentary way to go about it.

#3 Listen, then ask thoughtful questions

At the end of the interview, many potential employers will ask if you have any questions, giving you the opportunity to both demonstrate your interest and strut your stuff intelligence-wise. While a date may not give you the same opening, it’s still important to have at least 4 or 5 thought-out questions to fill the void during any lull in conversation.

A tactful “Why did the last person quit?”, for example, is always revealing. At some point, you will want to find out about the other person’s dating past and why he is on the market. And although you should expect that his answer might be vague or spun in a way to make him look sympathetic, there is still much to be learned from how he answers.

For example, “It wasn’t a perfect fit,” is a mature acknowledgement that sometimes relationships don’t work although no one is to blame, where as “That bitch cheated on me” might signify that he’s still a little angry about his last break-up and not ready to move on.

#4 The follow-up

Sending a thank-you note is always considered proper etiquette after a job interview as it lets them know you’re courteous and interested. While you should never thank a guy for dating you (seriously, no!) being assertive and sending an email letting him know you had a nice time is a smart idea.

However, be aware that the timing of said email will affect how it’s perceived. An email five minutes after your date ended seems desperate. After all, you’ve barely had time to digest your food, much less your feelings -- so try to hold off on emailing a follow-up for at least 24 hours (but don't wait more than three days, either).

In the meantime, you, the now savvy dater, aren’t waiting by the phone. You are out there networking (aka hitting up your friends to refer you to any cute guys they know) and prepping for your next job interview…er, date.
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Self-confidence in just five days

Believe in yourself

Self-confidence is essential to success in many aspects of our lives, yet so many women struggle with it. Below is five-day plan to help free you from self-doubt.

Confident Woman

Day 1: Self-Confidence is Self-Love

As women, we spend far too much time criticizing and comparing ourselves to others in the name of self-improvement. We never seem to be smart enough, beautiful enough, thin enough, and so on. However, by judging ourselves so harshly, we are destroying our self-confidence in the process. The first step in gaining it back is to spend more time appreciating who you are. Today, your goal is to write down at least 50 things that you love about yourself and then read the list out loud.

Day 2: Look Good, Feel Good

The clothes you wear and how you feel in your own skin can make or break your self-confidence. Too often, we sabotage ourselves by continuing to wear or hold onto clothes that are detrimental to our confidence because it either seems a waste to throw them away or we think they might come back in style. With that in mind, your mission for today is to go through your closet and take out every itchy sweater, pair of too tight pants, and faded blouse you own and trash them, keeping only the items that make you feel like a million bucks. You can even go a step further, if you’d like, and go shopping for something new that makes you feel especially powerful. (Sexy shoes are great for this.)

Day 3: Commit Your Goals to Paper

Actress Cate Blanchett once said that she enjoys making to-do lists for the sheer pleasure of crossing the tasks off her list one-by-one. While you may or may not feel the same way, (sometimes to-do lists can feel overwhelming!) there is still something to be said about how accomplishing a goal can dramatically boost one’s self-worth. However, you can’t reach a goal without identifying it first, so, today, write down at least a couple of goals that you want to accomplish by the end of the week.

Day 4: Take Risks

When faced with a new opportunity or challenge, do you tend to shy away? Although the possibility of failure is always present, building self-confidence means accepting the occasional defeat while not allowing it to deter you from your goals. As long as you approach each occasion as an opportunity to learn, realize that there can be no real losing. For today, try something that you’ve never done before or even better, try something that scares you.

Day 5: Fake it until you make it

Even if you’re not feeling one hundred percent confident, today, act as if you are. Sometimes the best way to deal with any lingering fear or self-doubt it to just confront it head on.
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Look sexy naked

It is a cruel fact of life that exactly 1.5 months after gouging on holiday feasts, you are expected to slink around in barely-there lingerie for your lover on Valentine's Day (while simultaneously avoiding chocolates and other treats.)
Woman ExfoliatingHowever, if you still haven't loss those 5 pounds of holiday weight gain, don't despair. There are a few tricks to looking better naked without having to hit the gym. Below are fourteen tips for looking sizzling in your birthday suit.

Look better naked tip #1

Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate: especially in the wintertime, skin tends to be dry and flaky, so it's important to scrub off dead skin cells in order to look radiant in the buff.

Look better naked tip #2

If you are self-conscious about your curves, tanning is a great way to look thinner without actually having to diet. For a chiseled face, sweep bronzer across the apples of your cheeks, or for Bar Rafaeli-like legs, use a darker bronzer on the outside of the leg and blend with a lighter shade on the inside. A tan can also hide other imperfections like spider veins and stretch marks.

Look better naked tip #3

Makeup may make you feel sexier; however, you don't want it to smear all over your sheets. Instead of using a heavy foundation or cream, opt for an oil-free tinted moisturizer to even out your skin tone, such as the aptly named Naked Glow Shimmer. It blends easily into the skin, can be used all over your body, and contains tiny light reflecting prisms to give you a dewy, sensuous look.

Look better naked tip #4

Make-up artists swear by Preparation H to camouflage any bruises.

Look better naked tip #5

Another reason to nix the white sheets: colored sheets can give you the appearance of a warmer skin tone, even without a tan.

Look better naked tip #6

Looking sweet is irrelevant if you don't also smell great. Draw attention to your décolletage and wrists by dabbing on a warm, spicy fragrance such as Coco by Coco Chanel.

Look better naked tip #7

Try not to wash your hair if possible. Styling is easier to do on day-old hair and tousled, wavy hair can be sexy.

Look better naked tip #8

And don't forget to groom the hair down there! Accessorize your bikini line with crystals or have it waxed into a playful shape. Or, for those who prefer to go au natural, just a quick trim with scissors can make all the difference.

Look better naked tip #9

Looking good naked isn't just about your body; a soft lighting scheme can help flatter your figure. Avoid harsh fluorescents whenever possible and instead try to incorporate mood lighting, such as candles or floor lamps.

Look better naked tip #10

You will also want to make sure the temperature in the room isn't too hot or cold before ditching your clothes. Too warm will have you sweating whereas icy temps will leave you shivering and your nipples prematurely erect.

Look better naked tip #11

Don't underestimate the power of a simple mani/pedi.

Look better naked tip #12

Eat lightly before stripping down to the nude. (Otherwise you will risk looking like you're pregnant with a food baby.)

Look better naked tip #13

Just because you are naked, doesn't mean you can't accessorize. High heels are sexy and have the advantage of making your legs look especially lean. Or, for a more playful option, don a feather boa or a rocking' piece of jewelry.

Look better naked tip #14

Lastly, don't forget to enjoy yourself. Remember, if you feel sexy and fabulous, you will look it, even in the buff.
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Vulvodynia: Chronic, unexplained pain in the vaginal area and painful sex

They say that even when sex is bad, it's good. But what if sex isn't just bad, but painful? Sex is painful for thousands of women who suffer from a condition called vulvodynia. According to a 2003 study from researchers at Harvard University, about one woman in six will experience this chronic vulvar pain at some point in their lives. Are you one of them? Read on for more information on this painful, emotionally debilitating condition.

More than just a “depressed vagina”

Just as “Sex and the City’s” Charlotte York proclaimed in season four to be suffering from a "depressed vagina," women should be aware that they are not alone in experiencing vulvodynia.

“I like to think to that the women’s health movement has made women more comfortable talking about parts of their body than they were years ago,” says Vivian W. Pinn, MD, director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health. “But still, many are a little uncomfortable talking about the vaginal area. They might not even know the term vulva, and may often refer to it as the ‘pain down there.’”

Last year, Dr. Pinn and colleagues launched a vulvodynia awareness campaign with the goal of educating healthcare providers and all women about the condition.

What is Vulvodynia?

Vulvodynia is unexplained pain or discomfort in the vulva area that typically strikes women between ages 18 and 25 and lasts more than three months, according to the Office of Research on Women’s Health, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

What are the symptoms of vulvodynia

Symptoms include chronic burning, stinging, knifelike pain, rawness or irritation that comes and goes. The pain can interfere with sex, tampon insertion, and even make wearing undergarments or pants intolerable.

Unbearable pain of vulvodynia

Christin Veasley, 32, first started experiencing vulvodynia symptoms when she was an 18-year-old college freshman. Unfortunately, her nurse practitioner at the time didn’t know enough about the condition to be able to help her.

One day, during the middle of a physics exam, the pain got so bad that Veasley was forced to get up from her desk and hand in a half completed test.

“I walked to my car and drove to the nurse practitioner's office,” Veasley recalls. “I didn’t have any appointment or anything and I was very distraught in the waiting room until [the nurse practitioner] could see me. I just said look, ‘I can’t believe that anyone would live like this.’ It was basically burning all the time. I couldn’t wear pants, I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t concentrate.”

Getting a diagnosis is a relief

Veasley’s nurse practitioner finally diagnosed her and gave her information for the then-newly formed National Vulvodynia Association.

Veasley was eventually able to find a physician with expertise in vulvodynia. But even before that, simply having a name for the problem was already in itself a form of relief, she says.

“Being diagnosed is half of the solution. Once you’ve been diagnosed, you can focus your attention and energy to getting better, instead of trying to figure out what’s wrong,” Veasley says.

Finding a specialist can be difficult

Finding a healthcare provider who knows how to treat vulvodynia is in fact an issue for many women, Pinn says.

“I’ve had several women come to me personally saying, ‘I’ve been going to doctors and no one seems to help me. No one knows what’s wrong, they think it’s just in my head,’” Pinn adds.

Think you may have vulvodynia?

See your primary care doctor or gynecologist, Pinn advises. If your doctor ignores you or doesn’t know how to treat your problem, get a second or even third opinion, she says.

Treatment options for vulvodynia

Treatment options include topical anesthetics, nerve block drugs, physical therapy, or behavioral therapy, Pinn says. Surgery is usually a last resort.

As for Veasley, she tried various treatments for seven years until she finally decided that surgery would probably be the only way to relieve her pain. After undergoing the procedure at age 25, Veasley is today mostly pain free.

“I still very occasionally have some mild discomfort premenstrually but it doesn’t stop me from having intercourse or any sexual activity…for me that’s like a miracle,” she says.

Trust your instincts and be vigilant

Now associate executive director of the National Vulvodynia Association, Veasley regularly reaches out to women who feel hopeless because of their condition.

She says a lot of women are misdiagnosed with a yeast infection, urinary tract infection or bacterial vaginosis. “Trust yourself,” Veasley says. “If you know something is wrong don’t give up. Be vigilant.”

Tips to consider if you think you have vulvodynia

Think you may have vulvodynia? See a healthcare provider and consider these tips from the Office of Research on Women's Health:

1. Be honest. Be open and honest with your partner about your condition, and don't feel obligated to be intimate if it is painful.

2. Change your toilet tissue. Use only white, unbleached toilet tissue.

3. Use cotton feminine products. Buy 100 percent cotton sanitary products.

4. Opt for cotton. Choose cotton underwear.

5. Ditch the hose. Avoid pantyhose and tight clothes.

6. Water is best. Wash the area frequently with water.

7. Don't overwash. Avoid using creams, soaps, douches and deodorants in the area.

To order an information packet on vulvodynia, call the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Information Resource Center at (800) 370-2943 or visit their website at

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Mediterranean jaunt

Where else is tradition held in higher regard than in the Mediterranean? Mediterranean food and architecture is of the most identifiable worldwide. But a small Grecian gem, the small village community of Santorini, takes great measures to preserve its traditional festivals, ancient customs, and local music. And be sure to catch locals crush grapes and produce wine -- a romantic tradition still alive and well in sensual Santorini.

Getaway at sea

Discover the luxury of a private cruise. You and your sweetheart will enjoy candlelit dinners for two at sunset and days full of adventuring in the Caribbean aboard your personal fully-staffed yacht. You’ll feel like royalty as you bask in the beauty of the sea and experience the exhilaration of sailing on your private luxury
READ MORE » Travel

Hong Kong’s glitzy Central Business District (CBD)

Living the High Life

Hong Kong’s glitzy Central Business District (CBD) is booming. New hotels are springing up in rapid pace along Hong Kong’s Jingrong Jie (Financial Street). Hong Kong takes pride in its architecture and reserves many of its elite bars and restaurants to top floors of its celebrated high-rises. What could be a more exciting dining experience than sitting atop of one of Hong Kong’s host of skyscrapers overlooking views of the most spectacular cityscape worldwide? And visitors to the CBD never lack choices for after-dinner entertainment. Catch one of Hong Kong’s favorite Canto-pop stars in concert, hang out in swanky hotel lounges for live music of all genres, and be sure to not leave for home without finding a local-favorite karaoke lounge to serenade your sweetheart.

Road trip

Highway One, Route One, Pacific Coast Highway -- whatever you call this breathtaking scenic 90-mile drive along California's Big Sur coast, is definitely worth the time and energy. But the way to really enjoy the scenic stretch that hugs the shoulder of the mountains is to take it slow. Stop and smell the roses -- or the corks -- wine tasting at the many wineries aligning the route is a popular activity on this trip. There are several choices for accommodations, including a number of bed-and-breakfasts, but there are also great camping digs along the way if you’re traveling on budget.
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The perfect girl is...

Thanks to Mel Gibson, we know what women want, but what traits do men find attractive in a potential girlfriend? After an informal survey of friends and colleagues, here's what I found out.
Young Couple Embracing

1. "A Good Girl"

"She's a good girl, a keeper," said Jay on last week's episode of MTV's newest reality juggernaut "The City" when mulling over whether to take his relationship with Whitney to the next level. But what does that mean, "a good girl?"

James, 24, knows how to spot a woman with girlfriend potential when he sees her: "She's not a hard-partier or a Paris Hilton wanna-be. She respects me and makes me look good," he states. In addition, if Whitney Port is any example, a good girl is trustworthy, honest, a loyal friend, and has film cameras following her every move. (Ok, well, maybe not that last one.)

2. A Nice Body

I'm not going to mince words with you ladies; nearly all of the men I talked to rated some attribute of a woman's physique as being important to them. This doesn't mean you have to look like Salma Hayek (or on the other side of the spectrum, Gwyneth Paltrow) to land a boyfriend, but you do have to take care of yourself and not look like a slob. Whether it's daily yoga, Pilates or a once a week hike, find a way to keep your body trim and keep those flabby chicken arms at bay. And don't give me that "I hate the gym" line because I hate the gym too. However, there are ways of burning calories that are fun, like going out dancing a few nights a week with friends or just rockin' it out at home with your iPod.

3. An Independent Spirit

Men do not like clingy, desperate, co-dependent, controlling, or jealous women. I know as I write this, there will those of you sitting in front of your computer screen thinking "Well, I'm none of those things." But are you?

"There is a certain type of woman whose always calling up and who gets mad when you're out with your friends because she says you weren't paying enough attention to her. I always steer-clear of those," says Rob, 43.

Every dating book in the world gives this advice, but it bears repeating here: Don't make your life about finding a boyfriend because it's like watching a pot of water boil. It will be frustrating and seem never ending if you focus on it too intently. And when you do find one, don't make him the center of your universe either. A boyfriend should be a complement to your already happy life, not the driving force.

4. An Appreciation for Life's Pleasures

"Happy, fun women who enjoy sex and can appreciate the occasional off-color joke," said Alex, 27, on what gives women girlfriend-potential status. 'Nuff said.
READ MORE » The perfect girl is...

"Wow" him in the bedroom

If it's a bedroom taboo -- he likes it. If it's far from the conventional missionary position -- he likes it. Like boys, men are often attracted to a challenge and anything off-limits.
Bedroom taboos

A guy may share his sexual fantasies or secrets. He may even question his own desires -- especially if they're not conventional. But here are some sexual secrets and insight into male desires that'll get any man excited!

Sex ideasSEX SECRET #1
Men are visual. He sometimes wants to sit back and enjoy the show. This can mean watching you dance seductively, caress yourself, and truly bring yourself pleasure. Make some noise. Moan. Talk dirty.

This shows him that you're comfortable with your body, tell him you're not some uptight prude who's afraid of letting loose and feeling good. Remember, your turn-on is his turn-on.

If you can let go of your inhibitions and enjoy your own pleasurable caresses -- even pretend that no one is watching -- he'll get hot and bothered and enjoy the challenge of having to wait until it's his turn to do the touching.

Sex ideasSEX SECRET #2
Anal sex. This may not cross either partner's mind during the first few rounds of heated passion, and it may not be something you want to experience with someone in the early stages of dating. But sooner or later, when you've established some level of commitment or consistent relationship with a man, he's ready for some variety.

A man should know to be gentle, and if he tries to make his way into the other side with a little too much force, just ask him to take it more slowly. Any decent, normal guy does not enjoy pleasure if it causes a woman pain. In fact, your pleasure is usually his biggest turn-on.

Most of all, relax. That area is charged with sensation; if you just let go, and tell yourself to leave reality outside the bedroom door and let your instincts and desires lead the way, you just might like what he has to offer.

Sex ideasSEX SECRET #3
Be the woman of his dreams -- literally. Wait until he's asleep, then make your move. Trust me, no matter how soundly he is sleeping, there is one body part that will definitely perk up when you touch it.

He'll be putty in your hands. The experience may be a bit surreal for him. He may never fully awaken, but he'll love his sexy dream and its leading actor -- you! If it's late and dark and he's sleepy, he may not be certain of where sleep ends and reality begins, but let him revel in this sleepy fantasy. He'll appreciate your initiative and awaken the next day with a satisfied smile on his face.
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