Pregnancy

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    Used to be that when you started to think about trying for a baby, you'd do a bit of genetic testing, and maybe get a recommendation on a prenatal vitamin. But preconceptual wellness has come a long way! Whether you want to lay a solid foundation well before whipping out the ovulation calculator or you've been trying to get pregnant for a while, there's more to it than popping a supplement and eating your veggies.

    Nutritionist Carolyn Gundell, who leads the Fertility Nutrition Program at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT), works with reproductive endocrinologists to help women lead a more "fertile lifestyle." "Before pregnancy, this can really help patients improve not only their ovulatory function, but optimize their overall health," Gundell says. "And [the message] is let's not just adopt these behaviors to get pregnant, but for life. Because our health is the best gift we can give our children."

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    Sometimes when you have a friend or family member who announces their pregnancy, you have to be all sappy and send them a heartfelt note of congratulations that makes flowery references to this special journey/miraculous time in their life. Then there are your awesome friends, to whom you can say things like, "Dude, congrats! Also, welcome to eight months of living in Fartville, Population: You."

    For your pregnant pals who don't mind a little sarcasm along with their heartburn, here are 10 congratulatory cards that are more what I'd call "real talk" than Hallmark. After all, pregnancy is an amazing gift ... one that's frankly best enjoyed if you can laugh at the less-than-perfect moments.

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    It's been 30 years in the making, but the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has finally gotten around to reevaluating their pregnancy guidelines, and it's great news for all the pregnant ladies out there. The new guidelines about workplace pregnancy discrimination outline everything from disclosing your growing bump to your right to lactate, and expecting moms (and even pregnant-ladies-to-be): it's your time to rejoice!

    Until now, the laws have been a bit open to interpretation, so employers and courts were free to bend them how they saw fit. But no more. Even if you live in one of the worst states for working pregnant women, this applies to you. So if you're currently pregnant, are planning on getting pregnant, or have a pregnant coworker, here are some main new guidelines to remember:

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    Birth control may conjure up images for the Pill, condoms, or IUDs, but a growing number of moms are exploring natural birth control methods due to religious reasons, holistic leanings, or side effects suffered from more mainstream options. "Interest in natural contraceptives is becoming more and more common, even among the nonreligious, because people want to get away from artificial medications," says Dr. Jennifer Burns, a naturopathic family practitioner and founder of the Bienetre Center in Phoenix, Arizona. And done right, these methods can be surprisingly reliable.

    Check out your main natural birth control options below: 

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    We are faced with choices every day. Let's take coffee for example. We can choose decaf or caffeinated. We choose the brand of coffee we drink. We have a choice on what size coffee we want and what kind of mug we want to drink it out of. We have various choices on what to put in our coffee (milk, soy, nothing -- also what brand, what content of milk fat), and how much or how little of whatever it is we like in our coffee we put in. We can basically control how we want our coffee.

    But when it comes to birth, too much is out of our control because of hospital control. Should we, as mothers, be more in control of what we need and how much pain relief we need? We need more options when it comes to pain relief during labor. It shouldn't just be epidural or nothing. Alternatives shouldn't be fentanyl or morphine. We need nitrous oxide -- yes, laughing gas -- in the labor rooms.

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    Hear that sound? That buzz is the Internet going on and on about the raunchy cake Christina Aguilera supposedly ate at her baby shower. But while all eyes were focused on that cake, we noticed something a tad disturbing.

    What the heck happened to XTina's baby bump? The Voice judge just posted a photo to Twitter this week of son Max protectively cradling her belly, calling him out as the world's best big brother. But then came the photo of Aguilera with her cake at a baby shower that supposedly happened on Saturday ... and no belly.

    Did somebody actually Photoshop away a pregnant woman's belly? Is this how far we've come, America?

    Here, do a comparison.

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    Use the words "birth photography" to any mom, and you're bound to get one of two reactions. Either moms are enchanted by the idea or more than a little freaked out about having someone with a camera catching such an intimate moment. 

    Ask a photographer, on the other hand, and the reactions are much the same: birth photography, as Laura Eckert says, is addictive. Eckert is the woman behind New Creation Photography, an Iowa photography studio, but she's also the mom behind the wildly popular Birth Photography Facebook group, a place where folks like her share images of magical moments inside the delivery rooms and bedrooms where babies come into the world.

    Why would anyone want a camera in the room in one of the most personal moments of their life? Well, when you ask Eckert, the better question is why not?

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    In case you haven't heard, Christina Aguilera is pregnant with a baby girl and she wants us all to know. Granted, Xtina has always been very vocal and upfront (flashback to "Dirrty" days), so her pregnancy is clearly no different. But the latest reason why we're totally loving her sense of humor and candidness? She knows how to choose dessert, and her baby shower cake leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination.

    While some expectant moms might shy away from explicitly graphic images at their baby shower, Xtina has embraced them fully. So much so that her cake included a very, ahem, vivid birthing moment. You have to see this one for yourself:

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    The road to pregnancy is often full of false alarms. Why? Because many early pregnancy symptoms (cramps, cravings) are quite similar to the symptoms before your period -- and the fact that the signs are different for every woman only adds to the confusion.

    That said, as a general rule, there are subtle differences between pregnancy and garden-variety PMS that can help you suss out which one you're dealing with. Here are a few signs that you may have a baby on board, and how these symptoms differ from a period:

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    If you're nursing a newborn, sex may be the last thing on your mind ... still, though, if you and your hubby end up raring to get it on during some rare interlude when the little tyke is asleep, a very important question may crop up: Can you get pregnant while breastfeeding?

    Oh that. Yes, let us talk about the possibilities ...

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