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Post-Ebola Teen Girls in Sierra Leone subjected to Invasive Pregnancy Tests, Stigmatized

After the Ebola epidemic this year, the Sierra Leone government formalized an informal ban that has existed for ten years that prevent pregnant girls from attending school.

Amnesty International released a report yesterday, Friday, November 6, stating that thousands of schoolgirls in Sierra Leone have been forced to undergo humiliating and degrading public pregnancy tests since the government banned pregnant girls from attending mainstream schools and taking exams.

Teachers and nurses have examined girls’ breasts and stomachs in front of their peers and forced the girls to take urine tests, the report “Shamed and blamed: Pregnant girls’ rights at risk in Sierra Leone” stated.

The invasive exams are discouraging many girls from going to school, whether they are pregnant or not, the rights group state.

 “This humiliating and degrading treatment has led to girls taking health risks to sit exams, such as strapping down their stomachs and breasts,” Amnesty International West Africa researcher Sabrina Mahtani told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Pregnant girls are being blamed and shamed… as Sierra Leone moves forward from the devastating Ebola crisis, it is vital that these girls are not left behind.”

While schools were closed for a year, many girls were subjected to sexual violence, abusive relationships were rife in Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak, and fueled a spike in teenage pregnancies, Amnesty said in its report “Shamed and blamed: Pregnant girls’ rights at risk in Sierra Leone”.

The epidemic hindered access to services including abortion, emergency contraception and post-rape counseling, while the closure of schools for almost a year left many girls particularly vulnerable to violence, the rights group said.

“It is not right. During Ebola, their parents did not have money so many girls had to go to men,” one girl told Amnesty.

The other unfortunate thing about it all is that Sierra Leone already had one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the even before Ebola broke out in December 2013.

One in four girls between the ages of 15 and 19 had children or were pregnant, a 2013 government health survey found.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates preliminary that the number of teenage girls who became pregnant in Sierra Leone at the height of the Ebola outbreak at more than 14,300.

After the ban was imposed earlier this year, The Ministry of Education stated that having pregnant girls to go to school would undermine their ability to concentrate and participate in class, expose them to ridicule and encourage others to become pregnant.

No word on the boys and what the fact they are fathers would do. Nope. Just the girls. le sigh

The government announced in May an alternative “bridging” education system allowing pregnant girls to go school, but at different premises and times to their peers.

The isolation could lead to further stigmatization and marginalization of the girls, Amnesty said in its report.

Only six in 10 girls between the ages of 15 and 24 in Sierra Leone are literate, compared with three-quarters of boys in that age range, figures from the 2013 government health survey show.

“Education is a right and not something for governments to arbitrarily take away as a punishment,” Mahtani said.

“Pregnant girls are being denied key chances to move forward with their lives, and to ensure early pregnancy does not become the event that determines the rest of their lives.”

Several organizations including UNICEF, the UK Department for International Development and UNFPA are helping girls to continue their education after giving birth, and give counseling and access to maternal and neonatal health services.

The World Health Organization says that even though maternal death rates in Sierra Leone has been halved  between 1990 and 2013, it still has one of the highest rates in the world with more than 1 in 100 women dies in childbirth.

Married (no kids) Couples: ‘Seven Year Switch’ Season 2 is Casting


Are you a married couple without any kids yet at a crossroads in your marriage?

Would you be willing to go on a two week relationship swap experiment that would be televised and would test the future of your Union?

If so, then the creators of the FYI network docu-series Seven Year Swutch is interested in helping you? It’s like Wife Swap and Marriage Boot Camp, I guess.


There is an open casting for the show which initially featured on its first season four couples who swapped companions for two weeks and met with relationship coaching professionals who also worked with them to iron out any existing challenges or issues in their marriage to their real spouses. (Not the swapped ones)


Aleshia got paired up with Leah’s hubby Neal

Three of the four appearing on the initial season stayed together and one eventually got pregnant. Yay! Aleshia and Houston are expecting a baby girl.


Danielle and Eric Wolf and Rachel and CW McGee switched places

Sadly, Neal and Leah are headed do divorce after Neal realized through the show that he could not get over Alesha’s infidelity during the marriage, and that he wants kids and she probably won’t ever.

Leah and Neal are heading for divorce after appearing on season one of the "Seven Year Switch"

Leah and Neal are heading for divorce after appearing on season one of the “Seven Year Switch”

So that says the experiment works, I guess!

Good or bad, it’s best to figure it all out before kids get involved, huh? Anywho!

The production company has asked that I share this with Bellyitch readers given many of you guys are without kids yet and trying to conceive.

Let us know it you get cast after hearing about this opp from us! Thanks.

Here’s Where To Donate or Sell  Your Excess Halloween Candy

 Each year, Americans spend an estimated $2.5 billion dollars on Halloween treats and every year, some parents who do not allow their kids to eat too much candy end up saving their stash for months.

An alternative to storing the candy until it comes too stale then throwing it all away is to donate some of it to the Halloween Candy Buy back program. The program was founded by dentist Chris Kammer in Wisconsin. Kammer’s office.

He used to offer $1 a pound to buy back candy collected by the young trick-or-treaters in his practice. Kammer would then donate the candy to the troops overseas who rarely get a chance to get their hands on sweet treats from back home.

The effort has expanded and this year, over 2,500 dentists and orthodontists have signed up to participate.

To find a local place to sell back your candy, simply plug in your zip code and find the local participating dentist nearby.

The collected candy get added to Operation Gratitude care packages.

Good  stuff! Sad kids but sad less hyperactive kids with less cavities!

Find a local participating dentist or orthodontist office HERE!

h/t NPR

photo: courtesy NPR, Dr. Curtis Chan of Del Mar, Cali

How Jessica and Jerry Seinfeld are Helping Needy Families and Promoting Fatherhood

jessica seinfeld baby buggy bellyitchblog.com

We love when we see celebrities using their fame for good.

Nationwide, the need for diapers is great with nearly one in three U.S. families not able to afford an adequate supply.

Jessica Seinfeld, who we’ve previously reported for her work promoting her charity Baby Buggy which gives gently used essentials and other goods to families in need, recently announced the success of the “Change for Good” initiative.

It was a partnership with Seventh Generation brand and Whole Foods which led to a donation of 1.5 million diapers for families in need. For every pack of Seventh Generation “Free & Clear” diapers purchased at Whole Foods Market between May 1 and September 30, 2015, Seventh Generation donated a pack of newborn or size one diapers to Baby Buggy, who distributed them to families in need across the country.”

The diaper donations have helped families in countless ways, from a father in Southern California who can now send his child to daycare with real diapers instead of the makeshift homemade diapers he once created, to the expecting, low-income military families in the Seattle area who welcomed diapers in advance of their babies’ arrival, a press release from Seventh Generation read. The donations provide a necessity for babies and peace of mind for parents, as illustrated by the young mom living in a group home in New York who can now focus on reading to and playing with her baby when she gets home from her job as a store clerk, instead of worrying about how she will squeeze enough out of her paycheck to buy the diapers she needs. She can now be the type of mom she wants to be and that she never had.

“Diapers are an essential and relentless need. There are very few state or federal child safety-net programs that allocate dollars specifically for the purchase of diapers, and yet a pack costs approximately 1.5 hours working minimum wage for low-income families to afford,” said Dr. Laurel Parker West, Vice President National Programs, Baby Buggy. “This program is especially critical to families we serve who often have to choose between buying food and buying diapers, and we are so pleased to be making this national distribution to families in need.”

Awesome news!

These wins come on the heels of a recent launch of the organization’s “Baby Buggy Fatherhood Initiative” this past June, led by Jessica’s hubby famed comedian Jerry Seinfeld.  The goal of the initiative was to get dads involved in their children’s lives by expanding support and assistance to them as well, especially those in low-income families.

Good stuff! Kudos all around!

STUDY: Excessive weight gain During Pregnancy Could Lead to Lifelong Obesity

Gaining excessive weight during pregnancy can lead to obesity issues throughout life for women who are already at risk, according to a new study.

Researchers found that putting on too much weight while pregnant can cause excess body fat and pounds that remain, as reported by AJMC.

Columbia University researchers evaluated about 300 women, all of whom were African-American or Dominican, between the years of 1998 and 2013. The study group was at risk of becoming obese due to socioeconomic factors and unhealthy dietary patterns, according to the authors.

The participants had an average body mass index (BMI) of 25.6 prior to being pregnant, just slightly above the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention guidelines for being overweight. Five percent of participants were underweight, 53 percent were at a healthy weight, 20 percent were overweight, and 22 percent were obese.

The study suggests that 64 percent of these women put on more weight than the 15 to 20 pounds recommended by health officials. The women were then monitored for seven years after giving birth.

Continue reading

How you Can Help the Viral ‘Bun In Oven’ Couple whose Baby Came Early

bun viral couple

Family members of Dana Griffin-Graves and Arkell Graves, the couple whose emotional pregnancy video went viral before their baby was born 16 weeks early, have created an online campaign to raise money for the new mom and dad.

Just two weeks after the couple’s video gained worldwide attention, Dana gave birth to their son when she was just 24 weeks and one day into her pregnancy.

As of Saturday at 6 p.m., the family posted that little Kaleb Arkell Graves, who was born Tuesday at 1:08 p.m.,  remained in critical condition.

“He is tiny in statue but he is a fighter. He is in stable but critical condition,” Dana posted earlier this week. “With only a 5% chance of survival, Kaleb is here. I’m grateful to God, my wonderful husband Arkell and my amazing family.”

Because of the likelihood of a lengthy hospital stay, Dana’s sister, Melanie Griffin-Hamlin, launched a GoFundMe account Friday.

“This Go Fund Me page was created by Dana’s sister with the purpose of helping to offset some of the expenses of the enormous hospital bills and to have a beautiful, well-deserved nursery for Baby Kaleb created for his arrival home in a few months (we are claiming this in faith!),” the GoFundMe page states.

As of Saturday night, the fund had received 51 donations totaling $1,125 and had been shared by more than 4,500 Facebook users.

The couple, who is continuing to ask the community for prayers via their Facebook page, said the words of encouragement give them strength.

Continue reading 

Stanford Students Created a $300 version of a $20K Incubator For Babies in the Developing World

embrace warmer

Each year, more than 1 million babies die on their birth day.

About 20 million premature and low birth weight babies are born worldwide each year with 4 million dying within the first 4 weeks of life, according to the World Health Organization.  This amounts to 450 babies that die each hour and a substantial number of those that die are born in the developing world where there are not enough incubators which cost about $20,000.

Also, many babies are born in rural areas far from hospitals with adequate facilities to care for a premature newborn. A lot of the babies really just need warmth an incubator provides during those first crucial months.  Some babies are born with so little fat and many are unable to control their own body temperatures.

About 6 years ago, four Stanford University students were challenged in a class project to design a portable life-saving incubator that cost less than $300. The group, led by then female student, Jane Chen traveled to India, where the caregiver to patient ration is 1:2,000, to research and perfect their design.

And they did it, creating the Embrace Infant Warmer.

incubator and embrace

“Incubators are vital because the internal organs of premature babies are not fully developed at birth,” Chen wrote in a 2010 piece on CNN.com. Chen is now the co-founder and CEO of Embrace Innovations, a social enterprise that aims to help the 20 million premature and low birth weight babies born every year, through a low cost infant warmer.

She explained the concept and design of Embrace:

Embrace Infant Warmers are non-electric, miniature sleeping bags that use a removable wax insert, which can be heated safely using hot water. The product is easy to sanitize and can be heated over and over again.

The product has been designed specifically for resource-constrained settings. It looks like a small sleeping bag, which incorporates a wax-like phase change material in a plastic pouch that melts at body temperature (98.6 F) to keep the baby at a constant temperature.

The PCM pouch can be heated with either a short burst of electricity or by placing it in boiling water. Once melted, it can maintain a constant temperature for up to eight hours, after which it can be reheated.

In addition to being low cost, the product does not require a constant supply of electricity, complements existing practices such as skin-to-skin care and is extremely safe and intuitive to use.

After creating a prototype, the team launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to produce their first round of Warmers used in India.  Today, Embrace ships the warmers to local clinics and other areas in the developing worldwide.  Costing less than 1% of a traditional incubator, the Embrace Infant Warmer  has helped over 150,000 babies to date.

The goal is to save the lives of 20 Million babies and they are well on their way. Embrace is not stopping there. This May, it launched another campaign and are creating a line of affordable healthcare technologies for women and children around the world.


This invention looks like a tiny sleeping bag and it s helped save 150 000 babies.
Good stuff!


Buzzfeed’s Disney Princess Breastfeeding Illustrations are Weirding Out Its Readers

disney princess buzzfeed

What happens when a Buzzfeed illustrator places illustrations of Disney Princesses and insert them nursing babies in modern public places in an attempt to normalize breastfeeding?

You get a brilliant montage that is also a great think piece! Don’t pay attention to the majority of their readers in the comment section who say they are weirded out by the images.

Will it actually normalize breastfeeding in public? Maybe not. Will it illicit dialogue about it? Yes it will. That’s a win in our book!

Check out the full images at Buzzfeed HERE!

h/t IamNotTheBabySitter

photos: Buzzfeed, Thinkstock and Loryn Brantz


New Law Would Ban Surrogacy in India, Disrupt a Multi-Billion Dollar Industry

surrogacy pregnancy in india bellyitchblog.com

Lawmakers in India are equating rampant surrogacy tourism in India with human trafficking and proposing a law to ban foreign parents, disrupting a multi-billion dollar industry that lures India’s poorest women to rent their womb

Recall in 2011, we reported how India had become a hub for surrogacy pregnancy because of lax regulations, the ease of the adoption process and the relatively low cost of getting a baby there. Three years later, Indian legislators are cracking down and working on a law to ban foreign parents from coming to India for purposes of surrogacy.

The Health Ministry and National Commission for Women (NCW) in India proposed new legislation to ban Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), Persons of Indian Origins (PIOs) and foreigners from having children through surrogacy in India. The ban will also include foreigners of Indian-descent.

NCW Chairperson Lalita Kumaramangalam told the site Manoramo Online that unregulated surrogacy is leading to human trafficking.

“Most of the surrogate mothers are poor women,” Kumaramangalam said. “They face several hardships during the process. These include ambiguous contracts, health concerns, exploitation by middle men or hospital authorities, lack of enforceability of contract by mothers due to their socio-economic vulnerability.”

Indeed, surrogacy in India has become a multi-billion dollar industry and growing 17 to 20% annually, she added. The NCW noted that  30,000 illegal fertility clinics are operating in the country with majority of them being located in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Delhi.

NCW did ask that there be exemptions for single women.

“This is very unfair to single women whether they are widow or divorced,” Kumaramangalam said. “It is in a way restricting their reproductive rights.

The original bill, called Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation), was actually first drafted in 2010, before surrogacy in India ballooned, and was revised in 2013. The final bill will be presented November 15 for vote after a public comment period lapses.

“We don’t want to become hub of surrogacy in the world,”Kumaramangalam  concluded. “There are a huge number of women who are trapped into this. The increasing amount of unregulated surrogacy happening in India is causing various problems for mother and the child.”

Watch video: Surrogacy: The tale of a ‘birth mother’

This is Happening: People Dressing Their Babies as Bernie Sanders


This is happening: People are dressing their babies as Senator Bernie Sanders who is a Democratic candidate for  US President and it’s hilarious.

Current Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-proscribed socialist and a bombastic figure, has a huge backing by Progressives in the Democratic Party which includes moms too.

One mom, Ashira Siegel,  couldn’t attend a Sanders really because she has a newborn son. To show her support, alternatively, she posted a photo of said baby with his fist up in the air on a Sanders supporter group called Geeks for Bernie, she told CNN yesterday.

bernie sanders baby ashira

Sen. Bernie Sanders supporter Ashira Siegel’s new born son was photoshopped to look like Bernie. – CNN

A member from that forum offered to Photoshop in some eye glasses and white hair on her photo and tweet it out with the hashtag #BabiesForBernie!

And it took off! By the end of the day dozens of parents of babies had followed suit and dressed their infants and toddlers as the elder statesman known for shouted exclamations and down-to-earth manner.

Check out more photos at our partners at PopSugar!

h/t CNN