• Madonna says life would be easier for her children if they had a different mother
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    The Independent

    Madonna says life would be easier for her children if they had a different mother

    Madonna has said that life would be “less challenging” for her children if they didn’t have her as a mother.The singer has two biological children, daughter Lourdes and son Rocco, and four adopted children from Malawi – David, Mercy and twins Estere and Stella.During an interview on Friday night’s Graham Norton Show, the star said that her fame undoubtedly takes a toll on her family.“I think they wish I wasn’t Madonna,” the 60-year-old said of her children.“I think it would be less challenging in their minds if they didn’t have me as their mother.”Discussing the family’s move from the US to Lisbon, Portugal, the star explained the move was so that her son, David, could attend a football academy in Europe.As a result, Madonna – who released her album Madame X on Friday –said she found herself surprisingly becoming “a soccer mum”.> View this post on Instagram> > You can’t sit with Us........... ...... ❌ estere madamex workshop> > A post shared by Madonna (@madonna) on May 31, 2019 at 9:35am PDT“I surprised myself,” she joked.“Barcelona and Turin were an option, but I couldn’t see myself living there. It would have been a lot easier if he’d liked music!”When asked whether she is an avid spectator at her son’s football matches, she said: “I admit I only watch when he’s playing. If he’s on the bench, I’m on my phone.”Madonna’s comments come months after she said she became “a little bit depressed” as a result of the transatlantic move and struggling to make friends.In an interview with DJ Trevor Nelson during an MTV live-streamed interview in April, the star said: "So I went [to Lisbon], and I thought it was going to be like super fun and adventurous, but then I found myself going to school, picking up kids, and going to soccer matches and really being 'Netty no-mates', and I got a little bit depressed."> View this post on Instagram> > And Love is 💙.....,........ The Unbreakable Bond! estere stella children family. love> > A post shared by Madonna (@madonna) on Feb 7, 2019 at 5:55am PSTLater in her interview with Norton, the singer opened up about her shows at the London Palladium later this year and said she was excited but anxious to perform.“I’m feeling anxiety right now,” Madonna told the show’s host. “Every time feels like the first time.”“I can see everyone (in London) and they can see me, which you can’t in a stadium or sports arena.Watch Madonna’s full interview on The Graham Norton Show tonight on BBC One at 10.35pm.

  • What are the symptoms of the disease and how can it be treated?
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    The Independent

    What are the symptoms of the disease and how can it be treated?

    Parkinson's disease is the world's second most common neurodegenerative disorder, behind Alzheimer's disease.While it's unknown exactly why people develop the condition, according to Parkinson's UK, experts believe its a combination of genetic and environmental factors that contribute to the damage of nerve cells in the brain.So what are the symptoms of Parkinson's disease and how can it be treated? Here's everything you need to know. What is Parkinson's disease?Parkinson's disease is a degenerative neurological condition.This means that over time the brain of an individual living with the disease becomes more damaged, the NHS explains.A person living with Parkinson's disease doesn't have enough of the chemical dopamine in their brain, the Parkinson's Foundation states.Dopamine is responsible for transmitting signals between nerve cells in the brain.When an individual experiences a loss of nerve cells in the brain, this causes a reduction in the quantity of dopamine in the brain. What are the symptoms?The main symptoms of Parkinson's disease include involuntary shaking (otherwise known as tremors), movement that's slower than usual and stiffness in the muscles, the NHS outlines.Other symptoms may include difficulty balancing, nerve pain, incontinence, insomnia, excessive sweating, depression and anxiety.For more information about the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, visit the NHS here. How many people does it affect?Around 145,000 people in the UK are affected by Parkinson's disease, Parkinson's UK explains.This means that around one in every 350 adults is living with the degenerative condition.According to the NHS, symptoms of Parkinson's usually develop after the age of 50.However, for every one in 20 people affected by the disease, symptoms may appear when they're under the age of 40.The Parkinson's Foundation outlines that men are 1.5 more likely than women to be affected by the condition.High-profile individuals to have been diagnosed with Parkinson's include former US president George H. W. Bush, Back to the Future star Michael J. Fox and boxing legend Muhammad Ali. How can it be treated?While there is no known cure for Parkinson's disease, symptoms may be controlled through treatment.The most common form of treatment used for the condition is medication, Parkinson's UK states."Drug treatments aim to increase the level of dopamine that reaches the brain and stimulate the parts of the brain where dopamine works," the charity explains.The medication used to treat Parkinson's disease varies according to each patient.This is because as symptoms of the disorder progress, the drugs used to treat the condition may need to be changed.While drug treatment may help to manage Parkinson's symptoms, it cannot slow the progression of the disease.The NHS explains that those living with Parkinson's disease may also undergo physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and, in rare cases, brain surgery to treat the condition.For more information about Parkinson's disease, visit Parkinson's UK.

  • Three gardens to visit this weekend
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    The Telegraph

    Three gardens to visit this weekend

    Two outstanding Somerset gardens open this weekend for the first time for the National Garden Scheme: Holland Farm today, and Batcombe House (near Shepton Mallet, BA4 6HF, 2pm-5.30pm, £6, child £2) tomorrow. The garden design partnership Mazzullo Russell (Libby Russell owns Batcombe House), have had a hand in the design and planting at both and they are exhilarating examples of contemporary country house gardens where consummate details of plantsmanship provide a varied foreground between a house and the countryside. The heady summer combinations of roses and perennials, offset by hornbeam, box and yew, are sublime.

  • Pregnant women’s ‘safety bubble’ expands during third trimester to ‘keep danger at arm’s length’
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    The Independent

    Pregnant women’s ‘safety bubble’ expands during third trimester to ‘keep danger at arm’s length’

    A pregnant woman's "safety bubble" enlarges during her third trimester, a new study has discovered.Scientists from Anglia Ruskin University and the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at Addenbrooke's Hospital carried out an investigation to determine how a mother's sense of peripersonal space alters during pregnancy.An individual's peripersonal space is the area of space immediately around their body, and is widely regarded as measuring at approximately an arm's length away.For the study, which was published in journal Scientific Reports, the researchers assessed 85 pregnant women aged between 21 and 43 by having them take part in an audio-tactile reaction time task 20 weeks into their pregnancies, at 34 weeks and eight weeks after giving birth.The audio-tactile test involved the participants experiencing tapping sensations on their abdomens while being exposed to noise from loudspeakers.The team also assessed a control group of women who were not pregnant.The team assessed 37 pregnant women and 19 control women during the first testing session; 28 pregnant women and 17 control women during the second testing session; and 20 pregnant women and 15 control women during the third testing session.According to the study's findings, a pregnant woman's sense of personal space increases during the third trimester of pregnancy.The researchers state that this "may represent a mechanism to protect the vulnerable abdomen from injury from surrounding objects".Dr Flavia Cardini, senior lecturer in psychology at Anglia Ruskin University and lead author of the study, says that the expanded peripersonal space is "the brain's way of ensuring danger is kept at arm's length"."Pregnancy involves massive and rapid changes to the body both externally, as the body suddenly changes shape, and internally, while the foetus is growing," adds Dr Cardini.Dr Cardini states that the results of the study indicate that when the body goes through "significantly large changes" during pregnancy, the "maternal brain" also makes changes to the immediate area around the body.The researchers found that during the second trimester of pregnancy and eight weeks following childbirth, the women did not exhibit any change to their sense of personal space.Earlier this year, it was reported that exercising during pregnancy can help to protect children from obesity later in life.While previous studies had shown that exercise by obese women during pregnancy can prove beneficial for their children, this study demonstrated that the same can be said for women who aren't obese.“Based on our findings, we recommend that women - whether or not they are obese or have diabetes - exercise regularly during pregnancy because it benefits their children’s metabolic health," said Jun Seok Son, a doctoral student at Washington State University who carried out the study.

  • UK named among least family-friendly countries in new study
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    The Independent

    UK named among least family-friendly countries in new study

    The UK is one of the least family-friendly countries in the developed world, a new study finds.Researchers for Unicef analysed the policies on child care and parental leave of the 41 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).The findings showed that the UK ranked in the bottom 10 of the worst countries for maternity leave, at 34th in the table, offering just six weeks' parental leave at 90 per cent of pay and 33 weeks at a lower rate. The data suggests the latter is equivalent to 12 weeks of full pay, and brings the UK behind offers from the likes of France, Germany and Sweden.Meanwhile, Estonia was found to be the most generous of the countries listed, offering women 85 weeks’ maternity leave at full pay after having a baby, followed by Hungary (72 weeks) and Bulgaria (61 weeks).Among the countries that have a paid leave policy for mothers, New Zealand and Australia were found to offer the least at just eight weeks of leave at full pay. The US offers no time, ranking it the worst for maternity leave.When it comes to paternity leave, the UK ranked 28th in the list, offering fathers two weeks' statutory paternity leave at £148.68 per week.However, the Department of Business last year said that the take-up by eligible fathers “could be as low as two per cent”, with financial issues cited as the primary reasons.Japan is the only country listed in the table that offers at least six months at full pay for fathers. However, Unicef found that only one in 20 fathers in the country took paid leave in 2017.Similarly, South Korea has the second longest period of paid paternity leave available, but fathers were found to make up just one in six of all parents who take parental leave.The researchers behind Unicef’s report say that paid paternity leave helps fathers bond with their babies, contributes to healthy infant and child development, lowers maternal depression and increases gender equality. As a result, the organisation is calling for national policies ensuring paid paternity leave and encouraging fathers to use it.Liam Sollis, head of policy and advocacy at Unicef UK, says: “Evidence shows that a child’s brain develops the fastest in its early years, and that during this period parents and caregivers have a vital role in providing nurturing interactions, good nutrition and sensory and motor stimulation.”Parental leave legislation in the UK entitles parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay during the first year after the child is born or, in the case of adoption, placed with the family.The UK’s Shared Parental Leave (SPL) can be used in blocks “separated by periods of work, or take[n] all in one go”, the Government states. Parents can also choose to take time off work together or to stagger the leave and pay.However, only 1 per cent of new parents used shared parental leave last year, according to research from the Trades Union Congress, prompting calls for an overhaul of the system.Just 9,200 new parents took up shared leave in 2018 out of more than 900,000 who were eligible, the study found.“UK working parents and caregivers still face major challenges balancing work and their caregiving responsibilities,” adds Sollis.“While the UK government is taking steps to review and raise awareness of family friendly policies, take-up of shared parental leave, particularly amongst fathers, remains unacceptably low, and governments and businesses need to do more to tackle the financial, cultural and administrative obstacles that many families face.”According to data from 29 countries listed in the report, parents of young children in the UK were the most likely to cite cost as the reason why they do not use formal nursery childcare.However, in Czech Republic, Denmark and Sweden, finances were an issue for less than one in 100 parents who said that they had an unmet need for childcare services.According to the 2018 Global Gender Gap Report, published by the World Economic Forum in October, it will take an estimated 202 years for economic equality between men and women to be achieved.

  • Father’s Day 2019: When is it and what are the best deals?
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    The Independent

    Father’s Day 2019: When is it and what are the best deals?

    Father's Day – the international celebration of fathers, paternal guardians and other familial role models – is just around the corner.Numerous people across the country will be spending Father's Day with their families and loved ones, going out for meals and exchanging gifts and cards to mark the occasion.From the date to the best gift deals around, here's everything you need to know about Father's Day: When is it?This year, Father's Day falls on Sunday 16 June in the UK.It always takes place on the third Sunday of June, as it also does in several countries including Uganda, Turkey, Bangladesh and Mexico.Father's Day is commemorated on various different dates in nations across the globe, such as in Switzerland, where it always takes place on the first Sunday in June.During the Middle Ages, an annual celebration of fatherhood was observed on 19 March in Catholic Europe, on the same date as the feast day of Saint Joseph.The modern iteration of Father's Day as we know it today began being celebrated in the US in the early 20th century.It began being commemorated as a result of the success of Mother's Day, which stemmed from the religious observance of Mothering Sunday.The first observance of a "Father's Day" was held on 5 July 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia. How is it celebrated?Father's Day is widely regarded as a secular celebration, an occasion on which fathers and guardians are celebrated by their families and loved ones.In the Roman Catholic tradition, fathers are honoured on Saint Joseph's Day, on 19 March.It's custom on Father's Day to present your father or male guardian with a card and a gift as a token of your appreciation.Some also spend their Sundays going out for meals with their fathers or going on days out with them.Last year, stationery company Paperchase was praised for creating a line of Father's Day cards for single mothers. Here are some of the best deals around for Father's Day Enjoy some laughsWhy not treat your dad by taking him to a comedy night this Father's Day?This deal will give you your pick from a wide range of comedy nights taking place in the UK, during which you can expect up to three comedians to deliver hilarious entertainment.You'll also be given access to an after-show party at selected locations.Comedy night for two: £25, virginexperiencedays.co.uk. Suave scent> View this post on Instagram> > Whether he's 1 in a million, super strong or a complete champion. No matter what type of Dad he is, we've got something for everyone this Father's Day. Shop the link in bio. . . . . fathersday pacorabanne armani perfume fragrance scent aftershave fathersdaygifting> > A post shared by The Perfume Shop (@theperfumeshop) on Jun 9, 2019 at 2:00am PDTThe Perfume Shop is offering plenty of deals on selected perfumes in the lead-up to Father's Day.The Hugo Boss eau de toilette "Boss Bottled United" is currently reduced from £87 to £42.99, while Ralph Lauren's "Polo Red" is reduced from £64 to £39.99.For more information, visit the perfumeshop.com. The ultimate pamper kitLookfantastic is currently offering a limited edition collection of cosmetic products at a heavily discounted price especially for Father's Day.Worth £136, this gift bundle includes a Molton Brown Tobacco Absolute Bath and Shower Gel, Refinery Eye Gel, an Elemis TFM Deep Cleanse Facial Wash and more.Limited Edition Father's Day collection: £49, lookfantastic.com. Capture the momentCamera Jungle is currently offering a 15 per cent discount across the site for Father's Day.Using the discount FATHER15 at checkout, you can bag bargains on a range of photographic equipment.For more information, visit camerajungle.co.uk. Fancy a tipple?> View this post on Instagram> > A post shared by HonestBrew (@honestbrew) on May 16, 2019 at 9:00am PDTIn honour of Father's Day, Honest Brew is offering beer bundles at massively discounted prices.A nine-beer bundle, worth £50, now costs £29.90 and includes the nine beers in addition to a £10 voucher, a beer glass and a pair of socks.Meanwhile, a six-beer bundle has been reduced from £42.90 to £24.90.For more information, visit honestbrew.co.uk Unleash your inner superhero> View this post on Instagram> > A post shared by CAPOWCosplay (@capowcosplay) on Mar 3, 2019 at 2:46pm PSTThis photo shoot experience is the ultimate gift for any father who shares a proclivity for superheroes with their children.Reduced from £185 down to £25, Capow Portraits if offering fathers and their children the chance to dress up as their favourite superhero, take part in a photo shoot against realistic movie backgrounds and take home a 12" x 8" print.Father and child Superhero Photo Shoot by Capow Portraits: £25, virginexperiencedays.co.uk. Go for a driveIf your father fancies himself a bit of a petrolhead, then he's going to love taking a supercar for a spin.With this experience, reduced from £99 to £59, your father will given the choice to test drive elite cars including Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins and more.The experience lasts for approximately two hours, which includes an introduction and safety briefing.Double Supercar Driving Blast with High Speed Passenger Ride: £59, redletterdays.co.uk. Take your father to new heights> View this post on Instagram> > A post shared by The View from The Shard (@shardview) on May 10, 2019 at 2:58am PDTHow do you like the idea of a three-course meal at an Italian restaurant before taking in the views of the capital?For £89, reduced from £118.90, you can treat your father to a three-course dinner at Marco Pierre White, a short walk away from The Shard, before ascending London's famous glass skyscraper.Your meal will also include a glass of prosecco each.For more information, visit buyagift.co.uk.For more Father's Day present inspiration, visit our IndyBest gift guide here.

  • Piers Morgan criticises ‘bonkers’ reaction to ‘triggering’ GCSE calorie question for pupils with eating disorders
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    The Independent

    Piers Morgan criticises ‘bonkers’ reaction to ‘triggering’ GCSE calorie question for pupils with eating disorders

    Piers Morgan has described criticism of a GCSE calorie question as “bonkers” after several Twitter users say it could be triggering for pupils with eating disorders.The question appeared in Edexcel’s calculator paper, which was sat by candidates on Thursday 6 June, the Times Educational Supplement reports.The question asked about how many calories a woman had consumed for breakfast, prompting several Twitter users to argue that it might affect people who have struggled with an eating disorder.The question on the paper read: “There are 84 calories in 100g of banana. There are 87 calories in 100g of yogurt. Priti has 60g of banana and 150g of yogurt for breakfast. Work out the total number of calories in this breakfast”.During a segment on Good Morning Britain on Wednesday, the presenter quoted Caroline Nokes, Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton North, who tweeted him to explain why the question may affect certain individuals.“Taking exams whilst suffering an eating disorder is tough enough without having @piersmorgan suggest you shouldn’t be taking exams if question on calorie counting triggers issues – total lack of compassion and understanding of serious mental health condition edexcelmaths,” Nokes tweeted the presenter.> Taking exams whilst suffering an eating disorder is tough enough without having @piersmorgan suggest you shouldn’t be taking exams if question on calorie counting triggers issues - total lack of compassion and understanding of serious mental health condition edexcelmaths> > — Caroline Nokes (@carolinenokes) > > June 12, 2019The broadcaster questioned Nokes’ argument, adding: “This country is going completely bonkers.”He continued, saying: “We don’t rewrite the entire maths paper which has a perfectly reasonable question because somebody may have a trigger moment.”The debate has prompted mixed reactions on Twitter with several agreeing with the 54-year-old's argument.Replying to Nokes' comment on social media, Morgan wrote: "Oh please. It’s utter snowflake nonsense. Have you even read the question?"One Twitter user commented on the star's post: “This is utter madness, there will always be someone who is offended by something....but a maths question shouldn’t be one of them!”“Totally agree with you Piers! It’s getting ridiculous! We are getting to the point of not daring to speak to anyone about anything for fear of upsetting them over something!!” commented another.> This is utter madness,there will always be someone who is offended by something....but a maths question shouldn’t be one of them! 🤯> > — Emma Shirley (@EmmaShi55557936) > > June 12, 2019> Oh please. It’s utter snowflake nonsense. Have you even read the question? https://t.co/amkBQ6AYH0> > — Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) > > June 12, 2019> Totally agree with you Piers! It’s getting ridiculous! We are getting to the point of not daring to speak to anyone about anything for fear of upsetting them over something!! 😡> > — Julia Hanson (@Lincjules5555) > > June 12, 2019However, others have pointed out how affecting the question may be to certain individuals who have been affected by eating disorders.One user commented added: “Being in recovery of an eating disorder is one of the most difficult and frustrating things ever and a question like this can easily trigger someone years after they have had it so pls go and f**king educate urself thanks [sic].”Another added: “As somebody who was hospitalised for anorexia in my final GSCE year this question would have been really difficult for me. Piers Morgan can f**k off, his ignorance is showing through again.[sic]”One user tweeted: “Okay, yes it’s just a maths question and as someone with anorexia I’ve had to get used to working out the numbers and ignoring the context, but the reality is that everyone is at different points in their journey and the topic is easily avoided so why risk triggering relapse?”> Being in recovery of an eating disorder is one of the most difficult and frustrating things ever and a question like this can easily trigger someone years after they have had it so pls go and fucking educate urself thanks> > — swaiba (@swaibaf) > > June 12, 2019> As somebody who was hospitalised for anorexia in my final GSCE year this question would have been really difficult for me. Piers Morgan can fuck off, his ignorance is showing through again: https://t.co/no4U3E1tMR> > — Rachel (@OpenMindMH) > > June 12, 2019> Okay, yes it’s just a maths question and as someone with anorexia I’ve had to get used to working out the numbers and ignoring the context, but the reality is that everyone is at different points in their journey and the topic is easily avoided so why risk triggering relapse?> > — Lily Wilson (@LilyWilson_xx) > > June 12, 2019On Tuesday, a spokesperson from Pearson – which owns the exam board EdExcel – responded to the backlash on Twitter and said the company has reviewed the question and believes it to be “valid”.> pic.twitter.com/QCflgsZu3Z> > — Pearson Edexcel (@PearsonEdexcel) > > June 11, 2019However, they invited students to complain if they felt “triggered” by the question.“We encourage any student who thinks that this question may have impacted their performance to get in contact with us via their school,” a segment of the Tweet reads.Tom Quinn, director of external affairs at eating disorder charity BEAT says referencing to counting calories can be triggering for people with or in recovery from an eating disorder and can therefore cause significant distress.“We would urge greater awareness of how such references can affect people with or vulnerable to eating disorders, and given that young people are most at risk of these serious mental illnesses, we would encourage exam boards to avoid such material in their exams,” Quinn told The Independent.According to the organisation, approximately 1.25 million people in the UK are estimated to have an eating disorder. Around 25 per cent of those affected by an eating disorder are male.If you have been affected by this article, you can contact the following organisations for support:mind.org.ukbeateatingdisorders.org.uknhs.uk/livewell/mentalhealthmentalhealth.org.uksamaritans.org

  • McDonald's breakfast is now available until 11am in new trial
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    The Independent

    McDonald's breakfast is now available until 11am in new trial

    If you’ve ever found yourself weeping at the McDonald’s counter having learned that you’ve just missed the food chain’s breakfast service, it’s time to dry those tears.McDonald’s has just announced that it has decided to extend its breakfast deadline from 10.30am to 11am.From Wednesday 12 June, seven of the fast food chain’s UK restaurants will trial the extended service for six weeks to find out whether Britons really are in need of a McMuffin post 10.30am.However, hungry McDonald’s customers may have to travel far to get their hands on a bacon roll as the chosen restaurants trialling the new scheme are based in Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.If the scheme proves successful, the company says it will roll out the later breakfast service nationwide. The current 10.30am cut-off point has been in place for nearly 25 years.While the decision may excite some fans of the chain’s breakfast options, it may cause umbrage for others.Currently, McDonald’s starts serving lunch at 10.30am which means fans of the Big Mac will have to wait another 30 minutes to get their hands on the company’s statement burger if the extended breakfast becomes a permanent fixture.> View this post on Instagram> > Make getting out of bed worthwhile. ⏰ Wake up breakfast with a freshly prepared Egg McMuffin with a fresh cracked 🥚 and sizzling Canadian Bacon.> > A post shared by McDonald's (@mcdonalds) on Apr 15, 2019 at 5:59am PDTMeanwhile, those who use Uber Eats to get their McDonald’s breakfasts will have until 10.45am to place an order from the chain’s chosen trial locations.The list of restaurants testing the new extended breakfast service include: * Commercial Road, Portsmouth * Isle of Wight * Cosham, Portsmouth * IoW – Brading Road * Ocean Retail Park, Portsmouth * Fratton Park, Portsmouth * North Harbour, PortsmouthNews of the new breakfast times comes weeks after McDonald’s and the official US Embassy in Vienna teamed up to grant permission for the food chain restaurants to offer consular support to US citizens who are unable to dial the embassy’s phone number.According to a post on embassy’s Facebook page, from 15 May American visitors would be able to enter a McDonald's to "report a lost or stolen passport" or simply "to seek travel assistance".McDonald’s staff are also permitted to offer assist those in “distress” in making “contact with the US embassy for consular services.

  • Beyoncé and Solange's mother Tina Knowles-Lawson reveals she devoted special days to each child
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    The Independent

    Beyoncé and Solange's mother Tina Knowles-Lawson reveals she devoted special days to each child

    Tina Knowles-Lawson has spoken about what it was like raising her daughters Beyoncé and Solange Knowles, revealing a special tradition she practised throughout their childhoods.Over the weekend, Knowles-Lawson attended Summit21, a two-day conference in Atlanta which celebrates black girls and women.The businesswoman and fashion designer was invited to speak at the conference, during which she opened up about how she managed time spent with her two daughters during their younger years."One thing I'm really happy I did was I gave each of my kids a day," Knowles-Lawson said."As Solange got older, I would spend Wednesdays with her and help with homework and do those types of things and just devote that day to her, and then one day to Bey."Knowles-Lawson explained that doing this made Beyoncé and Solange feel as though they were receiving adequate attention, a tricky feat to achieve with children."You know because kids, no matter how much you give them love and attention, it's never enough," the 65-year-old added."I mean I'm sure, everybody who has kids knows, you can take them to [now-closed theme park] AstroWorld, to eat, and they'll still say, 'Well what else are we going to do?'"Knowles-Lawson is known to have a close relationship with her daughters.In January, she revealed while speaking on Maria Shriver's Meaningful Conversations podcast that she, Beyoncé, Solange, her niece Angie Beyincé and former Destiny's Child member Kelly Rowland are all on a group text."It's like I have four girls," Knowles-Lawson said. "And it's so funny because we are always on group chats."Earlier this month, the fashion designer hosted the 2019 Wearable Art Gala in Santa Monica, California with her husband, Richard Lawson.The theme of the event was "A Journey to the Pride Lands", taking inspiration from Jon Favreau's soon-to-be-released remake of The Lion King.Beyoncé attended the event in a gold ensemble which paid homage to the character she plays in the film, Nala.The outfit featured an embellished bodysuit, cape, fringed heels and a lion face, with feathers protruding from the lion's face to emulate a mane.

  • John Legend highlights double standards for mothers and fathers
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    The Independent

    John Legend highlights double standards for mothers and fathers

    John Legend has called out the double standards mothers and fathers face when raising their children, opening up about the castigation Chrissy Teigen faced following the birth of their first child.In April 2016, Legend and Teigen’s daughter, Luna, was born. Just over a week later, the celebrity couple went on their first date night as parents.“People were shaming Chrissy for leaving the house, and didn’t say anything bad to me,” Legend tells Romper with regards to the evening.“Look, we’re both parents and we’re both going out. If you think that’s not appropriate – and first of all, you shouldn’t think that’s not appropriate – if you’re going to blame somebody, blame both of us, not just the mother.”Legend has witnessed Teigen being shamed for her parenting methods on several occasions over the years, such as when the model engaged in public discussions about undergoing IVF and when Internet trolls questioned why her son, Miles, wore a head-shaping helmet.“I think it’s just a lot of these cultural traditions that have been too limiting and not inclusive enough over the years,” the singer states, adding that he hopes societal norms have started to “shed”.Legend outlines how those who criticise mothers for their parenting methods while praising fathers for doing the bare minimum have “lowered the bar”.“All the times when we’ve lowered the bar and have said dad is babysitting when he’s taking care of his own kids – no he’s not, he’s just parenting,” the La La Land star says.The 40-year-old explains that these “gender norms”, where the mother is expected to take sole care of the children while the father works, are “baked into how people are having these conversations”. “I just wish people would think more about that and what that means,” Legend adds.Another aspect of parenting that Legend has taken heed of is the assumption that fathers won’t change their babies’ nappies.According to recent research conducted by Pampers, nine out of 10 fathers have gone into a men’s public bathroom that doesn’t have a baby changing table.“It’s kind of assumed dads won’t change diapers, so facilities are built in a way that bakes that assumption in,” Legend says.“And [that] then perpetuates the fact that dads won’t change diapers because they don’t even have a place to do it.”In order to combat the lack of baby changing areas in men’s public bathrooms, Legend has partnered with Pampers and Florida father Donte Palmer to launch a new campaign, which promises to provide 5,000 baby changing tables in public bathrooms across North America by 2021.In 2018, a photograph of Palmer changing his son’s nappy while crouching in a men’s public bathroom went viral, highlighting the need for the addition of baby changing tables in men’s bathrooms.Legend stresses the importance of acknowledging the “active role dads are playing their babies’ lives”, stating that he believes the campaign will pave the way for “more inclusive parenting”.

  • Ariana Grande donates £200,000 to Planned Parenthood following Georgia's abortion ban
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    The Independent

    Ariana Grande donates £200,000 to Planned Parenthood following Georgia's abortion ban

    Ariana Grande has made a donation to Planned Parenthood amid a wave of anti-abortion bills in the US.The “Thank U, Next” singer has donated $250,000 (£200,000) in proceeds from her concert in Atlanta, Georgia, on 8 June to the organisation which fights to protect reproductive rights and access to health care in the US and globally. The contribution was a reaction by the former Disney star to the passing of the so-called “heartbeat bill”.Last month, Georgia became the fourth US state this year to make abortion illegal as soon as a heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, the NHS states, before many women even know they are pregnant. The other states to have passed the bill include Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Ohio.Elsewhere, Alabama also passed legislation to ban nearly all abortions in nearly all circumstances, including rape and incest.Dr Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund said that Grande’s donation comes at “a critical time”.“Anti-women’s health politicians are trying to ban all safe, legal abortion,” Wen told People.“This is not what the American people want, nor is it something they’ll stand for.“We are so grateful to Ariana for her longstanding commitment to supporting women’s rights and standing with Planned Parenthood to defend access to reproductive health care. We won’t stop fighting — no matter what.”Grande is the latest in a string of high-profile individuals who have publicly condemned the new abortion bills being instated in the US, including Rihanna, Lady Gaga and London mayor Sadiq Khan. Last month, Gaga described the new bills as a “travesty” and an “outrage”. “And all the more heinous that it excludes those have been raped or are experiencing incest non-consensual or not, [sic]” Gaga wrote on Twitter.> AlabamaAbortionBan Alabama AlabamaSenate NoUterusNoOpinion PlannedParenthood ProChoice I love you Alabama prayers to all women and young girls here are my thoughts: pic.twitter.com/LqmVyV8qsA> > — Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) > > May 15, 2019“So there’s a higher penalty for doctors who perform these operations than for most rapists?“This is a travesty and I pray for all these women and young girls who will suffer at the hands of this system.”You can find out more about which countries have the strictest abortion laws here.

  • Strobe lighting at dance festivals ‘triples risk of epileptic seizures’
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    The Independent

    Strobe lighting at dance festivals ‘triples risk of epileptic seizures’

    The use of strobe lighting at electronic dance festivals may more than triple the risk of epileptic seizures for susceptible individuals, researchers have warned.It’s long-been known that exposure to flashing lights can trigger seizures among a minority of individuals with epilepsy, a condition known as photosensitive epilepsy.However, the risks associated between those who attend electronic dance music festivals where strobe lighting is used and those more likely to experience epileptic seizures are not widely known.According to a new study published in the journal BMJ Open, the increased risk of seizures caused by strobe lighting at dance music festivals may affect people who are unaware that they have epilepsy.Experts from medical centres in the Netherlands conducted a study assessing 400,343 people who attended 28 daytime and night-time electronic dance music festivals across the country throughout 2015.The data was originally collated by Event Medical Services, a company which provides medical services to almost all dance music festivals in the Netherlands.Of those assessed, 241,543 people attended night-time festivals where strobe lighting was used, and 158,800 attended daytime festivals where strobe lighting was used.The strobe lighting at the daytime festivals was reported as being less intense, due to the sunlight.Overall, there were 2,776 incidents where festivalgoers required medical assistance at the 28 festivals, 39 of which were due to epileptic seizures.There were 30 reported cases of epileptic fits during the night-time festivals, and nine during the daytime festivals.While the researchers say that their study is observational, they write that they believe their finding that risk of a seizure is more than three times more likely at a night-time festival where strobe lighting is more intense is “externally valid”.They add that other factors – such as if the festivalgoers had taken ecstasy, were sleep deprived or using other forms of medication – may have also increased their likelihood of suffering epileptic seizures.“Regardless of whether stroboscopic light effects are solely responsible or whether sleep deprivation and/or substance abuse also play a role, the appropriate interpretation is that large [electronic dance music] festivals, especially during night-time, probably cause at least a number of people per event to suffer epileptic seizures,” the researchers state.“Given the large dataset, we believe our findings are externally valid, at least for other [electronic dance music] festivals in other countries which generally attract a similar audience.”The researchers add that organisers of electronic dance music festivals do not provide adequate warnings about the associated risk between strobe lighting and epileptic seizures.“Concert organisers and audience should warn against the risk of seizures and promote precautionary measures in susceptible individuals,” they conclude.The researchers of the study were prompted to carry out their investigation following an incident when a 20-year-old man with no history of epilepsy suddenly collapsed and experience a fit at an electronic dance festival.The festivalgoer was reported as having had an “’aura-like’ experience”, and denied consuming any alcohol, drugs or medication.“When asked about pre-seizure symptoms, he remembered an urge to turn his eyes away from the strong stroboscopic light effects coming from the stage in front of him, because they elicited what he referred to as discomforting sensations,” the researchers write.Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders in the world, affecting approximately 50 million people worldwide.Those living with the life-long condition may be prone to experiencing frequent, unpredictable seizures, which occur when sudden bursts of electrical activity happen in the brain.Epilepsy affects one in 100 people in the UK, Epilepsy Action states.According to the Epilepsy Society, one in 20 people are likely to experience a one-off epileptic seizure at some point in their lifetime.However, this does not necessarily mean that they have epilepsy.For information about what you can do if you witness someone having an epileptic seizure, visit Epilepsy Action’s website here.

  • Being denied an abortion can cause women to develop chronic health problems
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    The Independent

    Being denied an abortion can cause women to develop chronic health problems

    Women who are denied access to an abortion are likely to develop long-term health problems, new research suggests.The study, conducted by the University of California, found that women whose requests were denied reported higher rates of chronic pain in the five years after seeking an abortion than those who were granted terminations in their first or second trimester.The researchers tracked the self-reported physical health of around 900 women who sought abortions across the US between 2008 and 2010.This included women who were close to or slightly beyond the gestational limit for performing abortions – which differs by region in the US – as well as those who received first and second trimester abortions.In all, 328 women had a first-trimester abortion, 383 had a second-trimester abortion and 163 were turned away. Each participant provided information about their pain, chronic conditions and overall health when the study began, and twice a year for the next five years.When the study first started, 20 per cent of women who had a first-trimester abortion described their pre-pregnancy health as "fair or poor".In comparison, 17.5 per cent of those who had a second-trimester abortion and about 18 per cent of those who were turned away said the same. After the five years of follow-up, about 20 per cent of women who had an abortion at either stage of pregnancy reported "fair or poor" health.However, among women who were denied an abortion and went on to give birth, the percentage of those who said their health was "fair or poor" rose to 27 per cent.According to the researchers, women who went on to give birth reported higher rates of chronic conditions including headaches, joint pain, asthma and high cholesterol. Meanwhile, two of the women who were denied terminations died from maternal causes, which Lauren Ralph, the study co-author, said “could have been avoided had these women had access to the health care they had sought”.“Our study demonstrates that having an abortion is not detrimental to women’s health, but being denied access to a wanted one likely is,” Ralph told Time magazine.Beyond complications involved with pregnancy and birth, such as excessive bleeding, gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension, Ralph added that the financial implications and stress that may come as a result of being denied an abortion could also negatively impact a woman’s health.The researchers suggest that the findings are especially poignant given the recent slew of US states passing legislation to restrict abortion rights.Ralph said that while many of these policies argue that abortions are dangerous, either mentally or physically, this study proves otherwise. “The argument that abortion harms women is certainly not supported by our data,” Ralph explained. “When differences in health were observed, they were consistently in the direction of worse health among those who gave birth. “The findings from the study can really highlight some of the consequences if we continue to restrict access to wanted abortion.”Several high-profile individuals have publicly condemned the new abortion bans being instated in the US, including Rihanna, Lady Gaga and London mayor Sadiq Khan. Over the last few months, Louisiana, Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi, Ohio and Alabama have all passed so-called “heartbeart bills” which place restrictions on the gestation time and circumstances in which a woman can obtain an abortion. You can find out more about which countries have the strictest abortion laws here.

  • Cervical screening: How enduring use of 150-year-old speculum puts women off smear tests
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    The Independent

    Cervical screening: How enduring use of 150-year-old speculum puts women off smear tests

    Up until a year ago, if you found yourself on the northeastern corner of Central Park in Manhattan, you may have stumbled upon an imposing bronze statue of a male surgeon. The inscription identified him as J Marion Sims, MD – whose “brilliant achievement carried the fame of American surgery throughout the entire world”.In April 2018, more than a century after the statue was first erected in 1894, the city of New York decided to remove it following a number of protests. Sims had spent years using enslaved black women as guinea pigs to test medical procedures, inflicting unimaginable pain with barely any form of anaesthetic and treating these women as subhuman creatures to whom the Hippocratic Oath need not apply.Yet Sims’s legacy as the “father of modern gynaecology” lives on, particularly so for women undergoing cervical cancer screenings – or smear tests – during which they are faced with the speculum, essentially unchanged since Sims created it in the 1840s.Cervical screenings are arguably one of the medical procedures with the most intense disconnect between what health officials claim it is (painless, simple, mildly uncomfortable but “over in minutes”), and what some women report the experience to be: painful, humiliating and, frankly, not worth it.Over the years, many attempts have been made to address the worryingly low rates of patients attending their tests. One of the more common tactics is to try and terrify women into submission, with the spectre of Jade Goody’s grieving family looming over every campaign telling us that cervical cancer is one of the deadliest diseases. Yet 10 years after Goody’s widely publicised death, attendance is at a 19-year low, despite ads of devastated-looking women with shaved heads telling us to not “regret it later”.When guilt-tripping doesn’t work, other tactics to try and encourage women to book smear tests have included infantilising campaign slogans like “Don’t be a diva, it’s only a beaver” and “You’ll wax your bikini line but you won’t get a smear!”In among the shaming of women who fail to attend smear tests, no one seems to have considered the possibility that perhaps it’s not millions of women who are the problem, but rather the way in which the test is conducted – a relic of Sims’s experiments of the 1800s, which treated women as objects to be fixed, rather than humans with complex feelings around bodily autonomy and differing anatomies which can drastically change their experience. And it all revolves around the speculum.The speculum and the way in which it is used has been believed to strip women of their agency for some time. In 1972, feminist activist Carol Downer was arrested, imprisoned and put on trial for “practicing medicine without a licence” after she taught women how to insert speculums and examine themselves.Even today, women using speculums themselves is rarely offered as a choice – even though many women report that they would feel much more comfortable doing so.Professor Janice Rymer is the vice president for education at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and a professor of obstetrics at King’s College London. She has performed countless cervical exams, and agrees that if women want to insert a speculum themselves, there’s no reason to not offer this option.“Intimate examinations are often difficult for many women, and communication is key in helping a patient feel more comfortable,” she said. “You do not want to traumatise a woman. This is particularly important during a woman’s first smear test.”One of the reasons often given for the pain some women suffer is that they may have a “retroverted” or “tilted” uterus – meaning the uterus is tipped backwards so that it aims towards the back instead of forward towards the belly. Estimates suggest at least one in five women likely experience this – although there’s evidence that it could affect up to a third of all women.Professor Rymer explains that while this can make speculum insertion slightly trickier, it shouldn’t make it impossible. “In a gentle speculum examination, if you can’t see the cervix, then in that case I would conduct a manual examination to better understand the positioning of the cervix before reinserting the speculum.”Yet many women with a tilted uterus report an unwillingness of doctors to adjust their methods or offer pain relief.Victoria* is a 51-year-old mother of two based in Brighton. She realised there was something unusual about her anatomy at a young age, when she struggled to insert a tampon according to the instructions. She subsequently found out she has a retroverted uterus. Victoria’s mother had cervical cancer, so she is diligent about attending her smear tests, even though it can be a frustrating and uncomfortable experience.She said: “I always tell them I have a retroverted uterus and some know how to deal with that but some don’t. If you insert the spectrum as usual you won’t be able to get it in more than a tiny bit. The last nurse couldn’t do it until I sat on my hands and told her exactly what to do.” She has never heard any discussion of addressing the tools used.Considering the vast advances in technology, medicine and engineering that we’ve seen over the past hundred years, it seems incongruous that the continued use of an instrument designed in the 1840s by a man who had no interest in his female patients’ comfort is still being routinely used to protect them from cancer.The first instance of a true rethinking of the speculum came in 2005, when a company called FemSpec designed and patented an inflatable speculum made out of polyurethane, the same material used to make condoms. It was about the size of a tampon, and expanded once inside the body. Yet despite initial interest, there was little uptake from the medical community. Writing in The Atlantic, Rose Eveleth explains that doctors simply didn’t want to use it. FemSuite’s director of marketing said: “Doctors and nurses would see it and praise it but then they didn’t want to take the time to learn something new.”Subsequent efforts seem to bear out an unwillingness among the medical community to embrace innovation. In 2016, a student at the Pratt Institute designed a prototype for a speculum with a curved shape, to make insertion more comfortable, as well as preventing pinching and opening vertically, rather than horizontally – but as of yet nothing has come of it.A generalised dismissal of women’s pain is a huge problem across the board, and is perhaps most clearly represented in attitudes towards smear tests, where women are essentially told to “suck it up”, while the establishment ignores the opportunity that medical innovations offer which could make it a much less traumatic procedure.Constance is 42, and lives in Hampshire. During childbirth she was given an episiotomy – a cut in the vagina to help with labour – and she soon realised something was wrong.“No GP I saw seemed to see that I had effectively been closed up [through botched stitching]. Various GPs told me I had a psychological problem, needed some cream, or to try sex,” she said.She still struggles with the idea of smear tests, but Constance believes that if the speculum were smaller, softer and more comfortable – and if she were able to insert it herself – it would make a big difference to her experience.And there are seeds of change ahead, as more and more doctors and activists are seeing the value in rethinking the experience of cervical screenings.In the US, a group called Ceek Women’s Health has designed a range of speculum options, based on the understanding that women’s bodies and emotional needs require different sizes, shapes and features.Another exciting innovation is Yona, a device which tackles a range of issues, including removing the noise a speculum makes when it’s being screwed open, and using three bills rather than two, allowing for the same visibility without having to stretch the vagina as wide, and – inspired by the sex toy industry – is made from silicone.In the meantime, better training is crucial for medical professionals conducting smear tests. Professor Rymer, for example, pioneered a new training method where lay women teach doctors to perform intimate examinations. “This not only improves their technical skills but also their communication skills,” she explains.The wider medical community is also beginning to recognise the value in empowering women when it comes to the use of a tool like a speculum. According to Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, 80 per cent of women would prefer to self-sample at home, rising to 88 per cent for women who had delayed having a smear test. After a study in the British Medical Journal confirmed the value of at-home tests, the Department of Health is now considering this option.The responsibility of making smear tests more comfortable should not be on the patients, but there are things women can do to feel more in control. Celia* is 50 and based in the south west. She has struggled with smear tests her whole life, so she now makes double appointments to ensure there’s enough time for her and her doctor to not feel rushed. Many women with a retroverted uterus find that sitting on their hands during the test is incredibly helpful, and there’s no harm in requesting a smaller size of speculum or asking to insert it yourself, just as Carol Downer encouraged women to do half a century ago.Professor Rymer also strongly encourages women to speak up if they find the procedure painful, request a particular gender of practitioner and always know that they can ask for it to stop at any time.With more conversation around smear tests than ever before and the pace of innovation gaining momentum, it seems likely that we could see a real shift in the narrative, placing the burden of increasing attendance back where it belongs – on the shoulders of the medical community, rather than the women.*Names have been changed to protect anonymity

  • Love Island Viewers Baffled By Lucie’s Bizarre Fruit Eating Habits
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    HuffPost UK

    Love Island Viewers Baffled By Lucie’s Bizarre Fruit Eating Habits

    Never mind the love triangles, challenges and dodgy line-up lines - there'sone part of this year's Love Island which has seriously shocked viewers

  • The best gardening events and flower shows and where to book tickets
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    The Telegraph

    The best gardening events and flower shows and where to book tickets

    If you love gardens and you're in need of some inspiration, here's our guide to the big gardening events and flower shows happening in the UK in June

  • Jameela Jamil Doubles Down On Love Island Criticism After Caroline Flack Defends Show
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    HuffPost UK

    Jameela Jamil Doubles Down On Love Island Criticism After Caroline Flack Defends Show

    Jameela Jamil has doubled down on her criticism of Love Island, afterpresenter Caroline Flack defended the show's lack of body diversity

  • A rise in digisexuality: what is the future of online dating?
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    Caroline Allen

    A rise in digisexuality: what is the future of online dating?

    There has been a sharp rise in robots on Instagram.

  • The best apps to identify unknown plants and flowers
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    The Telegraph

    The best apps to identify unknown plants and flowers

    There are hundreds of thousands of different plant and flower varieties in the world, meaning it takes a special kind of knowledge to differentiate your Dracula simia (or 'Monkey Face Orchid') from your Rafflesia keithii (or 'Corpse Flower').

  • World MS Day: What is multiple sclerosis, its symptoms and how is it treated?
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    The Independent

    World MS Day: What is multiple sclerosis, its symptoms and how is it treated?

    Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a lifelong autoimmune condition that affects the brain and the spinal cord, resulting in a wide range of symptoms that vary from person-to-person.Depending on the severity, MS can be debilitating, leading to problems with vision, balance and movement.While there is no cure, the disease can be treated and managed with various medications.Joan Didion, Jack Osbourne and Selma Blair, who was diagnosed in August 2018, are among those in the public eye who live with MS.The NHS estimates there to be 100,000 people with the condition in the UK.Read on for everything you need to know about MS. What is it?MS inhibits how well a person’s central nervous system functions, subsequently interrupting the process whereby the brain sends signals to the rest of the body to enable you to do simple things like move, eat and see.Normally, the nerve fibres in the central nervous system are protected by a substance called Myelin, which also helps fight off infections.When a person has MS, the body mistakes Myelin for a harmful substance and therefore attacks it, leaving lesions on the central nervous system and preventing these signals from being sent around the body. This can lead to severe nerve damage which may cause serious disability over time, according to the MS Society.This kind of illness – whereby the immune system mistakes a crucial part of your body for a foreign substance and attacks it – is known as an autoimmune condition. What causes it?There’s no clear explanation as to why people develop MS, though the NHS states that possible causes include smoking, viral infections, lack of sunlight and your genetic makeup ie those who have relatives with MS have a higher chance of contracting it.It’s more common in women than men, but again there is no clear reason for this. What are the symptoms?The symptoms of MS manifest in different ways depending on which part of your central nervous system has been affected.> View this post on Instagram> > Oh my josh ! It’s worldMSday tomorrow! Just practicing every day. Go team 🥁🥁🥁🥁😂. But in all seriousness , I hope all of us have a good day tomorrow whatever day it is. ❤️> > A post shared by Selma Blair (@selmablair) on May 29, 2019 at 9:15pm PDTThey are also incredibly unpredictable: some symptoms can be temporary while others will worsen over time.Common symptoms as listed by the NHS include fatigue, vision problems, numbness, mobility problems, pain, depression, bowel problems, speech difficulty, muscle spasms and learning difficulties.Life expectancy is also shorter for people with MS. How is it diagnosed?The symptoms of MS can be similar to several other illnesses, making it difficult to diagnose.There is no single test for the disease and doctors are usually only able to confirm a case after a person has had two “attacks” of MS-like symptoms ie falling over for no reason/sudden loss of vision.After this, doctors will typically carry out a neurological examination, where they will look for abnormalities in your coordination and your reflexes among other things to see if you’ve suffered nerve damage.Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans may also be carried out to look for lesions in and around the brain and the spinal cord. How is it treated?Treatment for MS depends on what symptoms have arisen.Some, such as blurred vision, will lead doctors to prescribe steroid tablets, while other physical symptoms, such as muscle spasms, will be treated with regular physiotherapy.For those experiencing issues with thinking, learning and memory, you might be referred to a clinical psychologist.It can take time to adapt living with MS, but the NHS claims that with the right care and support, many people with the condition go on to live long and healthy lives.

  • How to support a fiercely independent friend through grief
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    Yahoo Style UK

    How to support a fiercely independent friend through grief

    Supporting a best friend through grief is hard; supporting your fiercely independent best friend through grief can feel near-on impossible. Here are five ways to help.

  • Chelsea Flower Show 2019: dates, tickets, transport advice and the best day to go
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    The Telegraph

    Chelsea Flower Show 2019: dates, tickets, transport advice and the best day to go

    It's the most glamorous event on the gardening calendar and now the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Chelsea Flower Show is returning for its 106th year.

  • Spring showers: the stylish way to rain-proof your wardrobe
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    Evening Standard

    Spring showers: the stylish way to rain-proof your wardrobe

    It's spring. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, there's not a cloud in th-oh wait, it's raining.

  • Top 10 chillies in order of heat - how many can you eat?
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    The Telegraph

    Top 10 chillies in order of heat - how many can you eat?

    Sweet peppers and chillies, which can be grown as early as January, are great for their health benefits, versatility in cooking and the delicious flavour they bring to a range of meals.

  • Hallucinating, panicked, yet sent home by doctors: One woman’s story of suffering postpartum psychosis
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    The Independent

    Hallucinating, panicked, yet sent home by doctors: One woman’s story of suffering postpartum psychosis

    Sophie Wood had never truly appreciated the feeling of soft carpet underneath her toes. Nor the luxury of boiling a kettle without being watched, chopping an apple with a knife, or using a hairdryer. But six weeks after being admitted under the Mental Health Act (1983) to a Mother and Baby Unit (MBU), she was slowly starting to remember the minutiae that make life interesting.“For weeks, I’d had someone sitting at the end of my bed watching me, monitoring exactly what I ate, the medication I was taking, and how I was caring for my baby,” the 35-year-old tells The Independent. “I felt like a prisoner. At the beginning, all I wanted to do was escape.”After longing to start a family for years, this isn’t exactly how Sophie had envisaged the first few weeks of motherhood. In April 2016, Sophie gave birth to her daughter, Isabella. Like the majority of new mums, she fully expected long sleepless nights and problems latching in the early stages. “I didn’t sleep at all for three to four days after giving birth,” she admits.“While I was excited and elated to have a baby, I felt entirely responsible for looking after my daughter all the time. I became obsessed with checking she was breathing. Every time she cried I went to pick her and feed her. I felt I needed to be with her, constantly.”These may sound like the concerns every mum feels after giving birth, but Sophie and her husband soon realised her experience of motherhood wasn’t the norm as her obsession soon turned into delusion. Unbeknown to Sophie, she was suffering from postpartum psychosis (PP) – a severe form of mental illness which usually begins in the first two weeks after childbirth.National charity Action of Postpartum Psychosis (APP) estimates that more than 1,400 women experience PP each year in the UK (one to two in every 1,000 mothers). Symptoms can include hallucinations, delusions, restlessness, confusion, and a manic mood.Dr Trudi Seneviratne, chair of the perinatal faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, says it’s often difficult to pinpoint whether someone is suffering from PP or the “baby blues” (when women experience low mood and feel mildly depressed after childbirth) given the natural fluctuations in mood due to hormone changes after a woman gives birth.However, Seneviratne notes that 75 per cent of women who suffer from PP often exhibit behaviours that make them appear overly-energetic. “They might write down a list of ideas all at once, become busy and obsessive with certain concepts. Their sense of taste, smell and hearing may also become heightened.” What is postpartum psychosis? Postpartum psychosis (PP) is a rare but serious mental health illness that can affect a woman soon after she has a baby, the NHS states.It is estimated that over 1,400 women experience PP each year in the UK (one to two in every 1,000 mothers).Symptoms of PP include hallucinations, delusions, restlessness, confusion, and a manic mood.Dr Jess Heron, director of the national charity Action on Postpartum Psychosis concurs, adding: “The early symptoms of PP can be difficult to identify because many women feel a little bit elated and sleep deprived in the first few days after having a baby. There are some mums at particularly high risk of PP: mums who have previously experienced an episode of bipolar disorder, or a previous postpartum psychosis.”That said, for around half of women – including Sophie – PP can come completely out of the blue.“The only way I can describe PP is like an iceberg,” she says. “If you look at the pictures of me after I’d given birth, I looked like a perfectly normal and happy new mum holding my baby. Underneath I was suffering from chronic anxiety and confusion.”While Sophie still doesn’t know what triggered her PP, she believes the lack of aftercare she received in the first few hours following childbirth played a key role. After undergoing an emergency caesarean section as a result of her daughter being in breach (when a baby is born bottom first instead of head first), Sophie found herself becoming increasingly distressed.“It was around midnight when my husband was booted out of the hospital and I was put on the general ward with other mothers and babies,” she recalls.“It was pitch black and I was connected to multiple tubes and a catheter. My daughter was screaming and I really felt incapable of helping her. I kept pressing my buzzer but no one came to help. I could see she might need feeding but my milk hadn’t come in. I panicked.”That night, Sophie tried to breastfeed to no avail, resulting in her nipples becoming raw and bleeding. A midwife later told her that “this feeding malarkey” might not be for her. “It was excruciating,” she says. “I beat myself up about it so much in the first few days.“My daughter gradually started to lose weight because I couldn’t feed her. I felt I was it was my fault as I couldn’t give her the natural thing she needed. I felt I was failing as a mother.Four days after coming home from hospital with her child, Sophie experienced her first psychotic episode. After falling asleep amid exhaustion, she recalls having a horrific nightmare. “I woke up screaming in a hot sweat and shaking. My husband ran up the stairs to find me babbling nonsense. I told him I felt unsafe and that I didn’t know what was going on.” Sophie could feel herself getting jittery, battling racing thoughts and talking quickly.> It was so sad for my family to watch me go from being happy, organised, and positive about becoming a mother, to someone so anxious and fearfulMoments later, Sophie’s husband found her doing the Michael Jackson-inspired moonwalk across the landing (“I wasn’t even aware I knew the entire Thriller routine”), before forcing him to watch the Lion King. “I remember holding up my daughter like the monkey on Pride Rock showing Simba to the pride. “Look, she’s ours, she’s amazing,” I kept repeating to my husband. The couple recognised how out of character Sophie’s behaviour was and were increasingly concerned. “I felt like I was coming in and out of dream world,” she says, describing her mental state at the time. “My husband knew something was wrong and told me he thought I was having a psychotic episode but he was naturally scared to call anyone in fear social services would take me and the baby away.”Despite visiting A&E that night, Sophie was told she was experiencing the normal anxieties of becoming a new mum and needed sleep. After being handed a cup of tea and a sedative, she was soon sent home.Over the next few days, her mental state deteriorated rapidly. She began hearing voices in her head and was convinced her brother had died. She even lost the ability to speak and spent hours watching her wedding video on repeat. To this day, she still has the in-depth business plan she wrote out on her phone about a new invention she’d created to help new mums suffering like she was. “I genuinely thought I was the new Richard Branson,” she jokes.Eight days after giving birth, Sophie was forced into an ambulance and admitted to an MBU which provides support for mothers who experience severe mental health difficulties during and after pregnancy. She remembers her husband breaking down into tears as he signed the forms to have her sectioned.“It was so sad for my family to watch me go from being happy, organised, and positive about becoming a mother, to someone so anxious and fearful,” she says. “No one saw it coming.”During her initial stay at the unit, Sophie feared male staff would hurt her and she couldn’t bare people looking at her with Isabella. “I was tearful, quiet, and fearful. I ended up singing a lot to myself. It was a very lonely time,” she says.Despite taking numerous forms of medication including mood stabilisers, attending group therapy, mindfulness and group counselling sessions, at no point during her time in the facility did anyone tell Sophie she was suffering from PP. She says: “I used to ask people ‘what’s happened to me, why am I here?’ They used to tell me I was unwell which I thought was ludicrous. ‘Unwell’ is what you are when you have a cold or food poisoning.”While Sophie showed signs of improvement during her time at the unit, her battle with PP was far from over. She suffered from chronic anxiety and feared going outside. For the first month after leaving the MBU, she called the crisis team on a daily basis. “I was traumatised. I kept having flashbacks of what had happened,” she says. She didn’t step foot into a supermarket on her own for six months.Heron says: “Women go on to make a full recovery, however, the journey to full recovery can be long and difficult.”According to the NHS, most women will require treatment for PP in hospital, ideally at an MBU. Treatment may include medication, psychological therapy, and on extremely rare occasions electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).Seneviratne says: “Ninety per cent of sufferers will make a good recovery thanks to a combination of medication which can include anti-psychotics, that have mood stabilising properties, and sedatives that help them to sleep. However, while medication is important, so too are psychological therapies.“The term ‘psychosis’ is a hugely stigmatising term as it can be a reason why people don’t seek help early enough – PP is a severe condition. It’s important to talk openly about PP and give families the platforms to do so. Sufferers should in no way feel embarrassed about sharing their experiences.’’As her treatment continued, Sophie underwent counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and was finally diagnosed with PP some four months after giving birth. She came off her medication 11 months later and has attended numerous meet-ups and peer support groups through APP to share her experience. With hopes to have more children in future, she has also discussed several contingency plans with her doctor on how she can try to avoid suffering from PP again.“We’ve spoken about the need for medication, making contact with a perinatal mental health support nurses, birth plans, bottle feeding – anything so I can feel as calm as possible if I fall pregnant,” she says.As a result of her experience, Sophie has also become a media volunteer for APP and is setting up a blog to detail her journey through future pregnancies about how she plans to prevent PP, if she can, for women, families, and healthcare professionals.“It is not the ‘baby blues’ or a bad patch, rather a serious mental health condition. The earlier you get intervention, the healthier you’ll be. It takes a long time to recover from this illness but it is possible, there is hope.”To find out more information about postpartum psychosis, click here. For more help on the condition, contact www.app-network.org