‘She said she’d be babysitting our embryo’: what’s it like to carry a child for a friend?

Surrogacy between friends can be life-changing. The people who have done it talk emotions, legal hurdles – and WhatsApp birthing groups

In a flat in north-east London, Abi is cradling her best friend’s baby. At 15 weeks old, the little boy is smiling up at her, testing out his first sounds. His mother, Rachel, prepares his bottle while Abi rocks him, showing all the love she would to any of her friends’ children. The only difference is that Abi gave birth to him.

Abi and Rachel, both 35, met on their first day at university in Birmingham in 2003 and rarely left one another’s side. At 16, Rachel had been diagnosed with MRKH, a congenital condition meaning her uterus was undeveloped. Although she produced eggs, she would never be able to carry children, something she kept to herself. “I’d tell people I didn’t want kids but deep down I was insanely jealous,” says Rachel, who works as an events producer in London. “I wanted them so badly but assumed I’d never have my own, so I learned to live with it.”

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‘All that is good in human nature is here’: life and death in a NHS hospice

Is there a good way to approach the end of life? Rachel Clarke, a palliative care doctor, believes there is – and that we can all learn from her patients

She’s called Gemma. She’s three years old. She fell into a canal,” said a senior nurse. “By the time her parents managed to get her out, apparently she’d already stopped breathing.” “Paramedics three minutes away,” called another nurse, holding the scarlet phone on which emergencies were called through. With a grace and efficiency akin to choreography, a team of professionals who moments beforehand had been as disparate as atoms, dispersed across the hospital, were poised around an empty resuscitation bed, waiting as one to swing into action.

The consultant quietly confirmed each team member’s role. The anaesthetist, responsible for airway. The scribe, who would note down, in meticulous detail, the timings, the drugs, the doses, every iota of care which, if we were lucky, might snatch life back from lifelessness. Doctor one, doctor two – the roles and responsibilities went on. Then, a moment of silence before the paramedics’ brute force pushed a trolley through the swing doors and there, tiny, limp and pale, lay a toddler, unmoving beneath the harsh fluorescent lights.

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A new decade, a new me: what happened when I tried to improve all aspects of myself, all at once | Brigid Delaney

Spiritually, physically, philosophically, I knew I needed work. But is self-improvement too big a job for any one person?

A new decade is a fresh start, right?

So you make a bunch of resolutions – anything from getting fitter to getting smarter to taking more risks. But a few weeks in your motivation starts to fade. By March you’re back to the same habits.

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LEDs used in tests to replace invasive medical procedures

Researchers produce gadgets such as gastric balloons that break down when lit by swallowable lights

The days of having to have medical devices removed through an invasive procedure could be numbered. Researchers have produced gadgets such as gastric balloons that break down when light from a swallowable LED shines upon them.

The team say the approach could be extended to a broader range of medical equipment, as well as offering a new approach to delivering drugs to the right location at the right time.

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‘Enjoy your mountin’: Utah cancels state-issued condoms over innuendo

Republican governor objects to ‘sexual innuendo as part of a taxpayer-funded campaign’ to prevent spread of HIV

Utah’s Republican governor, Gary Herbert, has suspended an HIV prevention campaign over condoms which used sexual innuendo to promote use.

The condoms featured Utah-specific locations and jokes, such as “SL,UT” as a shorthand for Salt Lake City, Utah, and “Uintah sex?” as a reference for a Utah county. Officials had planned to distribute 100,000 condoms as part of an HIV prevention effort.

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My life in sex: ‘I no longer worry about my foreskin getting trapped’

The man who was circumcised in his late 20s

When I started having sex at 21, I was expecting clumsy awkwardness, not pain. But during penetrative sex, I found it was impossible to retract my foreskin without experiencing incredible discomfort. Either I would need to stop and put things right – a moodkiller – or fake an orgasm. Eventually I learned to avoid sex altogether. I was too embarrassed to talk to a doctor.

Seven years and a handful of partners later, I was finally mature enough to acknowledge the problem. After speaking to a GP and two separate consultants, I was diagnosed with a condition called phimosis – a tightening of the foreskin – and advised to have a circumcision.

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‘Like going back 40 years’: dismay as Bolsonaro backs abstinence-only sex ed

Brazilian president’s plan to cut teenage pregnancies inspired by a Christian pressure group and Trump’s approach in the US

Brazil’s government plans to push abstinence-based sex education to help cut teenage pregnancy rates, in a controversial move inspired by an evangelical Christian pressure group and Donald Trump’s policy in the US.

Related: 'Like a bomb going off': why Brazil's largest reserve is facing destruction

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The healing power of Bauhaus at London’s St Mary’s hospital

The work of Josef and Anni Albers has given a bright, bold new look to a children’s intensive care unit

The role of art in hospitals rarely extends beyond hanging pictures on the wall. But for Josef and Anni Albers, art was always much more than that. Both pioneers of modernism, the couple met in 1922 at the Bauhaus school, an establishment with a revolutionary approach to art. Bauhaus blurred the boundaries between craft, design and fine art and championed the concept of gesamtkunstwerk: the complete work of art, typically in the form of a house.

But why not a hospital department? That was the thinking of the Albers Foundation which, since the couple’s deaths late last century, has worked to continue their legacy. “Josef and Anni both believed that what we experience through our eyes can divert and elate us in unparalleled ways,” explains Nicholas Fox Weber, the foundation’s director. Taking inspiration from the Albers’ geometric patterns and confident use of colour, the foundation has created a bold new look for the children’s intensive care unit at St Mary’s hospital, London.

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Two hospitals held up by Carillion collapse are delayed further

Royal Liverpool and Midland Metropolitan are hundreds of millions of pounds over budget

The completion of two new hospitals whose construction was brought to a halt by the collapse of the government contractor Carillion has been delayed by two more years and will run hundreds of millions of pounds over budget, according to Whitehall’s spending watchdog.

The 646-bed Royal Liverpool, originally scheduled to open in 2017, is now forecast to be completed in the autumn of 2022 and cost more than £1bn to build and run compared with an original estimate of £746m, according to the National Audit Office.

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A&E wait times matter. But the key issue facing the NHS is investment | Richard Murray

This review must not be an attempt to water down standards in the hope the media and public will forget the crisis

Though winter crises are nothing new to the NHS, this one is proving exceptionally difficult. By any measure, patients are waiting longer in A&E. The number waiting more than 12 hours for a bed once it has been decided they need to be admitted to hospital (so-called trolley waits), was up more than eightfold in December 2019 on December 2018. Performance is declining, and doing so increasingly quickly.

Related: A&E waiting times in England at their worst on record

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Vaping made me realise addiction forces to you confront how pathetic and powerless you are | Alex McClintock

Say what you want about smokers, we know how to endure an objectively unpleasant experience until it becomes faintly enjoyable

Before I started vaping, vaping disgusted me. The headlines about lung disease were alarming, sure, but my opposition was mostly aesthetic. The word “vape” conjured images of AirPod-wearing office bros in too-tight pants, assaulting passers-by with miasmic clouds of gobstopper-flavoured steam.

The very idea that people would vaporise liquid nicotine rather than smoke tobacco seemed like something dreamed up by a second-rate science fiction author to illustrate how bland the future would be. (The fact that the new technology is now linked to a mysterious and deadly illness significantly improves the story, at least from a literary point of view).

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