Your body is having to work very hard during pregnancy, so it makes sense to take extra care of yourself during the months that lie ahead. Here are some easy-to-follow tips.
Lots of women experience a 'bloom' in pregnancy – their hair grows quickly and develops a glossy shine, their skin develops a healthy glow and their breasts swell causing the development of a sexy cleavage. These changes are due to the pregnancy hormone progesterone and to more oxygen circulating around your body.
Progesterone can also have a calming effect and help reduce anxiety, hence the serene feeling of contentment which some pregnant women experience.
Unfortunately, not all women experience this ‘bloom’ and find their hair falls out, becomes greasy and their skin breaks out in spots. Both are normal – like pregnancy nausea or stretch marks, the ‘bloom/wilt’ syndrome is often just the luck of the draw.
However, there are things you can do to keep yourself in good health.
Progesterone causes glands in the skin to produce more oil so you may find you break out in spots for the first time in years.
Equally, your skin can become dry and itchy. Avoid perfumed shower gels and bubble bath as these can dry your skin and use a skin care range appropriate for your type of skin and moisturise daily.
If facials are part of your regular beauty routine there is no reason to stop having them, but you need to be aware that your skin is likely to be more sensitive than usual so you should use products that are suitable for sensitive skin.
These occur if the natural elasticity of the skin becomes over-stretched. They appear as reddish lines, often on the breasts, stomach and thighs.
There is little you can do to prevent them, although it helps not to put on too much weight and to wear a supportive bra. You can help to keep your skin supple and itch-free by massaging moisturising cream into your breasts and abdomen.
After the birth, the lines will fade and become a lot less noticeable.
If you find your skin is more sensitive to the sun than normal use a moisturiser that contains UVA protection and cover any exposed skin with sun cream with a protection factor of at least 15 before you go outside.
Some women develop a condition called chloasma, a butterfly-shaped mask that appears across the face which looks dark on fair skin and light on dark skin. This can be concealed with make-up and will disappear after the birth.
You may also notice a dark line running from your pubic bone up to your navel. Called the linea nigra, this is more prominent on darker skin.
Dental care is free on the NHS during pregnancy and for one year after the birth, so book an appointment now. Bleeding gums are very common in pregnancy due to an increased blood flow, so you’ve got to take special care to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Clean below the gum line with a toothbrush twice a day and floss to remove food. If the bleeding persists see your dentist as you may need extra cleaning. Gum disease has been linked to premature labour and if left untreated can lead to periodontal disease and tooth loss, so it’s really important you don’t ignore it.*
Although no major studies have been done on the effects of using teeth whitening systems during pregnancy – these often use ultraviolet light or peroxide – until more is known, you should avoid having your teeth whitened whilst pregnant.
Your nails are also likely to be affected by pregnancy hormones so you may find that your nails split and break more easily. The simplest idea is to keep them cut short and to protect them by wearing rubber gloves when doing household chores.
Gardening gloves will help to protect them when you are doing outside jobs. Apply hand cream regularly and choose one that contains a nail strengthener.
Your hair may be thicker and glossier, mainly because hair growth speeds up. Faster hair growth may also mean more hairs falling out – but don’t be alarmed, these are just being shed because new hair is replacing them.
You may experience some hair loss after the birth when hair growth returns to normal. Some women do experience greasy hair in pregnancy and this is due to progesterone stimulating more sebum (oil) on the scalp – wash your hair frequently using a mild shampoo.
You may be advised to wait until after the end of the first trimester before having any hair treatments to avoid any risk of chemicals reaching your baby at this crucial stage of development.
You also need to be aware that pregnancy hormones can make your hair react differently so the results of any treatment may be unpredictable.
Waxing and shaving are the safest way to remove unwanted hair when you are pregnant. Although there is no evidence to suggest that the use of depilatories and bleach will affect your baby, your skin may not react well to these products and there is a small chance of the chemicals used in them getting into your blood stream.
If you have to treat head lice during pregnancy you should avoid all chemical treatments unless recommended by your GP. Natural and herbal head lice treatments are also best avoided as they may not have been formally tested.
Wet combing, using conditioner and a special ‘nit’ comb, is the safest and most efficient method for removing both the lice and their eggs.
Tired, aching legs and feet are a common pregnancy health niggle. Try to spend some time with your feet up every evening.
It’s also worth having your feet measured mid-pregnancy because fluid retention sometimes causes your feet to get larger and you may need a bigger shoe size.
*Source: British Dental Health Foundation