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Health and Beauty Articles

Looking after your body and mind throughout and after pregnancy

Before I put the Stornoway rumour mill into over-drive, this article is not based on personal experience or a pending experience! However I have noticed a baby boom in our little town and thought an article towards pregnancy was very appropriate this month. At every stage of training for beauty therapy there is a big emphasis on pregnancy and how to treat/advise women that are expecting, so although I don’t have a bun in the oven I do have some knowledge on this topic!

Pregnancy is a period of elation, joy and excitement, but as with any up it brings with it a down, in this case in the form of stretch marks, raging hormones and temperamental skin! It’s important to never stop thinking about yourself throughout the 9 months, even when your primary focus will be on keeping your little bump safe and sound.

Stretch marks

This is probably one of the main bug bearers of pregnancy – a constant reminder that your stomach swelled to the size of a Swiss gym ball once upon a time. Unfortunately stretch marks can’t be prevented, and if you gain weight quickly in pregnancy they will more than likely show. A stretch mark is a result of the skin over stretching which disrupts the collagen production in the skin – so making sure you eat the right foods to assist in the production of collagen can help – foods that are high in Vitamin C, beta-carotene and selenium are good to include in your weekly diet (see previous column ‘you are what you eat’ at www.hebridesharmony.co.uk for full description of these.)

In regards to products to try, Babor’s Intensive Repair Advanced Biogen cream is a powerful regenerating cream which smoothes the surface of the skin, supports cell renewal and can prevent and heal scarring. I advise client’s to use this cream daily over the affected areas – but it’s important to begin using it from the start (before stretch marks have developed.) If the blood supply is still in the stretch mark then it can be treated with this cream (when the stretch mark is still purple) but once the blood supply has gone it is relatively untreatable. Other recommended products are Bio oil, St Ives collagen elastin body lotion, as well as the Mama Mio product range.

It’s important to drink a lot of water to help retain moisture in and outside the body (at least 2 litres per day) and exfoliating thoroughly once a week will rid the skin of dead skin cells and help promote new cell growth – all of these methods combined together should help towards avoiding and treating stretch marks.

Skincare

Break outs and changes in the tone and texture of skin are more than a regular occurrence in pregnancy. But as with everything in pregnancy, extra special care needs to be taken, as a lot of ingredients are off limits – such as Retinoids, Accutane and Salicylic Acid. Some of these ingredients are found in anti-ageing and acne products – if you suffer from acne during pregnancy a mild acne cleansing facial wash which is safe to use is the ‘acne cleansing facial wash’ by ‘Belli.’ If you use anti-ageing products it would be best to lay off them for the 9 months and switch to a calming or hydrating range. Always avoid squeezing spots as this will spread the bacteria – spots have a natural life cycle and will clear in time.

Switching to oil based products in the first three months is a good piece of advice as cleansing oils work towards hydrating the skin, keeping it supple with no reaction or sensitivity. Babor started this innovative way of treating skin with their ‘Hy-ol’ and ‘phytoactive’ cleansing system.

Products

Other products you need to proceed with caution are essential oils. They are best avoided altogether in pregnancy as the small molecules in the oils can enter the bloodstream, the placenta and into the baby’s circulation. In particular rosemary, basil, jasmine, sage, juniper berry and nutmeg should be avoided. Avoid heavy aroma candles and bathing products as these can contain traces of essential oils.

Stress

Worried about the birth? Worried about scans? Worried about the baby’s health? Worried about financial troubles?

The list is endless when it comes to stresses associated with pregnancy. It’s the one time in your life that you can put your feet up and enjoy being pampered and having others looking after you, so it’s important to take full advantage of this as much as possible to ensure your stress levels stay down. After all, a happy mum means a happy tum!

Find time to relax

You’ll find that your body isn’t able to cope with the work load and commitments you used to be able to fulfil prior to pregnancy, as your body is working twice as hard to nourish yourself as well as your child. Instead of fighting this try and get more down time in by relaxing with the chores (or delegating them to someone else!); having warm baths and getting plenty early nights – take advantage of the sleep before you’re being awakened in the middle of the night by the screaming angel in the next room!  

Exercise

A lot of women make the mistake of completely stopping exercise when they’re pregnant, thinking ‘what’s the point!’ Exercise plays a more important role in pregnancy than people think, as it brightens your mood, maintains blood pressure, improves your breathing and lung capacity – in turn helping you to cope with labour itself. But if you have been used to strenuous exercise then you must tone it down, avoiding anything that could be considered ‘vigorous’ exercise. The most suitable exercises to try would be swimming, walking and yoga. Avoid any exercise where there is a risk of falling, such as cycling, horse-riding as well as avoiding sports where there is a risk of being hit – such as squash or boxing.

Eat a healthy, balanced diet

As with exercise, you may think ‘what’s the point!’ Again, this is the most important time to look after yourself inside and out, and that primarily begins with what you are eating. Eating a balanced diet is essential for a healthy, happy body and mind. Ensuring you eat plenty vitamins, omega 3 (oily fish,) fruit, vegetables, lean meat and poultry as well as drinking plenty of water will put you in stead throughout your pregnancy. Of course, if you’re craving snickers bars, it would be rude not to have one!

Pamper yourself

Many women are worried about having treatments throughout pregnancy because they’re unsure of what treatments they can and cannot have in regards to products used and techniques.

Massages are a great treatment to have in the first trimester of pregnancy – before the abdomen swells in size, which would then make this treatment slightly uncomfortable. A pregnancy massage treatment would typically involve lying on your side on the treatment plinth, or sitting on an Indian head massage chair – lying flat on the stomach is not advised as it causes unnecessary pressure on the abdomen.

Pedicures in the later stages of pregnancy are a must – unless you have the good fortune to be blessed with a boyfriend, husband or friend that gives a mean foot massage! The pressure on the feet from pregnancy can be intense, so a soak, rub and polish is heavenly at this frustrating stage. Another recommended treatment is reflexology – this treats pressure points in the feet and is a big stress reliever.

After the birth

Once the exhilarating journey of pregnancy is over, many mothers experience the ‘baby blues’ and find it hard to settle into routine. It’s important to have a good support network around you to share your thoughts – good and bad – so that you don’t feel overwhelmed and unable to cope. Try to get out and about when possible and make time to do some of your activities that you would regularly partake in before being pregnant – such as meeting up with friends or going for a walk – so that you don’t feel disconnected from your ‘old life.’  If your mood hasn’t lifted after a few weeks of giving birth it’s advisable to speak to your local GP for support.

Pregnancy is a time for letting those around you help and pamper you before the madness of motherhood begins – take advantage and run with it while you can – and never stop thinking of your own wellbeing as well as your baby’s.

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