“You’ve survived the first trimester! Congratulations! But there’s still plenty to do before your baby arrives. Here’s a checklist to help you get organised.”
1. Keep taking your daily folic acid (400mcg) and calcium (10mcg) supplement
I’ve talked about the importance of taking these supplements before (see my post “Looking back at the first trimester“), so I’m not going to repeat it here. But I’d like to reiterate that if you’re like me and you can’t be bothered with buying different supplements separately, you can always take an all-in-one pregnancy tablet (such as Pregnacare) which contains all the vitamins your body needs. I just find it so much easier.
2. Keep going to your antenatal appointments with your midwife
If this is your first pregnancy, you’ll have 3 antenatal appointments during your second trimester (one at 16 weeks, another one at 25 weeks and the last one at 28 weeks); otherwise, you’ll have 2 at 16 weeks and 28 weeks. Your midwife will test your urine sample for protein, check your baby’s heartbeat, bump size and your blood pressure at every appointment, and at your 28 weeks appointment, she’ll also take your blood sample. They’re all pretty routine really and each appointment lasts about 40 minutes or so (depending on whether you have a lot of questions to ask or not).
3. Go to your anomaly scan appointment
This is a detailed scan, which checks how your baby is growing and for physical abnormalities in your baby. This is also the scan at which you’ll be able to find out the sex of your baby (if you want to, of course). It’s supposed to last about 20 minutes, but mine took almost an hour because my baby just refused to move so the sonographer couldn’t check everything properly the first time. I had to move around, jump up and down to encourage my baby to change position. Luckily, she did; otherwise, I’d have to come back for another scan and that would be a pain. As with your dating scan, don’t forget to bring some change if you want to buy photos of your baby.
4. It’s probably time to break the news to friends and family
At the end of the day, this is your pregnancy, so you should have the ultimate control as to when to tell your family and friends and how to go about it. My husband and I did it in stages – we told our family after my first scan and we started telling our close friends when I was in my second trimester. But that’s about it; I suppose, we’ll tell more people after the baby’s here.
5. Keep yourself active, healthy and comfortable
Basically… watch what you eat, listen to your body, take extra care when taking any medicine (check with your doctor, midwife or pharmacist if you’re not sure), exercise, get enough rest, etc, etc. I’ve written about this in my post “Looking back at the first trimester“, because, well, you should start doing all the above right from the start anyway and continue to do so throughout your pregnancy.
6. If you haven’t already, start organising your finances and prepare for your new arrival
Again, this is something that I think you should look at from as early as possible, especially if you want to get your hands on amazing bargains. So, if you haven’t done so, make a checklist of what you need for your baby and slowly buy them when you spot a good price. My husband and I managed to save more than £1000 just by being organised. If you’re interested to know how we did it, read my post “For all those bargain and freebies hunters out there“. While you’re at it, don’t forget to think about insurance, childcare, benefits, etc. On that note, you might also be interested in “From bump to baby: understanding your benefits entitlement and financial options“.
7. Go for a holiday
You and your partner might not get the chance to go on a holiday alone together for a while after your baby is born. For most couple, the second trimester is the perfect time to book a vacation – you’re not feeling as sick and tired as you were in your first trimester and you’re also not feeling the strain of being heavily pregnant yet. My husband and I went to Tenerife for a week when I was 28 weeks pregnant – it was perfect, it was a beach holiday, so I was able to relax and it’s nice to be able to get some sunshine when it’s freezing in London. If you’re flying, remember to get a letter from your midwife stating that you’re fit to fly. I didn’t have to show mine but it’s good to have it with you just in case.
8. Start shopping for maternity clothes (if you need to)
I didn’t. I’m now 33 weeks pregnant and I’m still wearing my normal clothes. I just stay away from jeans, tight-fitting skirts, etc, and embrace leggings, loose dresses and jumpers. I personally think that if you choose your clothing smartly, you can get away from not having to spend money on maternity wear. My post “Style bible: ‘non-maternity maternity’ wear” should give you some ideas on how to choose what I like to call ‘double-function’ pieces.
9. Decide which antenatal classes you’d like to go to and book your place
The free NHS-run classes or the pretty expensive NCT-run classes or both – the choice is yours. I signed up for the NCT-run classes and paid £190 for 5x 2 hours classes. Why? Because I read and heard that they’re much better than the NHS-run ones. Unfortunately, I was wrong. In my opinion, they’re just not worth the hefty price tag. You can read all about it here and here… the classes are not finished yet, but I’ve come to terms that I will not learn anything from them. I’m utterly disappointed – I’ve attended 3 classes, that’s 6 hours, and I think it’s worth 10 minutes on google. So if you asked me, I’d say, go to the free ones and google everything else. And of course, bring your partner along to the antenatal classes.
10. Start thinking about your maternity leave, benefits and entitlements
Remember that you have to tell your boss that you’re pregnant by the 15th week before your baby’s due date and you also have to tell your boss in writing the date you propose to go on maternity leave. If you’re not entitled to receive statutory maternity pay, you may be able to apply for maternity allowance, and there also other benefits that you may be entitled to depending on your circumstances. So it’s a good time to start sorting these out and don’t wait until the last minute.
(You might also be interested in Beauty and pregnancy (part 1): your hair – what is safe and what is not? and Beauty and Pregnancy (part 2): your face – what is safe and what is not?)
1. General body care: body wash, body scrub, body lotion, oil and cream
The majority: In the majority’s view, exposure to general personal care products is unlikely to be harmful to your unborn babies. According to them, yes, certain products do pose a chemical risk, especially if they contain the so-called ‘toxic’ chemicals (like the foaming agent SLS, which is often found in shower gels and bubble baths), but there’s simply not enough evidence to suggest that these chemicals are a risk to your health. They say that as long as you don’t wrap yourself in bubbles, there’s really no need to worry. In fact, the Cosmetics, Toiletry and Perfumery Association’s spokesman, Dr Chris Flower, says, “All cosmetic products are assessed for safety before they are allowed on the market. That assessment is by qualified experts who understand cosmetics may be used by women who are pregnant, or who might not be aware they are pregnant at the time. Unless cosmetics are safe for use in pregnancy, they would not be placed on the market. It really is that simple.
The minority: The minority advices pregnant women to take extra caution when it comes to choosing their personal care products, even though the risks associated with the so-called ‘toxic’ chemicals are minimal, precisely because “there’s simply not enough evidence to suggest whether or not they’re safe”. They say that expectant mums should avoid using chemical-laden shower gels, bubble baths, body lotions, etc, etc, and opt for more natural products instead.
My opinion: Interestingly, when I read about general hair care products, the opinions of the majority and minority are completely different from the above – the majority says: take extra caution; whilst the minority says: there’s really no need to worry (Beauty and pregnancy (part 1): your hair – what is safe and what is not?). Confusing, isn’t it? Well, I’ve said it before that I’m still using my usual shampoos and conditioners, and I’ll tell you right now that I’m still using my usual shower gels and scrubs (although I’ve stopped taking bubble baths and I’m using organic sweet almond oil for my body instead of the usual lotion or cream). I suppose, it’s good to change your lifestyle and stay closer to nature, but organic products can be quite expensive and may not be accessible to a lot of people. So, I think we should all use our common sense and not be unnecessarily stressed about using non-organic personal care products. After all, stress itself is unhealthy and may be more harmful to your unborn babies than lathering your body with your favourite shower gel for a few minutes.
2. Shaving and waxing
The majority and minority: According to everyone, it’s safe to shave or get waxed during pregnancy – there’s no studies to suggest that hair removal products are unsafe. But due to all the hormonal changes in your body, your skin may be more sensitive; so getting a wax and the regrowth of hair itself are likely to be more painful than usual.
My opinion: This is good news, isn’t it? Just make sure you go to a reputable salon and tell your therapist that you’re pregnant. I’m definitely getting a bikini wax before labour!
3. Deodorant and antiperspirant
The majority and minority: When it comes to deodorant and antiperspirant, both camps agree that you should steer clear of those products that contain aluminium-based compounds (which keep you from sweating), Parabens, PEG 20, Propylene Glycol, Triclosan, Sodium Benzoate and Synthetic Fragrance. They say that repeated exposure to these chemicals may cause hormone disruption, damage to the foetus and birth defect. Even for non-pregnant women, these chemicals have been linked to breast cancer and alzheimer disease. If you must use deodorant or antiperspirant during pregnancy, they suggest that you go for the natural and aluminium-free brands.
My opinion: I’m afraid I can’t be of much help here. Personally, I’m not a fan of deodorant and antiperspirant. I’ve tried using them, but they’re too sticky for me; I could actually feel them under my arms and I don’t like it. I also don’t like their smell – I think it just interferes with my perfume. I usually just dust a bit of baby powder under my arms when I sweat and it works.
4. Tanning and bronzing
The majority: According to the majority, fake tan products are generally safe to use during pregnancy. This is because, the ingredients used in fake tans only react to the cells in the outer layer of your skin (thus, changing its colour) and are not absorbed into the body, so they can’t harm your unborn baby. They do, however, suggest that you avoid spray tans as the effects of inhaling the spray are unknown. Also, since your skin is more sensitive, you might want to do a patch test first in case it causes an allergic reaction.
The minority: In the minority’s view, since the effect of self-tanners on pregnant women hasn’t been studied much, it’s probably best to err on the side of caution before bronzing yourself during pregnancy. They say that using fake tan products occasionally may be less harmful than baking yourself under the sun or the tanning beds, but still, you probably shouldn’t overdo it.
My opinion: There you go again, the famous phrase ‘don’t overdo it’. Until today, I still don’t know what it means. I personally have never used fake tan products before – I don’t have pale skin and I suppose I’m blessed in that regard. I think you can survive without bronzing yourself for 9 months, but if you must do it, then perhaps once or twice wouldn’t do any harm?
The majority: Since perfume is made up of combinations of natural and chemical compounds, the majority’s view is that pregnant women should avoid using it directly on the skin at least during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. There’s a study which links perfume usage during the first trimester to fetal male development (that is, it could render a baby boy infertile); the tests were, of course, carried out on rats, but hey, better be safe than sorry. They also say that since your sense of smell is probably heightened by now, you might find that some scents make you dizzy, nauseated, more prone to headaches, etc.
The minority: According to the minority, it’s completely safe to use perfume during pregnancy. But they agree that due your heightened sense of smell, certain scents may make you feel uncomfortable, so you just have to choose one that suits you.
My opinion: I’m quite lucky in the sense that I don’t have that ‘heightened sense of smell’ they talked about, so I can still wear all my favourite perfumes. I’m far beyond my first trimester now and I know that I have a baby girl, but I still try not to spray it directly on my skin (it’s just a habit, really). There’s no conclusive evidence that the chemicals used in perfumes will harm your unborn baby in any way, but if you’re feeling anxious, then you might want to avoid wearing them during your first trimester.
6. Manicure and pedicure
The majority and minority: Both the majority and minority agree that getting your nails done during pregnancy is safe since chemicals aren’t absorbed through your nails. They do, however, say that some nail varnishes contain Phthalates, which may be harmful to your unborn baby, but as long as you polish your nails in a well-ventilated area, you should be okay. If you’re not convinced, then they suggest that you use Phthalate-free nail varnishes, which are widely available. They also say that nail varnish removers are safe to use when pregnant; they usually contain Acetone, and if you’re worried, you can always buy Acetone-free removers.
My opinion: I agree with the above. I rarely polish my nails, but I don’t see why you couldn’t do it when you’re pregnant.
7. Spa and other professional treatments
The majority and minority: Everyone agrees that when you’re pregnant, you should avoid heat treatments which raise your core body temperature (like, body wraps, saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools, etc) since there’s no way of knowing how much heat is making its way to your unborn baby. But a dip in a warm bath or hydrotherapy pool is okay as long as the water temperature is no higher than 35 degrees C.
My opinion: I’m not going to say anything. All those things above, they’re my favourite spa treatments!
(You might also be interested in Beauty and pregnancy (part 1): your hair – what is safe and what is not?)
1. General skin care: face wash, toner, serum, face oil, moisturiser, eye cream
The majority: When it comes to your regular skin care routine, the majority suggests that, whenever possible, you should only use the most natural and chemical-free products. This is because, what you choose to put on your skin may be absorbed into your bloodstream, and thus, could potentially reach your unborn baby. If you don’t want to go all organic, that’s fine, but you should at least avoid products that contain these ingredients: Retinoids (Vitamin A), Salicylic Acid or Beta Hydroxy Acid, Benzoyl Peroxide, Sulfates, Parabens, and Phthalates – all of which have been linked to birth defects and other pregnancy complications, such as, miscarriage and impaired growth.
The minority: According to the minority, yes, you should avoid taking any form of oral Vitamin A and Salicylic Acid when pregnant, but there’s simply not enough data to prove that they carry the same risks when applied topically. The minority thinks that doctors are just being extra cautious, and in their opinion, a small amount of Retinoids, Salicylic Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide (say, 2%) is considered safe.
My opinion: I think, as long as the jury is still out there with regards to topical Retinoids, Salicylic Acid, and Benzoyl Peroxide, it’s probably best to avoid products that contain these ingredients during pregnancy. After all, it’s not that difficult to find alternative, safer products to use; it’s not even that difficult to switch to entirely natural and organic products, which may even be cheaper to buy. You could, for example, ditch your commercial facial cleanser and use organic oatmeal or sweet almond oil to wash your face instead, or replace your chemical-laden toner with organic floral water – if you need some ideas, read my post on the “3 natural and organic beauty products every girl should own”.
The majority: We all know that it’s very important to wear sun protection before you… well… go out and play in the sun. And in the opinion of the majority, it’s even more important to wear sun protection while you’re pregnant because your pregnancy hormones cause your pigment-producing skin cells to react more strongly to the sunlight; without sun protection, you could end up with dark-brown patches on your skin (officially known as chloasma or melasma, but commonly called ‘the mask of pregnancy’). Having said that, the majority suggests that pregnant women should choose sunscreens that don’t contain Retinyl Palmitate (that is, a topical form of Vitamin A) – (I’ve written about Vitamin A when discussing general skin care above, so I’m not going to repeat it here). Other ingredients to avoid include: Oxybenzone, Homosalate, 4-Methylbenzylidene Camphor, Octocrylene, Para-Aminobenzoic Acid, and nano-sized ingredients (as they can be easily inhaled – I’ll write more about nanoparticles below in the make-up section). They say that you should use physical or mineral blocks made with either Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide instead as they don’t penetrate the skin.
The minority: The minority agrees with the majority with regards to the potential effects the ingredients mentioned above has on fetal development. But, they say, even though your body absorbs them, they’re only absorbed in such small concentrations that it’s hardly a cause for concern. So, all sunscreens are perfectly safe to use during pregnancy. If you’re not convinced, then use sunscreens that are made of Titanium Dioxide or Zinc Oxide – they should put your mind at ease because (as you already know) they don’t penetrate the skin.
It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that there’s one article online which question both the majority and minority’s views with regards to Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. It says that there is research to show that: (i) these ingredients have reproductive and developmental effects in animals if they’re nano-enginereed; and (ii) doubts exist as to whether they’re actually absorbed into the skin or not.
My opinion: Honestly, I don’t know what to say. I mean, if you had to avoid all the ingredients mentioned above (including Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide), then you’d be left with very little choice when it comes to sunscreens. I suppose, you could use sunscreens for babies? I personally think that Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide in cream or lotion form is okay; you should be concern with nanoparticles only when using sunscreens in powdered form (as only then they can be easily inhaled). I might have to ditch my BareMinerals SPF 30 Natural Sunscreen for a while – not only is it in powdered form, it also contains Retinyl Palmitate! Blimey!
The majority and minority: I’m combining their views here because they basically say the same thing when it comes to make-up (yes, they finally agreed on something). According to them, make-up products that are non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic are safe to use during pregnancy; but you should avoid cosmetics that contain Retinoids, Salicylic Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide (you know why). They also say that if you want to be super careful, then you might want to try minerals-only make-up as these products use ingredients that don’t get absorbed into the skin. Also, be careful with lipsticks that contain lead; the risk of getting lead poisoning from lipstick is unknown (and probably very small), but it’s perhaps best to use one of the many lead-free lipsticks that are out there.
My opinion: I agree with the above, but that’s probably because I have to use non-comedogenic products anyway. As far as mineral make-up is concerned, well, I’ve heard of the benefits: they provide better coverage, they look more natural, they feel weightless and are more comfortable to wear, and they’re also kinder to the skin; but to be honest, I have yet to try any of them. Many of the mineral make-up that are currently out in the market come in powdered form, and so, may contain nanoparticles. They’re basically finer particles of minerals like Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, which (because of their form) become airborne when they’re applied and thus can be easily inhaled. Rumour has it that they have similar effects as asbestos and can cause lung cancer! But of course, not all mineral make-up manufacturers use nanoparticles in their productions – the question is, which one doesn’t? I’ll look into this in more detail as I think they warrant a separate post, and I’ll keep you updated. In the meantime, I’m sticking to liquid and compact foundation.
4. Spots treatment
The majority and minority: The two groups, again, agreed when it comes to spots treatment. They say that prescription oral acne medications, such as Accutane and Retin-A are dangerous during pregnancy and can cause birth defects. Okay, so they differ a little when it comes to topical acne creams that contain Retinoids, Salicylic Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide – which most of them do. The majority says that you should avoid using these products completely, while the minority says that products containing not more than 2% of these ingredients are safe to use.
My opinion: Erm… avoid? And use tea tree oil instead? I think it’s less irritating to the skin anyway than those commercial acne creams.
5. Facial and other cosmetic treatments
The majority and minority: The reason why I’m combining both views once more is because the only thing they differ on is (again) whether you should avoid products which contain Retinoids, Salicylic Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide completely or not (remember that some of the products your aesthetician used in the course of your facial treatment may contain these ingredients). Other than that, they agree that as long as you tell your aesthetician in advance that you’re pregnant, you can totally get a basic facial done during pregnancy. You should, however, avoid treatments which involve electric currents, such as chemical peels or light therapies. With regards to other cosmetic treatments (those that are more invasive, like, botox, etc), they say that it’s best to skip them when you’re pregnant.
My opinion: I have to agree with the above. I don’t see why you can’t get a basic facial done during pregnancy. I mean, you’re practically just deep cleansing your face – only done professionally. As long as you tell your aesthetician that you’re pregnant and you’re cautious over the products used, go on and indulge yourself with some relaxing facial.
Whatever your style, you’d probably want to maintain your beauty routine and continue using your favourite beauty products during pregnancy. I know I do. However (being a responsible person that I am), I couldn’t help but question whether whatever it is that I’m doing or using is safe for my unborn baby. So, like most people, I turned to google for answer. I thought that I’d be able find what I was looking for within seconds. But I was wrong. I mean, yes, there are plenty of advice online on ‘beauty and pregnancy’, but everyone’s saying different things – opinions are so varied, I didn’t find them helpful at all; in fact, they confused me even further. Out of impulse, I decided to note down the views of the majority and minority, and surprisingly (or not), it actually helps having them side by side. So, I thought I’d share my notes with you, so you can compare most of the information that’s out there and make informed decisions for yourself. I’ll start with this post, which focuses on hair care, and during the course of the week (time permitting), I will follow up with two more posts on skin care and body care. I hope you’ll find them helpful. If you have anything to add, please feel free to leave a comment.
1. Hair colouring and highlighting
The majority: Well, the majority seems to think that it’s safe to dye your hair while pregnant. They say that although exposure to very high doses of chemicals found in hair dyes may cause harm, the amount you’re exposed to when you colour or highlight (especially highlight) your hair is so minimal that it’s hardly a cause for concern.
The minority: To a certain extent, the minority agrees with the majority. According to them, yes, it’s safe to dye your hair while pregnant, but that doesn’t mean that you can do it as often as you like; don’t overdo it, and you should be fine.
My opinion: I don’t think the phrase ‘don’t overdo it’ is particularly helpful. I mean, how many times can you dye your hair before you’re ‘overdoing’ it? Once or twice? Three or four times? I really have no idea. I suppose, you’ll just have to trust your intuition on this. I personally wouldn’t do it at all, but that’s just me.
2. Hair perming and straightening
The majority: According to the majority (quite rightly, I think), hair perming and straightening products contain harsh chemicals that can be absorbed into your bloodstream through your scalp, and if these chemicals are in your bloodstream, they can be passed across the placenta to your baby. The same thing, of course, can happen when you dye your hair, but in their opinion, there’s a difference between perming / straightening and colouring / highlighting – perming / straightening involves a longer processing time, and thus, a longer exposure time, and this could potentially increase the amount of chemicals absorbed by your body. Despite the risk, however, the majority still thinks that you don’t have to avoid these treatments altogether during your pregnancy, but if you choose to have them done, then you should always exercise caution.
The minority: Well, I found an article, which says that with little or no evidence at all of the effect these chemicals has on the human body, getting a perm or straightening treatment is perfectly safe during pregnancy. Err… okay… a bit odd… but that’s one article. The rest, at least, agrees with the majority, but they go one step further: they suggest that it’s best to avoid these treatments completely when you’re pregnant.
My opinion: Again, I think you’ll have to trust your intuition on this. If you must perm or straighten your hair during your pregnancy, then be extra careful – perhaps, don’t ‘overdo it’? (Whatever that means). I personally wouldn’t do it at all. I mean, apart from the risk mentioned above, it’s a well-known fact that your pregnancy hormones can change the way your hair reacts to perming and straightening chemicals; you can’t predict how it’s going to turn out – you could end up with frizzy locks instead of sexy, gorgeous waves! Now, we don’t want that, do we?
3. General hair care and styling
The majority: The majority’s view is that, general hair care and styling products contain chemicals that can cause harm to your unborn baby despite the fact that some of them might be on your hair for only a short amount of time (like, shampoos and conditioners, for example). (I find it strange that they say that since they have no problem with you dying your hair as often as you like). Anyway, moving on… they say, hair care products that you leave on your hair for a long period of time (like, leave-in conditioners and serums) should be used only sparingly, especially if they touch your scalp (fair enough). Styling spray (i.e. hairspray), in particular, should be avoided because airborne chemicals can be more easily inhaled; they suggest that you use other styling products, like, gels and mousses instead. This is also because, gels and mousses rarely contain the so-called ‘toxic’ chemicals, which include: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Phthalates, Parabens, and Methylisothiazolinone – all of which have been linked to the disruption of hormones level and birth defects in animal studies. Although their effect on human foetus is unknown (since scientists just can’t go around testing on pregnant women), it’s better to be safe than sorry; so, they suggest that pregnant women should always stay on the err-side and choose their hair care products carefully.
The minority: According to the minority, products that come into contact with the skin for only a short amount of time are safe to use during pregnancy. This is because, the short exposure time means chemicals are hardly absorbed into your bloodstream. So, there is no reason for you to ditch your usual shampoos and conditioners. They do, however, agree with the majority when it comes to styling spray and products that you leave on your hair for a long period of time.
My opinion: I think this is a difficult one. I mean, unlike colouring, highlighting, perming and straightening, which you can choose not to do during pregnancy, you can’t possibly not wash or style your hair for the whole 9 months! But can you imagine how annoying it would be to have to read every single label before you buy a product? Also, there are so many chemicals out there, how could you possibly know which one is safe and which one is not, especially when expert opinions differ? My view is that, if these chemicals are so dangerous, you probably would have been cautioned by your doctor or midwife already. But I’m guessing, you haven’t. I haven’t. To be honest, I’m still using my usual shampoo and conditioner. I only ever use conditioner on the ends of my hair anyway. Besides, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that organic natural shampoos and conditioners can be quite expensive. Ogx and Dr. Organic are the only two reasonably priced brands I’ve found so far. So, if I were to switch, I’d probably switch to one of them… I don’t know… Some people suggest using baby shampoos, but I just don’t think they’re made for adult’s hair. What do you think?
In terms of styling and other hair treatment products, I think I’m in the clear – I don’t use any of them, or at least, not the commercial ones. I apply sweet almond oil on my hair after each wash, and I make my own hair mask using avocado blended with sweet almond oil when my hair needs a bit of extra treatment. Hey, it works wonderfully!
“Why should I exercise when I’m pregnant? What kinds of activities are safe for me to do? What precautions should I take? Is there anything in particular I should avoid?” This infographic on staying active during pregnancy from Tommy’s should answer all your questions and reassure you that exercising when you’re pregnant is absolutely safe, healthy and beneficial to both you and your baby. You can also download the pdf copy on their website.