Last week, my husband and I attended our first NCT antenatal class. NCT classes are supposed to be the queen of all antenatal classes. At least, that’s what people say online and offline. They say that NCT classes are typically smaller, so it’s easier to meet prospective parents in your area, and they’re also very informative. So despite the hefty price tag (we paid £190 for 5 sessions), we chose them over NHS. Are they worth it? Well, it’s too early to tell – if it was only based on the first session, I would say no, but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and see if they get better.
We started our first session by introducing ourselves. I think that’s pretty normal, but then we were asked to introduce someone else (anyone except our own partner) to the group. I get it that the trainer probably wanted us to mingle a little bit, but it kind of reminded me of school and the whole introduction thing took more than 30 minutes. I personally think that it wasn’t necessary. She then went on to explain what happens during labour – the three stages of labour, how to recognise that you’re in labour, how to count your contractions, when to call the delivery suite, when to go to the hospital, etc. Now that’s useful and I actually took a lot of notes (so did my husband). Unfortunately, the usefulness of the session stopped there. We then took 15 minutes break and when we came back, again we were asked to talk to other couples – this time, it was about our hopes and worries, and about baby names (whether or not we’ve chosen one; if yes, how did we go about it; if no, why not… what’s the problem, etc). The session then closed with a 5-minute breathing exercise and that’s it.
So, in a nutshell, out the 2-hour session, we got: 45 minutes of introduction, 30 minutes of useful information about labour, 15 minutes break, 25 minutes of ‘sharing session’ and 5 minutes of breathing exercise. Was it worth £38? Honestly, no! But let’s see what happens this week.
2 days until Christmas! How exciting! My husband is from Paris, so we’re driving down there tomorrow to spend Christmas with his family. I like travelling by car – I like the fact that we don’t have to rush and that we don’t have to worry about baggage allowance. Don’t get me wrong, I like travelling light, but let’s be honest, it’s not really possible to do that at this time of the year – what with all the gifts, etc. We have a large box dedicated just for them! Moreover, I’m pregnant! So, it’s probably better to just take the car. Personally, I’m still travelling light though – here’s what I’ll be carrying and wearing everyday: my new Burberry bag (Christmas gift from my husband), my trusted Ugg boots to keep me warm, a snood or a scarf (both from New Look), and a pair of legging (from Littlewoods) or bamboo tights (I love bamboo tights – they’re so soft and so lightweight; they keep you cool when it’s warm and keep you warm when it’s cold) from Boots.
And here’s what I’ll be wearing them with: my favourite Sweaty Betty jumper over a tank top, which I’ll wear with the legging (I think it’s perfect for car travel – really comfy), Mango jersey dresses (which I’ll wear with the bamboo tights), a Zara top and a cardigan from Asos (which I’ll again wear with the legging). I’m in my third trimester now and I’m still really tiny, so I haven’t bought any maternity wear yet. I hope I don’t have to. So far, these styles work for me, and they’re all in my normal size 8. I suppose, dress smart (read: ditch the jeans, skirts, and anything tight for a while) and you don’t have to spend money on something that you’ll only wear for a few months or so.
Oh, and the parka, of course. I bought this last year from Tesco F&F. It looks really good and is of surprisingly good quality for Tesco. In fact, it’s as good as the more expensive ones. I wear it all the time and with literally anything. Definitely my favourite winter coat!
Anyway, enough with fashion. Moving on to beauty stuff now. I mean, it’s Christmas, and that means Christmas eve dinner and Christmas day brunch, and spending Christmas in Paris means… well, taking a romantic walk in the city and do what Parisians do (whatever that is). My point is, I need to look good, and so, it’s obviously important to pack the right beauty products and make-up. I’m sure you’ll agree. Here’s what I’ve decided to bring with me:
1. Jean Paul Gaultier Perfume; 2. Waitrose Cucumber Facial Wipes; 3. MAC Lipstick; 5. Benefit Beautiful Eyes, High Beam and Ultra Plush Lip Gloss; 6. Bare Minerals Foundation, Warmth, Mineral Veil and Primer; 7. Lancome Mascara; 8. Eyeko Fat Eye Stick (sample from Birchbox); 9. Max Factor Eyebrow Pencil and Eye Liner
I did mention that I’m travelling light, right? Well, it’s true. It looks like I’m bringing a lot of stuff, but honestly, they all fit in my Cath Kidston ‘weekend bag’ – see:
Finally, as you know, we’re travelling by car. That means, we have to cross the English Channel with a ferry, which takes around 1 and 1/2 hour; and it also means spending hours and hours on the road. Obviously, I need to keep myself entertained and what better way to do that than with the latest edition of Vogue and food, which go into what I called my ‘food bag’ from Cath Kidston:
That’s it! I better go catch some beauty sleep and I’ll tweet from Paris tomorrow! xx
Disclosure: this is a non-sponsored post; it does, however, contain affiliate links.
(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.
Everyone says that pregnant women should be able to feel their baby’s first movements between weeks 16 and 25. But if you’re a first time mum, they say that you may not feel your baby move until closer to week 25. Apparently, unlike second time mums who know all the tell-tale signs, first time mums lack the experience to tell whether that ‘fluttering’ sensation they feel in their stomach is caused by the baby moving, trapped gas, indigestion or hunger.
In my case, I didn’t feel anything that’s out of the ordinary before week 22. I mean, yes, there were ‘flutters’, but to me, they felt like trapped gas, indigestion and hunger, and I’m pretty sure they were trapped gas, indigestion or hunger. Some people would disagree with me, of course, but I’m pretty sure I’m right because at week 22, I felt something different, something I’ve never felt before, in addition to the usual ‘flutters’! (Which made me think that those flutters could not possibly be caused by my baby). Anyway, I felt movement (like, when your muscle twitches, but stronger), and rolling motion. And I knew immediately it was the baby – I mean, either that or my internal organs started moving and rolling around… yeah, no, I’m confident it’s the baby. I’m now at 25 weeks, and my baby is moving around like crazy – she’s jabbing (and possibly kicking) a lot, especially during the day when I’m sitting down at my desk and at night when I’m trying to sleep. It’s really amazing and it certainly is one of the most exciting parts of pregnancy.
As far as my bump is concerned, it’s still very very small. I can see it, of course, and if you know that I’m pregnant, you’ll probably notice it if I’m wearing tight fitting clothes; but if you don’t, you really can’t tell. My mum told me that her bump didn’t begin to show until the end of her 7th month! I was a small baby – I was only 2.5 kg! And I think I’m having a small baby too. All my scans show that my baby is developing well, and hey, as long as she’s healthy, I’m not worried.
How about you? Please, do share your experience. I’d love to hear.