With Mother’s day just around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to write an article about skin care of the expectant mother. Pregnancy can bring with it some unique skin care challenges, that can be eased and reduced with some practical advice involving proper nutrition, natural skin care products and aromatherapy.
Skin Care Changes and Challenges for an expecting mother
Due to the surge and changes in hormones, many pregnant women notice an increase in acne and pimples on their skin. While others may notice an increased amount of dryness in their skin. Some women also experience what is known as a “pregnancy mask” which is blotchy red skin on the pregnant woman’s face.
Keep in mind that most of these conditions will return back to normal once the child is born, and once the hormones return back to normal. To reduce acne and pimples during pregnancy it is recommended to keep the skin as clean as possible, by washing the face at least twice a day(morning and night) and to use a natural and hypo-allergic product. If using foundation try to use water based cosmetics.
Be sure to drink lots of water, as the body requires a bit more moisture than normal when pregnant due to the extra blood and liquid in the body. This will help prevent the skin from feeling dry and also helps to prevent constipation which is another pregnancy side affect. Make sure you are consuming enough folic acid in your diet. Most pregnant women have been told that this is a very important nutrient for their growing fetus, but it can also help to control some of the skin care issues mentioned above. Folic acid is often taken as a supplement before and during pregnancy, but should also be consumed as part of a healthy diet as well. Some foods high in folic acid are: asparagus, leafy greens, mushrooms, brown rice, oranges, chicken, rice, lamb, liver, lentils, pork, split peas, root vegetables, salmon, tuna, wheat germ, whole grains, and whole wheat.
One common concern for many pregnant women and new mothers are stretch marks. Stretch marks occur during a rapid weight gain when skin is over stretched and the fibers and layers of the skin tear. They often first appear as red marks and although they never completely go away, they do begin to fade to white and become less noticeable. Applying a cream or oil to the skin on a daily basis will help to keep the skin moist and soft and help to prevent stretch marks. Cocoa butter is a great cream to use daily on the skin. Olive oil or almond oil will also help to keep the skin soft and prevent stretch marks. Mandarin is a gentle citrus oil that helps to prevent stretch marks, heals scars and eases nervous tension. Neroli also helps heal stretch marks, and increases circulation, as well as easing depression. And finally sandalwood helps to heal emotional problems such as stress, depression and tension and is good for cracked, chapped or dry skin,
Stretch Mark Massage Oil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup almond oil
liquid vitamin E from 6 vitamin E capsuls
20 drops of Mandarin essential oil
10 drops of Neroli essential oil
5 drops of Sandalwood essential oil
Blend the above oils together by swirling them in a clean(preferably dark) sterilized bottle. Rub the oil on all areas of the skin that might become stretched during pregnancy(including: thighs, stomach, buttocks, hips and breast area). Begin using this massage oil after the first trimester of pregnancy when stretch marks first appear, and the general risk of miscarriage has passed. Use this blend for up to three months during the pregnancy and also alternate with the cocoa butter cream for the best results in reducing stretch marks. This can also be used after the pregnancy is finished if stretch marks still appear noticeable.
Varicose Veins and Pregnancy
Similar to stretch marks, many women experience varicose veins during pregnancy. Although some women will not experience varicose veins at all as it is somewhat hereditary, they can also be caused by a sudden weight gain or obesity, as well as: lack of physical activity, insufficient fluid intake, a poor diet, heavy lifting, or prolonged standing and sitting. For some women the varicose veins they have during pregnancy will disappear after giving birth, while others will keep them long after the child is born. Either way avoid getting varicose veins by following these tips: Keep walking and moving. Going for a daily walk and continually changing your position will help keep the veins healthy. Do not stand or sit for extended periods of time. Elevate your legs and your feet when possible. Trying sitting next to a wall and extending your legs up over your head against the wall. Similarly, when sitting try to rest your feet on a high stool or up on a higher chair. Avoid socks, stockings or garter belts that cut of the legs circulation.
The following is a recipe do reduce Varicose Veins
50 ml of a natural vegetable or nut based oil (almond, olive, grapeseed oil or a combination of any of these three oils)
6 drops of Cypress essential oil
6 drops of Geranium essential oil
5 drops of Patchouli essential oil
Swirl and mix these oils together in a clean or sterilized glass jar or bottle(preferably coloured). Apply to the legs and feet to help prevent varicose veins at least once a day.
Swelling or Edema
Also common for pregnant women is to experience an extra amount of swelling, particularly in the hands and/or feet. Increased estrogen is partly to blame for this. Although some swelling is considered normal during pregnancy if swelling continues abnormally it can be a sign of a more serious condition known as: preeclampsia and a doctor or medical professional should be notified immediately.
To prevent swelling, avoid wearing any tight fitting clothes, shoes or jewellery when pregnant. Walking and resting with your feet elevated will also help to reduce swelling in the hands and feet. Like many of the conditions mentioned above, the swelling will often subside once the baby is born. Use the Varicose Vein preventing oil above to help prevent swelling in the hands and feet.
A note about aromatherapy and pregnancy
Some oils are definitely not suitable for use during pregnancy. At the same time, some aromatherapists do not recommend the use of essential oils on the skin at all during pregnancy. Most therapist however, will suggest that certain aromatherapy oils can be very helpful in dealing with some of the health issues that come up during pregnancy. To air on the side of caution check with your doctor first, and avoid using any essential oils during the first trimester of your pregnancy, as that is when the majority of miscarriages happen. Also, I find that less is more with aromatherapy blends, especially during pregnancy. Do not use medicinal or high perfumed dosages of aromatherapy oils during pregnancy. Keep the blends on the lighter side, as is the case with these recipes listed above. If you are not sure of the risk or effect of an oil do not use it. That said most citrus and floral oils are very safe to use during pregnancy including: rose, neroli, geranium, ylang ylang, lavender, chamomile, lemon, bergamot, mandarin, grapefruit and orange. There is also an assortment of herbal, woodsy and earthy oils that are okay to use during pregnancy, but it is best to check with an aromatherapist or doctor first before self prescribing them. Please note that even though most citrus oils are considered safe to use during pregnancy, they are still photo-toxic and should not be warren in direct sunlight.
Some essential oils should definitely be avoided during pregnancy, they include: angelica, citronella, laurel, rosemary, thyme, basil, fennel, marjoram, sage, yarrow, cedarwood, juniper, myrr, and tarragon.