Diet, medications, and cosmetics – there are more changes in pregnancy than just your growing belly. Because your baby doesn’t have the same protections that adults do, there are many products that could be potentially harmful to your baby if applied to your skin. The products are intended to penetrate your skin and have their desired activity on the skin. As a result, they can get into your bloodstream and potentially transmit to your baby. Here’s a list of ingredient no-no’s to avoid when you’re pregnant.
Retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A. These ingredients promote skin cell turnover, helping to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. High dosages of vitamin A and retinoids can be harmful to unborn babies. While there isn’t any study that says topical retinoids are harmful to babies, few research studies are conducted on pregnant women because of the potential harm to babies. Because doctors know oral forms of retinoids, like isotretinoin (Accutane) are harmful, they don’t recommend topical options either. Examples of topical retinoids or ingredients include:
- Differin (adapelene)
- Retin-A (tretinoin)
- Retinoic acid
- Retinyl linoleate
- Retinyl palmitate
Keep in mind that cosmetics brands also may add retinoids to their makeup products, such as powders. You’ll want to check the ingredients in your makeup products too.
Similar to retinoids, topical forms of salicylic acid haven’t been shown to cause birth defects. However, oral forms of salicylic acid, like high-dose aspirin, have been shown to cause birth defects as well as pregnancy complications. As a result, most doctors recommend avoiding salicyclic acid applied topically during pregnancy. This is especially true for stronger facial and body peels. Smaller amounts, such as spot treatments to reduce acne or toners to improve the skin’s appearance, may be safe. Just talk to your doctor first. Sometimes salicylic acid is labeled as beta hydroxyl acid or BHA.
Another option, benzoyl peroxide, is generally considered safe for use during pregnancy to treat acne blemishes. Look for a skincare product that is 5 percent benzoyl peroxide or less.
Hydroquinone is a compound that cosmetic manufacturers add to their skincare products to lighten their skin. This is helpful for women who may have moles or skincare discolorations due to sun exposure. While hydroquinone hasn’t been tested on pregnant animals or women, doctors generally recommend avoiding the ingredient as a safety precaution. Ingredients to avoid include:
- quinol/1-4 dihydroxyl benzene/1-4 hydroxy benzene
Exfoliation using alpha hydroxy acids may help to reduce the appearance of excess skin pigments while pregnant. After you have your little one and are done breastfeeding, you can go back to your previous treatments.
Ask your doctor if there are individual skincare products you should avoid given your health history. If you’re not sure if your product is safe, refrain from using it until you ask your doctor. When you do have your little one, keep in mind that ingredients in skincare products can affect your baby if you’re breastfeeding too.
Giving birth to a new baby is usually a time of joy and celebration. Who hasn’t seen commercials of happy, smiling moms doting over a newborn baby? Yet, there’s a darker side of giving birth that you don’t hear as much about. Postpartum depression is a potentially serious condition that is often swept under the carpet. In fact, most people don’t understand or harbor certain misconceptions about it. Even the experts aren’t completely clear on what causes it. Here are five facts you might not know about postpartum depression.
1. It’s More Common Than You Think
Estimates are that 10 to 20% of women experience postpartum depression after giving birth – and women aren’t the only victims. Up to 10% of fathers experience it as well. These estimates are conservative. The number of people affected is probably higher as not everyone seeks medical attention. Needless to say, it’s a serious problem and one that often goes untreated.
2. It’s More Than a Case of the “Baby Blues”
About half of all women experience mood swings after giving birth. No wonder! After giving birth, your hormones fluctuate wildly as your body tries to return to its pre-pregnancy state. These changes can send your emotions on a roller coaster ride. You might be smiling one minute and crying the next. Then there are the emotional aspects of being a new mom. Your entire life has been transformed by the little person you gave birth to and you might feel a bit overwhelmed by the responsibilities you face.
Unlike postpartum depression, the baby blues usually last for a week or two before subsiding. Plus, the blues are usually not debilitating. You’re still able to care for yourself and your baby. The symptoms of postpartum depression are more debilitating and usually don’t go away after a week or two. In fact, if experience “the blues” for longer than two weeks, it’s important to get help.
3. Postpartum Depression Can Be Long Lived
As mentioned, the baby blues rarely last for more than a week or two while postpartum depression can persist for weeks or months. Sometimes the symptoms don’t even show up until several months after giving birth. By definition, symptoms of postpartum depression can appear anytime within the first year after delivering a child.
4. Any Woman Can Experience It
If you’ve given birth or even if you’ve miscarried, you can experience postpartum depression. Young moms and first timers get it and you can develop it when you give birth later in life as well. Whether it’s your first pregnancy or your third, you’re not immune. One risk factor for postpartum depression is having experienced it in the past. If you were depressed after a previous pregnancy, your risk is higher. Some experts also believe you’re at higher risk if you don’t have a strong support system during or after pregnancy or if you experienced depression or anxiety prior to becoming pregnant. Other life stressors such as a death in the family, loss of a job, or martial problems may also increase the risk.
Here are some of symptoms you might experience:
- Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feelings of guilt or low self-esteem
- Feelings of intense sadness
- Physical symptoms, like headache, nausea, panic, rapid heartbeat, numbness/tingling in the hands/feet
- Lack of interest in food
- Lack of interest in other people, including your baby and family
- Fear or harming yourself or your baby
5. There Are Effective Treatments
If you’re diagnosed with postpartum depression, treatments are available and usually include a combination of counseling and medications. The medication most doctors prescribe is an anti-depressant, which is helpful in up to two-thirds of cases. The key is to seek help if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, especially if you feel like you might harm yourself. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you’re not alone and help is available.
National Institute of Mental Health. “Postpartum Depression Facts”
MedicineNet.com. “Postpartum Depression”
You know that smoking isn’t healthy for you or your baby and now you’re committed to kicking the habit. What are your options? Must you quit cold turkey or are there safe quit smoking aids you can use to stop smoking? Quitting smoking while pregnant isn’t easy but there are ways to make it easier. Let’s look at some of the possibilities.
Quitting Without Stop Smoking Aids
If you can do it, quitting without smoking aids is the ideal method for kicking the smoking habit. When you take this approach, you aren’t exposing your baby to medications or nicotine replacements. If you’re quitting without help, you can either stop “cold turkey” or gradually reduce the number of cigarettes you smoking until you’re at zero. Unfortunately, doing it on your own is not as easy as doing it with support. Plus, if you gradually reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke, you’re still exposing your baby to nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes until you’ve completely stopped. On the other hand, if you’re a heavy smoker and you quit all at once, you might experience mood changes due to nicotine withdrawal. If you taper gradually, the nicotine withdrawal symptoms will be less severe.
Nicotine Replacement Products
These days, nicotine replacement products come in a number of forms – patches, chewing gum, and even sprays that give you a dose of nicotine. The purpose of a nicotine replacement product is to deliver the nicotine you would normally be getting from smoking. With this approach, you shouldn’t experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Because you’re getting some nicotine, replacement products make it less challenging to stop smoking. In fact, the success rate with nicotine replacement products is almost double that of quitting on your own. However, you’re still exposing your baby to nicotine. It’s not clear if nicotine is the component of cigarettes that’s linked with pregnancy complications or whether it’s one of the other hundreds of chemicals in cigarette smoke.
Before using a nicotine replacement product, talk to your doctor. Some replacement products may be safer than others. For example, you can buy long-acting patches that deliver sustained nicotine or shorter acting sprays. Using the spray could potentially pose less risk to your baby, although it’s not clear what the risks are of various nicotine products. However, if you quit smoking by using a replacement product, you’re not exposing your baby to the other chemicals in cigarettes.
Bupropion is a medication originally used as to treat depression. It also helps smokers quit smoking. The problem is it’s a medication. Ideally, you want to limit exposure to medications as much as possible during pregnancy. Overall, bupropion is a safe medication but it does have potential side effects and few studies have looked at its effects during pregnancy. Of course, you have to weigh the risks of continuing to smoke with the potential risks of the medications. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons and taking this medication while pregnant.
Quitting cold turkey is difficult. Unfortunately, nicotine replacement products and bupropion have drawbacks too. Another option is to see a counselor, either one that can give you “talk” support or one that offers alternative approaches, like hypnosis, meditation, or acupuncture. Although these approaches don’t work for everyone, they’re drug-free – and that’s a benefit when you’re pregnant.
The Bottom Line
When you quit smoking, you lower the risk of pregnancy complications, including:
- Premature birth
- Delivering a low birth weight baby
- Having a miscarriage or stillbirth
- Other complications involving the placenta
So, think about your options and discuss them with your doctor – but make an effort to quit for you AND your baby.
WebMD. “Alternatives for Giving Up Cigarettes”
ACOG.com. “Smoking Cessation During Pregnancy”
Weight training during pregnancy – you might wonder whether it’s safe and if doing so can make your pregnancy better. Fortunately, doctors now agree that it’s safe and beneficial to train with weights when you’re pregnant – with a few precautions.
Benefits of Weight Training During Pregnancy
According to the Institute of Medicine, the risk of being too sedentary and gaining excessive amounts of weight goes up during pregnancy. Unfortunately, it can be hard to shed the extra pounds. Research shows that women who stay physically active while pregnant gain less weight overall. As you might know, it’s not uncommon during pregnancy to experience aches and pains as being inside you grows larger. Working your muscles against resistance helps ease those discomforts and make pregnancy more pleasant.
Staying more physically active also lowers the risk of pregnancy-related complications like pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. Plus, studies show that resistance training reduces the risk of premature labor and makes labor, when it happens, easier.
One of the most common complaints women experience during pregnancy is lower back pain. Being pregnant places stress on your lower back and spine because it changes your center of gravity. The ligaments in your spine also become looser due to hormonal changes. These changes make your back less stable and more prone towards injury. Weight training strengthens the muscles that support the core, back, and spine and may, in turn, reduce pain.
The Safety of Weight Training During Pregnancy
One concern with respect to weight training during pregnant has to do with joint laxity. Because your ligaments become laxer, or more easily stretched, when you’re pregnant, the risk of injury is theoretically higher Fortunately, most studies don’t show an increased injury risk. In fact, weight training enhances quality of life during pregnancy. Also, contrary to popular belief, research doesn’t show that physical activity, including weight training, increases the risk of miscarriage.
Guidelines for Safely Weight Training During Pregnancy
Always check with your doctor before starting a weight training program when you’re pregnant. Even if you weight train regularly, get their okay beforehand. You should avoid certain movements at certain times during pregnancy. Here are some guidelines:
- Always start with a 5 to 10-minute warm-up. Never train with cold muscles.
- Avoid exercises where you lie flat on a mat. This can trigger a drop in blood pressure and dizziness.
- Avoid doing exercises that require bending forward at the waist or hips after the first trimester.
- Don’t lift weights above your head after the first trimester of pregnancy. Lift the weights no higher than shoulder height.
- Avoid lifting heavy during pregnancy since very heavy weight can reduce blood flow to the fetus. Use lighter weights and higher reps.
- Dress in light, loose, cotton clothing to avoid the risk of overheating. Have a water bottle nearby to sip throughout your workout.
- Stop exercising if you feel pain, discomfort, lightheadedness, or dizziness.
- Give your body a chance to rest and recover after a workout. You don’t have to train every day to get the benefits. Several sessions a week is sufficient.
- Limit the amount of high-impact exercise you do. Kickboxing might not be the best choice when you’re pregnant.
The Bottom Line
In general, weight training during pregnancy is safe and even beneficial but always check with your doctor first. If you have a high-risk pregnancy or other medical issues, it may not be appropriate for you to weight train.
Resistance Training During Pregnancy: Safe and Effective Program Design Brad Schoenfeld, MSc, CSCS Exercise Science Department, Lehman College, Bronx, New York.
WebMD. “Exercise Don’ts When You’re Pregnant”
Migraines During Pregnancy
If you had migraine headaches before becoming pregnant, you might experience more of these sometimes disabling headaches during pregnancy. On the other hand, you might experience fewer. The hormonal changes that go along with pregnancy can trigger more migraines or calm them, depending on your individual sensitivities. Some women even have their FIRST migraine headache during pregnancy. If you suddenly develop a migraine headache during pregnancy and you’ve never had one before, check with your doctor. A headache can also be a sign of a pregnancy-related condition called pre-eclampsia that needs close monitoring and treatment.
If migraines are “old hat” for you, it’s still nice to know what to expect when you’re pregnant. Unfortunately, whether you experience more or fewer headaches is hard to predict. It depends on how your body responds to the hormonal changes taking place in your body. It also depends on factors like stress and fatigue that commonly trigger migraines. Other factors that can bring on a migraine for some women include sudden changes in temperature, a drop in blood sugar, bright lights, loud noises, and certain foods. Avoiding known migraine triggers may help ward them off these headaches or reduce their frequency.
If you don’t know what’s triggering your headaches, keep a headache journal. In your journal, write down what you eat at meals and your level of stress. Also, document any migraines you experience and how long they last. If you do this for a few weeks, you’ll notice patterns such as certain foods trigger the symptoms. If you can identify them, take steps to avoid them.
What should you watch out for?
Some common migraine triggers, although they don’t apply to everyone, include caffeine, food additives (particularly MSG and nitrates) in processed foods, artificial sweeteners, chocolate, smoked fish, and some fruits, beans, and nuts.
Can You Take Something for the Pain?
It’s best to consult with your doctor before taking any medication for a migraine. Acetaminophen is an option, although most doctors don’t recommend taking ibuprofen or aspirin. Most medications that prevent migraines are also off-limits if you’re pregnant. Most of these medications are not documented to be safe during pregnancy. A mild sedative combined with acetaminophen may be appropriate for severe pain. Talk to your doctor about this. Otherwise, don’t take the risk. One of the best strategies for easing the pain is to lie in a cool, dark room and practice breathing deeply. How about prevention?
Ways to lower your risk of migraine headaches:
- Know your triggers and avoid them as much as possible.
- Get at least seven hours of sleep a night.
- Eat a balanced diet and avoid skipping meals. Stay away from processed and packaged foods as much as possible.
- Have a stress management strategy. This might include yoga, meditation, message, or deep breathing.
- Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day.
- Take a brisk walk for 30 minutes each day.
- Dress appropriately for the temperature outside. Try to avoid getting too hot or too cold.
The Bottom Line
Hopefully, you’ll be one of the lucky ones who has fewer migraines during pregnancy. If not, give these strategies a try.
American Pregnancy Association. “Migraines During Pregnancy”
WebMD. “Migraine Headaches and Pregnancy”
IBS Symptoms During Pregnancy: What Can You Expect?
As if your body isn’t changing enough, some women have to deal with another problem during pregnancy – IBS symptoms. IBS, also known as irritable bowel syndrome, is characterized by bowels that are exquisitely sensitive. Although not considered a disease, irritable bowel syndrome can be a source of unpleasant symptoms that make pregnancy more challenging. If you have IBS, you may also be concerned about how having it will affect your pregnancy.
What is IBS?
IBS is a “functional” condition marked by symptoms involving the digestive tract, particularly the bowels. No one knows what exactly causes it but stress seems to play a role. People who have this syndrome have a digestive tract that’s unusually sensitive to stress.
IBS Is surprisingly common. In fact, about 10 to 15% of the population reporting symptoms at some point over a lifetime. IBS symptoms you might experience, if you have the disorder, include abdominal cramping, diarrhea, bloating, constipation, or alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea. One caveat – don’t assume you have irritable bowel syndrome until you’ve been medically evaluated and other causes of your symptoms have been ruled out. Similar symptoms can arise from a variety of intestinal problems. IBS is mainly a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning other potential causes for the symptoms have been ruled out.
IBS During Pregnancy
If you were diagnosed with IBS before becoming pregnant, you may find your symptoms worsen during pregnancy. There’s some evidence that hormones influence irritable bowel syndrome, including some that your body produces more of when you’re pregnant. On the other hand, every woman is different. You may find that your IBS symptoms either don’t change or improve during pregnancy. So, don’t assume your symptoms will get worse, just be aware that they can.
Taming IBS Symptoms
There’s no cure for IBS but there are some things you can do to tame the symptoms. Some studies suggest that imbalances in gut bacteria are a factor in irritable bowel syndrome. Talk to your doctor about whether a probiotic would be right for you. Another way to get probiotics is to eat a serving of yogurt with active cultures every day.
Another approach, especially if you’re having mainly constipation, is to add more fiber to your diet. Be careful, though. Some foods high in fiber, particularly cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and beans, are rich in sugars called FODMAPs. If you’re sensitive to FODMAPs, eating these foods could make your IBS symptoms worse. Add more fiber to your diet, but avoid foods high in FODMAPs. You can find a list of these foods online.
Since stress seems to worsen IBS symptoms, your symptoms may improve once you find ways to better deal with stress. Self-hypnosis, meditation, and deep breathing are all approaches to relieving stress that may be helpful.
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