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Home > Learn > Pregnancy > >Pregnancy Self Care: What's Safe and Unsafe?

Pregnancy Self Care: What's Safe and Unsafe?

Dec 04, 23 10 min

By Dr. Kenosha Gleaton, OBGYN 

What’s that saying… happy mom, happy life? Jokes aside, research shows that practicing self-care during pregnancy has been shown to positively impact both maternal and fetal health. [1-2] It’s no secret that pregnancy can bring on its fair share of challenges. From swollen feet to bouts of nausea, there are plenty of reasons to prioritize self-care and wellness during pregnancy. Let’s break down some safe vs. unsafe behaviors to keep you happy and healthy! 

Safe Pregnancy Self-Care

Here are some options for relaxing and treating yourself when you’re pregnant. Most of these activities are thought to be safe during pregnancy, but you should always consult a healthcare provider to confirm.  

Pamper Yourself With Lotions and Oils

Natalist Cooling Cream is a pregnancy-safe cream designed to soothe swollen, achy legs and feet. This Cooling Cream is peppermint infused and packed with fatty acids, shea butter, vitamin E, and vitamin A to moisturize and restore your body. Rub it in yourself, or have a partner give you a foot and leg massage! 

Another option is Natalist Belly Oil, a non-greasy oil formulated to nourish, soothe, and moisturize a growing belly. This oil is made with skin-safe ingredients like argan oil, coconut oil, and shea butter. 

Bundle both of these products and treat yourself to our specially curated pregnancy gift basket, complete with nausea tea and vitamin D3 gummies.

Make a Mocktail

If you enjoyed a nice cocktail, beer, or glass of wine pre-pregnancy, you should treat yourself to a yummy mocktail! There are plenty of options available for pregnancy-safe drinks that taste good while still keeping you hydrated and healthy. The best part about a mocktail is the freedom to make it your own! Some ideas: 

  • Sparkling water with your favorite fruit and a sprig of rosemary
  • Natalist Hydration & Energy mix with a fresh lime or fruit garnish
  • Fruit juice* and grenadine
  • Mint, lime, and soda water

Pro tip: Put your mocktail in a cocktail or wine glass for some added oomph. 

*Just remember to limit your caffeine and added sugar intake! 

Eat a Healthy Diet (and Enjoy Some Dessert)

Nutrition is extremely important during pregnancy, and research shows that a healthy diet can actually boost your mood and support mental health. [3-4] Some key vitamins and minerals to consume include calcium, iron, choline, vitamins A, B, C, and D, folic acid, and others. [5] You can get a lot of the necessary nutrients with a prenatal vitamin, but it’s also important to consume plenty of fruits, vegetables, protein, and grains. [5] Don’t forget to treat yourself to some dessert or comfort foods every now and then, as long as your provider doesn’t have any major concerns about your diet or weight! Learn more about vitamin A supplementation during pregnancy and other pregnancy nutrition topics. 

Get a Prenatal Massage

There are many benefits to prenatal massage. For example, people who receive massage therapy during pregnancy report lower levels of depression, anxiety, back pain, and leg pain. [6] There has also been an observed drop in cortisol levels, improving the amount of excessive fetal activity and decreasing the rate of preterm labor. [6] If you do decide to look into a massage, speak to your healthcare provider first. 

Stay Active

Physical activity has many benefits for your mind and body, and can actually improve some pregnancy symptoms. [7] Not everyone is suited for exercise during pregnancy, so be sure to clear any activities with a provider beforehand. Some exercise options that are typically safe for pregnancy include walking, light gardening, prenatal yoga or pilates, etc. 

Take a Bath

Relaxing with a warm bath is a great way to soothe your body and have some you-time. While it’s considered safe for most people to have a bath while pregnant, it’s important to avoid extremely high temperatures. Stick to warm baths that will not raise your core body temperature above a healthy maximum. Speak to your provider about any questions or concerns. 

Set Boundaries, Goals, and Priorities

Mental health can sometimes take a hit during or after pregnancy. Aside from the hormones of it all, you may have pushy, nosy, or rude people in your life giving unsolicited advice and opinions at every turn. It’s okay to set boundaries with people if it will help you to destress and enjoy your pregnancy more. Lean on your partner or another support person as much as needed. It can also be helpful to set specific goals and priorities for yourself, whether or not they are related to your growing family. Achievable steps to complete in the future keep you motivated and excited for what is to come! Never be afraid or ashamed to reach out for help if you are feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or anxious. 

Natalist call to action featuring pregnancy self care

What To Avoid During Pregnancy

There are also some things to avoid during pregnancy to encourage healthy outcomes. 

Alcohol

As many people already know, alcohol should be avoided during pregnancy. No amount of alcohol is considered safe when you’re pregnant, and using alcohol can lead to severe negative outcomes. [8] Your baby may exhibit problems with coordination, behavior, attention, learning, below-average height and weight, abnormal facial features, and other deficits as a result of alcohol exposure. [8] Consider healthy alternatives, such as Magnesium Plus drink mix, which supports relaxation and nutritional goals during pregnancy. 

CBD Products

Cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, is a substance found in the cannabis plant. CBD is often marketed as a natural remedy for pain relief, anxiety, nausea, and other health conditions. [9] CBD is not a psychoactive substance, meaning it does not produce the same “high” feeling that another cannabinoid, THC, is known for producing. [9] That being said, the use of CBD during pregnancy is still a novel idea and is discouraged by the FDA. [9] There isn’t enough knowledge of its effects to consider it a safe product, and there is little oversight of the regulatory process of CBD. This means that other products or harmful ingredients could be included in CBD without you knowing. [9] So, you’re better off staying away from CBD products during pregnancy. Ask your provider about healthy supplements or products you are approved to use during pregnancy. 

Tanning

Some people enjoy tanning outside, using a tanning bed, or using self-tan products to get a full body glow. While there are ways to get a healthy amount of sun exposure during pregnancy, you should always avoid exposing yourself to extremely hot temperatures for prolonged periods of time. Fortunately, ultraviolet rays do not enter the uterus during pregnancy, but overheating can be very risky. [10] Ultraviolet rays have the potential to worsen some pregnancy skin conditions and may lead to skin cancer, advanced aging, and more. [11] 

That being said, it’s best to avoid using tanning booths, especially during pregnancy. There is little research on the effects of self-tan products on pregnancy, but you should proceed with caution and ask your provider before using any new topical products. [10] If you are spending time outside, make sure to wear sunscreen, stay in the shade when possible, drink plenty of water, and go inside if you start to feel hot. [11] 

Certain Skin Care Products

Skincare is a huge part of self-care for many people. Whether you’re someone who has a two-step routine, or you have a whole arsenal of different serums, lotions, and balms, it’s important to use products that are safe for your growing baby. Certain products may lead to fetal birth defects, discoloration of teeth, and other potentially harmful effects. [11] These include [11]:

  • Retinol (Vitamin A) and related products: isotretinoin, retinoids, Accutane, etc. 
  • Tetracyclines
  • Hormonal medications

Topical medications that are generally considered safe for pregnancy include benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and azelaic acid. [11] 

Saunas and Hot Tubs

According to the ACOG, it’s best to not use saunas or hot tubs while pregnant. Some research suggests that the use of saunas or hot tubs early on in pregnancy may lead to birth defects. [12] This is because your core body temperature rises when in extremely hot environments. Always proceed with caution before exposing yourself to extreme temperatures, and ask your provider for their input. 

In Conclusion

It would take far too long to list out every single safe and unsafe activity you may be considering during pregnancy. The gist is to avoid extreme temperatures, overexerting yourself, and exposing yourself or your baby to harmful bacteria or products. You should always speak to your provider directly about what activities and products are allowed during pregnancy. There may be factors unique to your body or pregnancy that can influence what you should or shouldn’t be doing. When you’re in need of some TLC, shop the Natalist self-care collection

 


Dr. Kenosha Gleaton is board-certified in gynecology and obstetrics and is the Medical Advisor of Natalist. She received her MD from MUSC and completed her residency at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC.

Dr. Gleaton is passionate about women, youth, and mentoring. She is a Scrubs Camp instructor, a program to increase student entry in healthcare, and serves as a Compassion International adoptive parent. She is also a member of the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists, and the American Association of Professional Women.  


References:

  1. Tesfa D, Aleminew W, Tadege M, et al. Level of Happiness and Its Associated Factors Among Pregnant Women in South Gondar Zone Hospitals, North Central Ethiopia. Int J Womens Health. 2020;12:983-991. Published 2020 Nov 5. doi:10.2147/IJWH.S275709
  2. Nguyen, L.D., Nguyen, L.H., Ninh, L.T. et al. Women’s holistic self-care behaviors during pregnancy and associations with psychological well-being: implications for maternal care facilities. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 22, 631 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-022-04961-z
  3. Firth J, Gangwisch JE, Borisini A, Wootton RE, Mayer EA. Food and mood: how do diet and nutrition affect mental wellbeing? [published correction appears in BMJ. 2020 Nov 9;371:m4269]. BMJ. 2020;369:m2382. Published 2020 Jun 29. doi:10.1136/bmj.m2382
  4. Grajek M, Krupa-Kotara K, Białek-Dratwa A, et al. Nutrition and mental health: A review of current knowledge about the impact of diet on mental health. Front Nutr. 2022;9:943998. Published 2022 Aug 22. doi:10.3389/fnut.2022.943998
  5. Nutrition During Pregnancy. ACOG. FAQ 001. June 2023. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/nutrition-during-pregnancy
  6. Field T. Pregnancy and labor massage. Expert Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2010;5(2):177-181. doi:10.1586/eog.10.12
  7. Cooper DB, Yang L. Pregnancy And Exercise. [Updated 2023 Apr 17]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430821/
  8. Alcohol and Pregnancy. ACOG. PFSI015 . February 2023. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/infographics/alcohol-and-pregnancy
  9. What You Should Know About Using Cannabis, Including CBD, When Pregnant or Breastfeeding. Federal Drug Administration. 2019. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/what-you-should-know-about-using-cannabis-including-cbd-when-pregnant-or-breastfeeding
  10. Mother To Baby | Fact Sheets [Internet]. Brentwood (TN): Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS); 1994-. Self-tanners, Tanning Pills, Tanning Booths. 2021 Oct 1. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK582952/
  11. Skin Conditions During Pregnancy. ACOG. FAQ 169. July 2022. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/skin-conditions-during-pregnancy
  12. Can I use a sauna or hot tub early in pregnancy? Ask ACOG. September 2021. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/experts-and-stories/ask-acog/can-i-use-a-sauna-or-hot-tub-early-in-pregnancy
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