Beauty health expert Carla Oates talks about that “pregnancy glow”
During pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through an incredible transformation. The huge influx of hormones can cause everything from changes in vision and sense of smell to fluid retention and weight gain. For some women, the first changes they notice can be on the surface of their skin and in the texture of their hair.
Ever heard of the “pregnancy glow”? Well, it’s no myth, as naturopath and nutritionist Alison Cassar explains: “Skin oils usually increase during pregnancy, contributing to the pregnancy ‘glow’. For some, this results in increased acne and oily skin, but for others it’s a wonderful glow.”
Research suggests that seeding the gut with beneficial bacteria both before and during pregnancy can alter your baby’s microbiome, supporting both early development and providing long-term health benefits.
Your health (and that of your skin) is intimately linked to the state of your gut, so where possible it’s important to prep the body for pregnancy by eating nourishing wholefoods to ensure you’re in optimal health.
Research also suggests that seeding the gut with beneficial bacteria both before and during pregnancy can alter your baby’s microbiome, supporting both early development and providing long-term health benefits. If your pregnancy is unplanned, however, there’s no need to stress, as eating well and taking care of your wellbeing throughout your pregnancy will ensure you continue to glow on the inside and out.
There’s a number of nutrients that are essential for not only your general health but also the health of your skin during pregnancy. Many of these can help combat symptoms of the more common skin concerns that often occur during this time.
Stretch marks, for instance, affect up to 90 per cent of women and are the pink-purple lines that surface on the skin as it stretches to accommodate your new bub. Although many women simply accept these lines as part of their transforming body, for others their appearance can cause upset. The good news is stretch marks may be preventable (or at least be less noticeable) if you consume the right nutrients.
“Adequate zinc levels are necessary for hormone production and skin health during pregnancy, minimising the risk of stretch marks, but it also lowers the risk of post-natal depression.”
“Adequate zinc levels are necessary for hormone production and skin health during pregnancy, minimising the risk of stretch marks, but it also lowers the risk of post-natal depression,” says Cassar.
Zinc also plays an essential role in protein synthesis and collagen production. As collagen is literally the protein that helps hold the skin together to keep it strong, supple and plump, consuming zinc-rich foods such as lean lamb and pumpkin seeds can be beneficial. Vitamin C also helps with cell regeneration and skin health, as well as immunity.
Taking a broad-spectrum probiotic supplement during pregnancy may also help to give you that “glow”. By supporting your digestive health, you in turn support the health of your skin, especially if you’re sensitive to allergens or battle with eczema. Cassar explains, “Many studies have shown that probiotics can reduce the chances of the baby having atopy [genetic tendency to develop allergic diseases].”
In fact, some research suggests that women who take probiotics during pregnancy help reduce the risk of their baby developing eczema in infancy by as much as 80 per cent. And, as an added benefit, taking probiotics during pregnancy helps to combat symptoms of heartburn and constipation — both common during pregnancy.
Another way to nourish your skin from the inside out is to load up on essential fatty acids which, research shows, may be even more essential during pregnancy as they help to fight inflammation, encourage foetal brain development and keep the skin hydrated. Fish oil and flaxseeds are great sources of omega-3s, as are oily fish like sardines. Just be mindful of consuming fish and seafood containing high levels of mercury, as research suggests too much could affect your baby’s nervous system development.
Taking a broad-spectrum probiotic supplement during pregnancy may also help to give you that “glow”. By supporting your digestive health, you in turn support the health of your skin, especially if you’re sensitive to allergens or battle with eczema.
For some women during pregnancy, hyperpigmentation of the skin can be a common issue. Characterised by dark patches on the face, the condition, known medically as chloasma, is sometimes referred to as “the mask of pregnancy” and can be due to the surge in hormones. Sunlight can worsen symptoms, so being mindful of sun exposure is incredibly important. While the pigmentation usually fades after pregnancy, there are some natural topical treatments you could try. Rosehip oil, for instance, is a skin saviour containing both vitamin E — great for repairing the skin — and trans-retinoic acid, which is proven to be effective in treating pigmentation.
While the nutrients you consume during pregnancy definitely play a role in the health of your skin, there are several lifestyle practices that can help to boost your pregnancy “glow”, too. Gentle exercise can be a great way to increase energy, relieve stress and combat any aches and pains associated with pregnancy. If you suffer from varicose veins, a gentle yoga practice may be of benefit, especially poses where your legs are raised to encourage circulation.
It’s common to experience mood swings during pregnancy, due to hormonal fluctuations and the many physiological changes taking place. That’s why prioritising self-care is so important. A belly massage using skin-nourishing oils like olive, jojoba or avocado can lower stress levels as well as hydrate the skin, helping to prevent stretch marks. Or give meditation a go. Research shows it elicits the relaxation response, helping to ease stress and anxiety as well as helping to manage symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders.
Remember, too, that once your baby arrives, you can continue to support your gut and skin health by nourishing yourself from within. Continue to seed your gut with beneficial microbes and, if possible, try breastfeeding. Research shows breastfeeding helps to populate your baby’s gut with all the probiotics and goodness they need for a strong, healthy immune system.
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