Ah pregnancy. When it comes to beauty, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand you get some awesome upsides – thick, lustrous hair, strong nails and that glow. But on the other, there’s the physical strain of growing and sustaining a tiny human in your abdomen. Of course it differs for everyone – I know some women who look and feel incredible the whole way through, and were made to bear babies. I am not one of them.
My shorty torso doesn’t accommodate babies very well and, as I did with Max, I have the most intense rib pain from about 3pm every day (as gravity takes hold). It feels somewhere between a hot, stabbing knife and permanent pins and needles and nothing really alleviates it. After Max was born my right rib was protruding so much that the doctors scratched their heads and sent me for X-rays. Thankfully this time I know the end is in sight because after Max’s birth the pain just stopped and over the months the rib went back by itself (how amazing is the female body?). I always remind myself how lucky I am to be pregnant, and what an amazing gift there is at the end, but I will say that it’s certainly not easy or glamorous. Contrary to what photographs may suggest!
For example, the above picture was taken when I was only 16 weeks pregnant (I'm actually pushing my bump out to make it look less like a pasta-belly - which, in part, I guess, it was). MAC Cosmetics took a small group of us beauty journalists away to Jonah’s at Palm Beach for a product launch and gifted us with a portrait photo session. This picture was the result of a whole dream team primping us all day for our close-up. We had Nicole Thompson on makeup, Renya Xydis on hair, Mikey Ayoubi on Styling and Justin Ridler behind the lens – so it was a pretty awesome experience. I’m looking rather a lot bigger and puffier now, but damn it, I’m going to cling to this glorious memory of pregnancy. A memento of what life was like before the 30-week-waddle and cankles. And on that note, in the interests of amping up the comfort quotient for any of pregnant or soon-to-be preggy mums out there, I thought I’d round up a list of things that have been my saviours in these tricky, sticky months. Read on for relief.
1. Back to basics skincare
As much as I love my active products and cosmeceuticals, during pregnancy I try to steer my skincare down a much more natural path. The basic premise is that the less I put on my skin, the less will absorb into my bloodstream, so I’ve been using beautiful organic products like The Beauty Chef Probiotic Skin Refiner (a gorgeous gentle exfoliant), MV Organic Skincare Hand Rescue (smells rose-tastic. I keep one by my bed and one on my desk), Grown Alchemist Detox Serum Antioxidant +3 (a super lightweight serum that contains oils yet doesn’t leave skin feeling greasy – great pre-makeup), Stem Organics Rejuvenating Face Oil (a gorgeous rich facial oil for nighttime that smells like a rain-drenched garden) and Subtle Energies Facial Oil (one of my all time favourite facial oils – smells like in-bloom jasmine bushes). I also love the Pregnancy and New Baby bundle sets on natural beauty website Beautiful Because.
2. Nausea Alleviators
I was pretty sick for the first four months and couldn’t eat anything except for starchy carbs (true story: the only way to stop myself from throwing up was by eating slice of Sonoma Miche Sourdough toast with vegemite and avocado every hour!). And yes, I caved frequently to the hot chip and pasta cravings, too. Ginger tea, however, did help – either grating it fresh into the pot with lemon and honey, or Pukka Three Ginger Tea. Now I’m in the third trimester I’m getting sick for a different reason – reflux after meals is a major punish so I don’t go anywhere without chewable antacids. I told you - it’s all glamour around here.
3. Long indulgent baths
I find baths really help with the pain relief and are a great way to wind down and try and have an early night. I always throw in a good shake of Epsom Salts (available from the supermarket) then mix it up with whatever fragrance I feel like. I love a few drops of plain old lavender essential oil, or if I’m feeling like a treat a splash of Jo Malone English Pear and Freesia Bath Oil. When I was flu-ridden Aromatherapy Co Bath Oil was pretty amazing at clearing out the sinuses.
4. The Best Body Oils
Again, I look for really basic formulations that don’t contain any ingredients I can’t pronounce or spell. I adore all of the Sodashi Body Oils – but my favourite is probably the Serenity Body Oil. They are utterly indulgent. Rohr Remedy Boab and Rosehip with Vitamin E Oil smells like basic rosehip but lasts forever (and I love the packaging) while Be Genki Tranquil Body Oil is an old favourite I used when I was pregnant with Max and I never had a single stretch mark.
5. Self Massage
One way I’ve found to alleviate the tension in my back and hips is to roll myself out and the Powertube Pro Foam Roller and Powertube Trackball Soft have become my best friends. Any time I’m watching TV, I’ll position myself against a wall and roll my back out with the trackball (keeping a ball on either side of the spine) or I'll bend myself back over the foam roller and roll. It helps immensely and is great to do regardless of whether you’re pregnant or not.
6. A spot of activity
I haven’t been amazingly active this pregnancy (laziness? Busy-ness?) but I have been seeing my trainer Ricardo Riskalla of Rawfit once a week. He gives me really gentle strengthening exercises to keep my legs, glutes and arms toned and help alleviate the all the aches and pains I get during pregnancy. I’ve also started swimming. Not only does it help temper that whale-like feeling you get when you’re pregnant in high summer, it takes all the strain of your joints and makes you feel weightless. Bliss! Max’s weekly swimming lesson has given me a good excuse to try and do some laps and I’ve loved Lululemon’s swimwear and Speedo goggles.
7. Mineral makeup
Unless I’m going to an event, I either skip the foundation or I opt for mineral makeup (watch my Nude by Nature video here). Minerals are great as they absorb excess shine in summer and contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide which are natural sunblockers – meaning you don’t have to load your skin up with chemical sunscreens. I also like M.A.C Mineralize Skinfinish in Soft & Gentle, RMS beauty pots – the lip2cheek cream is genius and Josie Maran’s yummy illuminising stick is a winner, too.
8. Natural Perfume Oils and Deodorant
To further reduce my chemical load I’ve dialled back my fragrance use. As incredible as they are, many commercial perfumes contain phtalates and synthetic ingredients, so I’ve switched to perfume oils. I love Ayu Perfume Oil in Souq, Aromantik Merchants of Menace Eau De Parfum Spray and Aveda Pure-fume Chakra Essences. When I’m not going to be getting particularly hot or sweaty I use a deodorant cream like Black Chicken Axilla, Erica Brooke or SoapWallaKitchen.
9. Non maternity gear
Dressing the bump is an eternal challenge and this time around I popped out much earlier than I did with my first. Apart from pregnancy jeans from ASOS I haven’t had to buy any ‘maternity’ clothes really. Here are a few great brands that have worked well with my new shape. I love The Outnet’s Iris & Ink transeasonal staples – like their cashmere rib skirt, Oskar The Label’s cool separates (and drawstring waists!), Vamastyle’s St Barths Top, Steele’s elastic waisted long skirts, Paddo to Palmy’s Santorini Sundress and PJ’s by Hickory Hill Home and Deshabille.