Melody Bayly reports for Vegan Life and provides a list of the top 10 natural products every healthy mum-to-be should be trying
- Chicory Coffee
We all know that caffeine during pregnancy is bad for you, so many ditch it completely in favour of alternative coffees so they can be a healthy mum. Unfortunately, chicory – a main ingredient of most replacement coffees – should be avoided during pregnancy. For a healthy alternative, try the Italian no-caffeine option called ‘orzo’ made of pure barley. Not only is it a delicious substitute for ‘proper’ ground coffee, it’s also healthy in pregnancy: barley contains lots of helpful nutrients for you and your unborn little one, while also being reputed to reduce pregnancy-related water retention — bonus!
- Decaffeinated Drinks
Many women in pregnancy swap their coffee or tea for a decaf variety, but only some types of decaffeination process are healthy for your pregnancy.
Cheap methods sometimes use solvents, which could then end up in your system. A safer method is spring water or CO2 processing, as used in the Clipper Organic range. If in doubt when you’re out and about, consider opting for a cold drink instead!
- Essential Oils
Trends such as pregnancy aromatherapy can give the impression that essential oils are always safe while you’re expecting, but this isn’t necessarily the case. For a healthy mum, experts recommend avoiding them entirely during your first trimester, as there simply isn’t enough research to guarantee their safety, and to use with caution after that. There is also a definite ‘avoid’ list you’ll want to be aware of: nutmeg, rosemary, basil, jasmine, clary sage, sage, rose, juniper berry, laurel, angelica, thyme, cumin, aniseed, citronella and cinnamon leaf. If in doubt, consult a professional — a list of aromatherapy organisations can be found here.
- Herbal Teas
If you’re one of the many women to find you don’t fancy your usual cup of morning Joe, you might be considering a switch to herbal options.
Although many herbal teas are wonderful in pregnancy, you may want to skip them during your first trimester and proceed with caution after that – while some are thought to support a healthy pregnancy, there isn’t enough information on their effects on a developing baby to be certain which are safe to drink.
While the odd cup of peppermint tea to help with morning sickness is thought to be ok, and red raspberry leaf tea is wonderful to drink in preparation for childbirth later in pregnancy, it’s probably best not to drink too much of any one type on a regular basis, and limit your intake to no more than four cups per day. Many herbal teas also contain added herbs and supplements, so check the ingredients carefully, and be aware that green tea, while rich in antioxidants, does contain caffeine.
A great alternative is organic rooibos tea: completely caffeine free, it contains calcium, magnesium and loads of antioxidants. It can also help with digestion and reflux, so is a good choice if you suffer from pregnancy-related heartburn.
Yoga, without doubt, can be wonderful in pregnancy. But it’s vital to follow a routine that has been specially designed for pregnancy. Although pregnancy can make us more flexible thanks to the relaxing effects of hormones on our ligaments, this puts us at a higher risk of injury. The poses of a regular yoga practice can also put pressure on your abdominal muscles, risking a diastasis — the term for separation of your abdomen muscles — weakening your body’s ability to carry your baby comfortably and putting you at risk for back problems later on. There are some wonderful pregnancy routines available, and many combine breathing exercises and meditation, all great preparations for labour!
- Shampoo and Conditioner
As the hair follicles are a direct link to our bloodstream, much of what we put on our hair ends up in our bodies — traces of chemical dyes have been found in the urine 20 minutes after application. So many women switch to a natural haircare brand during pregnancy — but its important to check the ingredient listing. Many rely on essential oils and natural ingredients that are not necessarily safe in pregnancy such as neem oil and citral. So it always pays to do your research! Many women swear by using only Marseilles or castile soap to wash their hair, and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda in the US) is another great alternative; just rinse with apple cider vinegar to restore the natural pH balance and give your hair a lovely shine. A great tip is to use bicarbonate of soda (or baking soda in the US) as a DIY dry shampoo — just massage a little into the roots and brush out. Great hair with no chemicals!
- Natural Hair Colourants and Products
If you’ve ditched the chemicals, chances are you’ve also said goodbye to commercial hair dyes with their toxic chemical load. However, not all natural hair care products are necessarily safe for pregnancy: neem oil is a popular ingredient in many conditioning treatments yet can cause miscarriages if taken orally. The same is true for cassia obovata, an all-natural colourless hair treatment often combined with natural dyes to give a blonde sheen to hair. Henna, on the other hand, is widely considered to be safe but best to only use if it if you plan on being a permanent redhead! Camomile tea can also give a temporary blonde sheen safely — just use as a rinse after your conditioner. If you’re desperate, look for an organic, water-based colourant in as light a shade as possible and ideally only apply it to touch up the roots, avoiding contact with the scalp as much as possible.
- Almond Oil
During pregnancy, many mums-to-be switch to an all-natural body oil to keep their skin supple and avoid stretch marks, particularly around the belly. But an Italian study has shown that what we put on our skin may directly affect our pregnancies: women who regularly massaged their bumps with almond oil were shown to be more likely to have early or premature births. So it might be safer to switch to any of the other wonderful alternatives, such as cold pressed coconut oil.
- Bagged Salad
There are so many rules about what you can and can’t eat during pregnancy that it can feel overwhelming. Although there is no official advice in the UK on consuming salads during pregnancy, Spanish women are advised against eating salad products due to the risk of stomach bugs, and a recent study found that bagged salad was a breeding ground for food poisoning bugs, such as salmonella and e-coli. So make sure any leaves you eat are washed thoroughly, regardless of whether they’re pre-washed, and try to eat them on the day you buy them wherever possible.
- Turmeric Latte
The latest health craze has many of us sipping this golden health drink as a healthy alternative to tea and coffee but, while generally thought to be safe in usual food amounts, excessive turmeric may cause uterine contractions and so is best avoided in excess during pregnancy. So you might want to consider skipping the latte, and getting the benefits of turmeric and other spices through a weekly curry instead.