Pregnancy life – your questions solved

When is it safe to fly? How do you tackle exhaustion? Our GP helps you handle pregnancy by answering your queries

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Working full time can add to your exhaustion

Q:  My sister says I should stop getting my hair dyed now that I’m pregnant. Is she right?

A: Theoretically, some of the chemicals in hair dye can harm your baby. However, the doses you’d need are probably vastly higher than the amount in an application of hair dye, either permanent and semi-permanent. To be on the safe side, its worth avoiding hair dye in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. If you do want to dye after this, use gloves, do it in a well ventilated room with a window open, so you breathe in as few of the fumes as possible, and leave the dye on for as little time as possible. You may want to consider a vegetable dye like henna as a safer alternative. Highlighting is also an option, as the chemicals don’t touch your scalp and therefore can’t get into your bloodstream this way.

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Q: I’m 18 weeks pregnant and working full time, and I’m feeling exhausted! Is there anything I can do to boost my energy levels?

A: Tiredness is most common in the first and last trimesters, but it’s not at all uncommon in the middle. Pregnancy is a huge change, and it may just be your body’s way of telling you to slow down. It’s worth getting a blood test done, though – anaemia is extremely common in pregnancy, or you could also be suffering from an underactive thyroid gland. You also need to have a test to exclude diabetes, which can start in pregnancy and can cause tiredness. You may be surprised to hear that one of the best solutions to tiredness is regular exercise. Don’t work out too close to bedtime, though – it can cause a natural high, which will stop you getting to sleep. If you’re sleeping well at night, there’s nothing wrong with a daytime nap. But if your tiredness is due to poor sleep at night (another of the joys of pregnancy!) daytime naps can make sleeping at night harder. Put your feet up instead.

Q: My partner organised a rip for us to visit my family in Ireland a while ago but we have since discovered I am pregnant. I will be 17 weeks pregnant when we are due to travel. Is it too much of a risk to fly, even though it’s such a short flight?

A: The safety of flying in pregnancy is a common query – especially among first-time mothers keen to get in a last child-free holiday! Fortunitely for you, evidence shows that flying in the middle trimester (from about 14 weeks to 28) is perfectly safe, especially on short-haul flights. Long-haul flights are a little more risky, however – your chance of having deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot on the leg) is about 12 times higher when you’re pregnant than when you’re not, and this risk may be increased by a long plane journey.

In the last trimester, most airlines will let you fly short distances if you’re fewer than 36 weeks pregnant and long distances, up to 32 weeks. Some airlines insist on a certificate from your doctor confirming you’re fit to fly, especially after 28 weeks.

Q: I am 31 weeks pregnant (and very happy) with my first child, and although I have a lot of support from family and friends, I keep having awful thoughts on how to stop the whole process and wanting my life to go back to normal. Is this a bad sign?

A: Not remotely – unless discovering you’re human is a bad sign! Pregnancy is a major life event, and you’re about to go through huge numbers of changes. Of course, many, if not most, of these are positive and exciting – like becoming a ‘proper’ family instead of a person or a couple. But that doesn’t stop them from being changes. Even if you thought you’d considered every eventuality carefully before you got pregnant, it’s impossible to imagine exactly how you’ll feel until you actually are. Most women say that until then, the whole thing doesn’t feel ‘real’. And facing the reality of the major adjustments you’ll be making is always going to make you question your decision a bit.

Of course, on top of all the social and domestic changes on the horizon, your body is going through major physical changes too. That in itself can take a lot of getting used to, and make you feel vulnerable. As if that weren’t enough, your body’s hormones are running wild, making most women feel more emotional. This can manifest itself as anything from bursting into tears to snapping at loved one for minor reasons. The good news is that most women find that their concerns melt away once pregnancy is over. However, postnatal blues, and postnatal depression do happen. So make sure you have plenty of support in the early months.

Q: Could you tell me which insect repellents are safe to use while pregnant?

A: I’m afraid you’re now doubly tasty to mosquitoes! Not only do pregnant women tend to be hotter (and mosquitoes are attracted by body heat) but they also breathe faster, breathing out carbon dioxide, which also attracts mosquitoes.

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Most of the common insect repellents contain a chemical called DEET. There’s no evidence to suggest that sprays containing DEET are harmful for your baby, as long as you use them in the recommended way (and wash your hands afterwards). But if you want a natural alternative, skin lotion with citronella oil is worth a try.

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