Q: I’ve found that I’ve started snoring now that I’m 30 weeks pregnant. Why is this and how can I stop it?
A: Snoring can be particularly troublesome in pregnancy, and by the final trimester you are 3 times more likely to snore. There are several features in pregnancy that increase the likelihood of snoring. Hormone changes dilate blood vessels and swell mucous membranes in your nose, causing congestion and narrowing of nasal passages. And recent research shows that, by the third trimester, increasing weight and a build-up of fat in the tissues of the neck area narrow your airways.
There are several steps you can take to minimise your distress, and help both you and your partner get a good night’s sleep. Raising your head by 4 inches and, of course, sleeping on your side, will help to keep airways open. Help to clear nasal congestion by reducing any potential allergens like dust and pet hair from your bedroom and by inhaling or burning the essential oil myrtle in your room (the sedative effects of this oil will help you sleep too).
The British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Association recommends its product ‘Herbal Snore’, which uses the astringent action of the herb euphrasia to tighten mucous membranes and reduce congestion. This spray has undergone extensive trials by the British Medical Herbal Association and is safe to use in pregnancy.
Q: My feet have become very swollen and achy during the third trimester, and sometimes it can be hard to squeeze them into shoes. Can you recommend any treatments to help soothe them?
A: Hormonal changes that dilate your blood vessels, coupled with the extra weight of your baby in late pregnancy, often mean that the circulation in the lower half of your body has to work doubly hard to move fluid back up your legs.
The key to relieving the aching and swelling in your feet is improving this circulation. Gentle forms of exercise, including walking and swimming, work well. If you sit down or stand for long periods then you need to stretch your legs, curling your ankles and toes regularly. Reflexology is wonderful for increasing circulation and relieving swollen limbs. Your therapist will relax the muscles in your feet as well as using reflex zones to balance your body, improving your general health.
You can also massage your legs at home. Start at the top of your leg and work the fluid up from your knees to your groin. You’ve then created a space that the fluid from your lower leg and feet and move into, without creating extra congestion around your knees. Use one drop of geranium oil in a teaspoon of your carrier oil to assist the circulation.
An additional approach is to use a cooling footbath, adding a few drops of geranium oil or flower essences such as Rescue or Emergency Essence, to lighten your feet.
Q: Is it important to use organic cosmetics while pregnant? I never have before, but I’ve read that chemicals can find their way into your bloodstream through your skin so I am wondering whether it might be safer to use natural products while pregnant.
A: Most beauty products are designed to be absorbed as much as possible, so it’s not surprising that some chemicals do enter the bloodstream. Your baby is protected to some extent by your placenta, which filters out a large number of harmful chemicals, but research has shown that some substances can cross the placenta.
In order to minimise your baby’s exposure to chemicals, use the following guidelines. Soaps, shampoos, deodorants, make-up and perfumes contain preservatives that are known to cause allergies like eczema and asthma, so look out for these of you have a family tendency towards allergies. Avoid products containing parabens, phthalates and parfum. According to the Women’s Environmental Network (WEN), some parabens are oestrogen mimics, which readily penetrate the skin. Investigations into phthalates, meanwhile, suggest these can cause premature birth. Finally, parfum, or synthetic fragrances found in most cosmetics contain persistent or allergenic chemicals that build up in our systems over time.
Also, some sunscreens use titanium dioxide, which can enter the lymphatic system via the skin.
Experts are divided about just how damaging these chemicals are, and point out that they have been used for years. But to err on the side of caution, companies like Green People and Green Baby offer organic beauty products that can be used safely in pregnancy.
Q: I’m a big fan of natural beauty products, but many of these contain essential oils. I know that certain oils aren’t safe to use during pregnancy, so which should I make sure I avoid?
A: There are many fantastic natural beauty products on the market, and the key to using ones that are safe is to pick products that are specifically designed for use during pregnancy, as these will have been tried and tested, and should only contain essential oils that are considered safe during pregnancy.
Some oils should never be used in pregnancy as they considered too toxic, and could harm mother and baby. These include peppermint, sage, basil, cedarwood, myrrh, cinnamon and clove.
Be particularly careful of the products that claim to be invigorating or detoxifying. Shower gels, cellulite creams and toning products often contain oils that increase your circulation, however, your lymphatic system is already making an extra effort to deal with extra fluid in your body during pregnancy and these oils could overload your system, leaving you with headaches, nausea, or feeling groggy or tired.
Don’t let this dissuade you from using natural products in your pregnancy though. Oils such as neroli, sandalwood and petitgrain are safe throughout pregnancy and can really help to balance your emotions at this time. Products containing citrus oil, including grapefruit and lemon, are a good choice in pregnancy to relax and refresh without overloading you or your baby.
I would suggest you either find an Aromatherapist who specialises in pregnancy and can make some bespoke products, or you could look into brands who have developed products specifically for pregnancy: Earth Mother, Dr Hauschka, Selph and Ren.