By Ankita A Talwar
It is a no-brainer that hygiene, at any given point of time, is an important part of self-care but this mundane routine comes into spotlight during pregnancy. This is because, during pregnancy, the woman’s body undergoes many hormonal changes. These can lead to extra sweating, discharge in the vagina, less lubrication, nipple leaks and more, varying in outcomes and intensity in each pregnant mom. Besides, since doctors prefer restraint when it comes to prescribing infection fighting drugs during pregnancy, an onset of any infection can cause discomfort, even leading to complications.
We rounded up experts-Dr Swati Mittal, Senior Consultant Gynaecologist and Obstretician, Fortis Hospital, Gurgaon and Dr Seema Oberoi Lall, Senior Dermatologist-to know about how to maintain hygiene during pregnancy.
Maintaining vaginal hygiene
Pregnant women experience increased vaginal discharge which sometimes stimulates bacterial growth. It can lead to ‘bacterial vaginatis’ and, if left untreated, can cause complications for the mother and get passed onto the infant during delivery. A simple solution to maintaining your personal hygiene is wearing only pure cotton undergarments, avoiding very tight jeans or pants to maintain air circulation between your clothing and skin. This will keep your vagina dry and limit bacterial growth. Change your undergarments as many times as you wish since keeping yourself dry should be the topmost priority. During the last few months, with the enlarged uterus pressing down on the bladder, if episodes of urine leak occur, use a panty liner that you can change every two to three hours.
Also, wash yourself well with plain water and avoid any unnecessary products on your vagina, including harsh soaps, since they can disturb the pH balance that is very essential for good vaginal health. Trimming of pubic hair is advised over waxing or using epilator creams to limit any chance of injury or allergic reactions.
Experts do not recommend use of any OTC lactic acid or lactoserum-based vaginal washes. Douching (practice of cleaning vagina aggressively with specialised products) is definitely a no-no since any change in the delicate chemical balance in the vagina and the vaginal flora can create more trouble than good. If you notice an odour or unpleasantness, it is best to consult your gynaecologist.
Maintaining breast hygiene
Different women report varied experiences during their pregnancies and some start experiencing breast leaks. This is mostly the colostrum or initial milk. Again, keeping yourself dry is important. Wipe away (do not rub since rubbing can damage the delicate skin of the nipple) any fluid as many times as needed. Wear cotton undergarments and use breast pads if need be. For itchy, dry or sore nipples, gently apply any light oil at home but avoid massaging your breasts. Massaging can lead to stimulation of the mammary glands and aggravate the problem further.
Maintaining oral hygiene
An increase in estrogen during pregnancy can lead to inflammation of the gums and cause pain and frequent bleeding. Add to it the elevated levels of progesterone that come with pregnancy and you may be the perfect breeding ground for the bacteria present in plaque, which can cause gingivitis. According to the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine, the bacteria that cause inflammation in the gums can get into the bloodstream and reach the foetus, in many cases leading to low-birth weight babies. So, in case of any gum condition, take it seriously and schedule an appointment with a dentist.
Maintaining skin and hair hygiene
With your skin sweating more than usual during pregnancy, due to hormonal changes, chances of catching skin infections are on the rise. Also, as the pregnancy progresses, women gain weight leading to multiple folds in the body. This demands more focused attention from you towards ensuring that the skin in between the folds is dry at all times to inhibit infection. Experts suggest using mild soaps and shampoos to keep your skin and hair problem-free. Also, though the jury is out on this one, it is advised that women stay away from chemicals such as hair colours or other hair straightening/chemical treatments. The logic behind it being that since the skin is more sensitive during pregnancy, chemical products can sometimes cause an exaggerated allergic reaction which then becomes a major concern for both the doctor and the mom-to-be.