Kylie Jenner pregnancy: Irish doctor on whether hair dye, lip fillers and eye creams are safe in pregnancy
Mums-to-be get conflicting advice on everything from hair dye to alcohol to filllers. Meadhbh McGrath asks the experts what's safe and what's not?
No sooner does a woman announce her pregnancy than she finds herself bombarded with a vast list of all the things she must cut out of her life for the next nine months. Over the weekend, reports emerged that Kylie Jenner, the 20-year-old make-up mogul and youngest member of the Kardashian dynasty, is expecting her first child. She has yet to speak out about the news (although her father, Caitlyn Jenner, has confirmed the pregnancy), but that didn't stop 'experts' from instructing her to stop getting dermal lip fillers and using her favourite cosmetics.
The advice around everything from smoking to sushi to stiletto heels is constantly changing, and earlier this month, a study in the British Medical Journal Open review revealed there is little evidence that light drinking in pregnancy causes harm to babies, despite years of existing recommendations. We spoke to Dr Florencia Steinvarcel, Consultant Gynaecologist at Dublin fertility clinic Sims, about the latest thinking on what is and isn't safe when you're expecting.
Alcohol and Cigarettes
"It's true that high intake of alcohol is related to many different conditions - it can increase the risk of miscarriage and the baby can have different defects - but only in cases where women drink heavily," says Dr Steinvarcel.
"For people drinking low amounts, it's not dangerous." She adds that there are studies to suggest wine can be beneficial for the heart and blood circulation, in the same ways it can benefit older people. "But I never recommend it to patients," she notes. "Patients ask can they have a glass of wine at a wedding or Christmas, and of course they can. It's about using our common sense - not getting drunk, but a glass of wine is not going to cause any problems with the baby."
Where it will cause problems, she explains, is during breastfeeding. New mums may be more relaxed about having a beer, but the alcohol passes into the milk, so Dr Steinvarcel says it should be avoided entirely.
Smoking should also be avoided, although we are still awaiting concrete evidence about the effects of e-cigarettes. "From the reports we have at the moment, we know that e-cigarettes could be harmful. The number of toxic substances is not as high as normal cigarettes, but it can still create alterations in the placentation, and can increase the risk of hypertension during pregnancy, pre-eclampsia, pre-term deliveries and bleedings during the pregnancy."
"Many of the recommendations with regards to foods - for example, don't eat sushi - have no sense to them at all. If the fish hasn't been frozen before you eat it, it can give pregnant women very bad infections, but that could happen to any of us," she explains. "If a patient asks me if they can eat sushi, I tell them yes, as long as you choose a place where you know they're making it properly."
Some women may be worried about drinking water from the tap, but this too is an issue of quality. If the water isn't being treated properly, it can contain hormones or aluminium, which she says is very toxic. She recommends contacting your local authority to have your water tested.
As for coffee, one a day is the limit, and the same applies to fizzy drinks and even black tea, which contains another stimulant, tannin.
The use of dermal fillers and pregnancy hasn't been studied, but Dr Steinvarcel advises against any non-surgical cosmetic procedures. "I would tell patients to delay it and have it done afterwards," she says. "It's the same with tattoos. Sometimes when we experience high levels of pain, we produce substances in our body to target the pain, and those substances can induce contractions in a pregnant woman. Probably nothing is going to happen, but I would encourage the patient to delay the treatment."
Hair dye is safe during pregnancy, as are manicures and pedicures, including gel or acrylic nail treatments, but should be limited to once every month or two. Laser hair removal and waxing get the go-ahead, although she warns that skin can be more sensitive so it may be more painful.
It is dangerous, she notes, to use beauty or skincare products containing retinol (vitamin A), a popular anti-ageing ingredient. In large doses, vitamin A is teratogenic, meaning it can disturb the development of a foetus.
While everyone should be avoiding tanning beds, sunbathing is safe, so long as you wear sun protection. "Because of the hormones produced during pregnancy, it's very common to get a very dark line in the middle of your body which might not look very nice," she says. The hormonal changes also mean skin is more prone to irregular patches on the face, particularly above the upper lip, so crank up the SPF to avoid a dark moustache effect.
Stiletto heels are fine, although come with an obvious risk of falls. "It's better to have a little heel rather than very flat shoes. A mid heel can even help the circulation in the legs, which can be a problem for pregnant women," she says.
There has been some scaremongering around underwired bras, but Dr Steinvarcel says they are fine. Very tight bras should be avoided by women planning to breastfeed, as milk production can be reduced when pressure is applied to the breasts.
"For someone who usually runs marathons every month, I would say run half of it, but that's based on nothing but common sense. I couldn't recommend high-impact activities like boxing or skiing, because they could increase risk of injury," she says. "But if you're having normal exercise five times a week, you can do everything: spinning, running, lifting weights. Some people think if you work on abdominals you increase the risk of miscarriage, but that's not true."
There have been reports that activity trackers that use Bluetooth or wi-fi technology can be dangerous. "That's not really an issue, the wi-fi is everywhere now so we can't escape from that," she says.
In the home
For years, the microwave was an appliance to be feared by pregnant women. But Dr Steinvarcel says the emissions are no more harmful during pregnancy than at any other time.
It's the same story with the fumes from household cleaning products or paint - being exposed to them for long periods can be dangerous for anyone. But you might have an excuse for skipping the ironing, she says: "One of the most common accidents we see is women who have burns from ironing. Because your body is growing and you don't have a lot of sense of your new size, you touch the iron with your bump because you don't realise it's so big."
One of the concerns that remains valid applies to cat owners. Cats can pick up infections from a parasite called toxoplasma, which can be passed to their owners through their faeces in a litter box.
"In adults, the infection is very banal, in many cases it's like a cold and nothing else. But if you're pregnant, it could cause very significant damages to your baby," says Dr Steinvarcel. "The chances of having that infection during a pregnancy are very low, especially if you have a cat at home. But if you know that the cat usually goes out and is in contact with other cats outside, in that case the recommendation would be not to clean the cat's litter box while you are pregnant, just to be safe. The risk is very low, but it's better to avoid that."