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Now that you're expecting, your medicine cabinet probably looks a little different. (Goodbye birth control, hello hemorrhoid cream.) Find out all about the products you might need, and which are safe, during pregnancy. You can also click here for a printable list of these essential items.
Soothe the itch of stretching skin with a rich oil or lotion. If your skin – or sense of smell – is extra sensitive these days, go for a scent-free product. For an even bigger aaaah factor, chill the moisturizer in the fridge.
Soft toothbrush and good floss
Soaring progesterone levels can make your gums more sensitive and prone to pregnancy gingivitis. Unchecked gingivitis can turn into periodontitis, a much more serious gum disease, so you'll want to give your gums thorough but tender care, with an extra-soft toothbrush.
Daily flossing is your second weapon against pregnancy gingivitis. If flossing your back teeth triggers a hypersensitive gag reflex, try an interdental flosser – these small gadgets help you get between teeth without putting your fingers in the back of your mouth.
Panty liners and breast pads
Not all women need them, but panty liners discreetly handle all sorts of pregnancy drips, from heavier vaginal discharge to possible urine leakage when you laugh, cough, or sneeze.
Same goes for breast pads: Some expecting moms start leaking colostrum, the antibody-rich first milk, in the last few months of pregnancy. If this happens to you, breast pads can protect your clothes and prevent any awkward wet spots.
Morning sickness soothers
One woman's go-to remedy may do nothing to quell your queasiness, so if you're suffering from morning sickness you'll probably need to experiment to find something that works for you. Popular ones to try: ginger candies or tea, pregnancy lollipops and suckers, vitamin B6, and acupressure bands.
Prenatal vitamins: These contain folic acid and iron, two nutrients that are important for pregnancy but hard to get enough of through diet alone. They've got the right amount of other vitamins and minerals for pregnancy as well.
Omega-3 vitamins: The omega-3 fatty acid called DHA is important for your baby's brain, nerve, and eye development – and it's not in your regular prenatal vitamin. Experts recommend getting between 200 and 300 milligrams of DHA daily during pregnancy. You'd have to eat a good amount of cold water fish and other DHA-rich foods to get that amount through diet, so check with your doctor about taking a supplement.
A calcium supplement: If you're not getting 1,000 milligrams a day – equivalent to three to four 8-ounce servings of yogurt or milk – you may want to check with your doctor about taking a calcium supplement in your second trimester, when calcium begins building up your baby's bones. Otherwise, you won't replace what your baby takes from you, increasing your risk for osteoporosis later in life. Look for a product labeled lead-free that contains calcium carbonate, the form your body most easily absorbs.
Many women first experience the fiery discomfort of heartburn in the second half of pregnancy. There's no cure other than delivery, but some over-the-counter meds are safe, providing you get your caregiver's okay first.
Combine slower digestion with a growing uterus that crowds your digestive tract, and you may wind up with epic constipation. If more water, exercise, and fiber-rich foods don't do the trick, fiber supplements are safe to use when you're pregnant -- every day, if needed -- and may help prevent hemorrhoids. Stool softeners are generally considered okay to use, but check in with your doctor before you start taking any.
The same culprit behind your constipation – higher progesterone levels – can be blamed for making you more bloated and gassy than you've ever been in your life. An over-the-counter medication with simethicone will help you feel fit to be in public again; just make sure to get your caregiver's okay first.
Constipation and pressure from your growing uterus make you more prone to hemorrhoids. Medicated wipes are safe for pregnancy, as are some creams and suppositories. Some women find witch hazel pads also spell hemorrhoid relief, and they may do double-duty in fighting pregnancy acne.
Yeast infection treatment
Yeast infections can be another not-so-fun side effect of pregnancy, but luckily, there are many pregnancy-safe creams or suppositories to help you fight the dreaded itch. Just make sure to check in with your caregiver first, to find out whether a yeast infection's really what's causing your symptoms.
There's plenty to keep you up at night these days – discomfort, frequent bathroom trips, heartburn, and middle-of-the-night anxiety attacks about finances, for starters. No wonder more than three-quarters of pregnant women experience insomnia. When you need some rest, there are a few sleep aids that are generally considered safe for occasional use. As with any medication, though, check with your caregiver first.
Pain reliever and fever reducer
Many of these medications, like aspirin or ibuprofen, are off-limits during pregnancy, but acetaminophen is a safe way to treat pain, headache, and fever. Just make sure you follow the dosage instructions on the label.
Pregnancy can worsen allergies, or even make you allergic to substances that never bothered you before. Doctors prefer you to avoid medications during the first trimester as much as possible, but later on you can consult your caregiver about a safe allergy treatment. (Note: Many women get a stuffy nose during pregnancy without having a cold or allergies. If you don't have any symptoms besides congestion, you may have "rhinitis of pregnancy.")
Getting sick while pregnant is extra miserable. Some cold drugs are safe for pregnancy and some aren't. Because most cold medications contain several drugs to treat different symptoms, you'll need to read labels carefully. See the full list of what's okay and what to avoid.
Nose care products
Saline spray or drops can help you clear out your schnoz and breathe a little easier whether you have a cold, allergies, or just a stuffy nose. And unlike a decongestant spray, you don't need to get your doctor's okay to use it.
Petroleum jelly or a water-based nasal lubricant (available over the counter from pharmacies) can help avoid another common side effect of pregnancy: nosebleeds. They're more likely to occur if the membranes inside your nose get dry, so in parched environments – cold weather, airplanes, high altitudes, and the like – dab a little lubricant in your nose.
Pregnancy hormones can make your eyes feel more dry and irritated. Some over-the-counter dry-eye drops are fine, while others contain ingredients that aren't proven safe for pregnancy, so ask your doctor for a recommendation.
Heat isn't a proven therapy for pregnancy aches such as low back pain, but some women find it helps. Heating pads, hot water bottles, and microwavable heating packs are all safe options.
Hormonal changes give some lucky women a clear "pregnancy glow" but leave many others with more pimples than they've seen since puberty. Over-the-counter products containing alpha-hydroxy acids or glycolic acid are safe for pregnancy and may help control breakouts. If not, visit a dermatologist for stronger (but still baby-safe) options. Learn more about pregnancy-safe skin care.
If you're suffering from acne, foundation or concealer can even out your skin tone. It's also a great remedy for other pregnancy skin woes such as dark splotches, rashes, or broken capillaries. Many stores offer free samples, so feel free to try before you buy.
It's always recommended, but using sunscreen during pregnancy can prevent or minimize blotchy areas of skin darkening, known as the "mask of pregnancy." Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of 30 or higher. Then wear it every day -- clouds or shine.
If you've suddenly got more hair than you know what to do with, and not much time or energy to style it, hair clips, bands, combs, and pins can come in handy. Once you get the hang of it, a casually elegant updo (think French twist, messy bun) only takes a minute.
Hair removal product
The good news: Higher estrogen levels slow down the natural shedding of hairs, giving you a thicker head of hair. The bad news: You may notice more hair sprouting on your face or body, too. Waxing, tweezing, and shaving are all safe, but experts recommend staying away from bleaches and depilatories for now, since you may absorb the chemicals through your skin.
A word of warning: Some women find waxing more painful while pregnant, so you may want to avoid more sensitive areas and try a test patch first.