by Karine Vann
The end result of pregnancy is a miracle, but for many women, the journey to get there may not feel like it.
We don’t often talk about it beyond the occasional reference to “morning sickness” (Ha! More like every-second-of-every-day sickness!) but for first time moms, many of the changes our bodies experience can be quite frightening.
In creating the conditions for my son, now three months old, to develop and grow into the little charachichi [troublemaker] he is today, my body changed so much it felt unrecognizable to me. Being pregnant was as though my pre-pregnancy self was on a trip, somewhere far, far away, and in the meantime, I was inhabiting a strange, new body: one which was huge, always hungry and horribly uncomfortable.
Pregnancy is harsher on some bodies than on others and for all our strides in modern medicine, researchers still don’t really know why. In the end, I gained half my pre-pregnancy body weight and I could hardly move from the pain in my hips and joints. There were days I thought, irrationally, I’d be miserable forever. For many women, most of these symptoms, like nausea and joint pain, will be temporary, confined either to a particular trimester or likely to subside once the baby is born. Knowing this, often the best advice doctors can give is to just wait it out.
But 40 weeks is not a short amount of time, and, tormented by their symptoms, many women will seek natural remedies. Before my mother-in-law, Anahit, started Nairian, she had been experimenting with essential oils and aromatherapy because of the nausea and aversions to synthetic smells she experienced in her second pregnancy with her daughter Lilit (who created the illustrations on the products’ packaging—truly a family effort!). It was perhaps her body’s way of firing the alarm bell regarding the safety of these chemicals for the fragile baby growing inside of her.
So it’s a bit poetic to consider that the company borne out of that experience formed a big part of my pregnancy with Anahit’s grandson. For this reason, I’ve put together a few of Anahit’s essential products that got me through the worst of my symptoms. Please keep in mind that every woman’s body is different and will respond in its own unique way to different smells and therapies. What worked for me may not work for you and that’s okay. At the end of the day, I’m here to tell you that I made it out the other side in one piece, and though it may not feel like it now, I promise you will, too.
According to research, approximately 90% of women will experience nausea at some point in their pregnancy. For some, it’s a blip on the radar, and will subside by the end of the first trimester. For others, it can be debilitating, and last the entire duration of their pregnancy. (The latter is symptomatic of a terrible condition called hyperemesis gravidarum, and if you fall into this category, I encourage you to seek help and know that you’re not alone.)
Of all my pregnancy symptoms, this was by far the most frustrating, because there’s not really much you can do until it’s over. Nausea medication prescribed by my doctor helped somewhat, but didn’t totally stop the waves of sickness that accompanied particular smells or tastes. Even smells that Google told me should help, like peppermint and ginger, were intolerable. There were, however, a handful of natural smells that brought me a bit of relief.
One was Nairian’s hair serum, made with essential oils of Damask Rose and Lavender, as well as carrier oils from Rosehip, Jojoba, Sea Buckthorn, Pomegranate, and Castor. This obviously isn’t how this product is advertised to be used, but it’s actually fitting that its aromatic properties have been so healing for me. As I mentioned earlier, Anahit designed each product with aromatherapy in mind, motivated by her own experience with the nausea and aversions of her second pregnancy.
The hair serum, unfortunately, hasn’t arrived in the US yet, but another product I use contains similar properties and that is the Day Serum, which I’ll describe later in the section on Stretch Marks.
Early in my pregnancy—before I even knew I was pregnant in fact—I started finding spots on my usually clear skin. This is a common symptom of pregnancy, and (like pretty much all unwelcome symptoms) is a consequence of the new cocktail of hormones your body is releasing in preparation for growing a child.
Many women will try to tackle this symptom using cleansers and face washes, which contain salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid, which has been studied in pregnancy. High doses of the acid in its oral form (it's an ingredient in aspirin) have been shown in studies to cause birth defects and various pregnancy complications. So when looking for a facial wash or cleanser, make sure it contains no more than 2% salicylic acid.
For me, I used Nairian’s Calendula Cleanser, my all-time favorite product. It contains no salicylic acid or any other harsh components and yet thoroughly cleans the skin while moisturizing it and as its made with citrus peel oil, its smell is incredibly refreshing and healing, and was another smell that provided a pleasant reprieve from my nausea.
After you cleanse, you can apply some gentle Nairian Rose Toner, made with rose water, and moisturize. I use the Firming Cream. If you want to address specific spots, you can apply the Nairian Spot Treatment to the affected area.
One of the greatest fears most women have about their pregnancies is how it will change their bodies for the long run. Some will gain just a few pounds or hardly show. Lucky them. That was not my experience. I gained far more than the doctor’s recommended weight.
Gaining such a large amount of weight in such a short period of time can really do a number on your body’s largest organ, your skin, pulling and stretching it out and creating the conditions for stretch marks to occur. A stretch mark is a type of scar that develops when our skin stretches or shrinks quickly. The abrupt change causes the collagen and elastin, which support our skin, to rupture. As the skin heals, stretch marks may appear.
This is perhaps the area in which Nairian was most useful for me, because nearly every product offers something beneficial. Nairian’s anti-aging line came in quite handy. Both the Firming Cream and the Night Serum are very powerful moisturizing agents that boost collagen production and restore skin elasticity. But depending on the size of your bump, it can require quite a bit of product to cover all the bases, which for me, made those options not so economical. Eventually, I tried out the Ylang Ylang Shower Oil, which I’d use during showers and baths. (I cannot recommend sitz baths highly enough to help soothe achy pregnant lady joints. I used lavender essential oil-infused epsom salts from Epsoak, a brand of San Francisco Salt Co.) When I wasn’t in the shower and wanted to provide a bit of moisture to my belly’s stretched skin, I’d apply some healing Day Serum, which is also part of the anti-aging line, and is jam packed with antioxidants and collagen boosting compounds.
This article focuses on how to use Nairian products to make yourself more comfortable during a special but, all things considered, quite uncomfortable time in life. But it goes without saying that the first person you should be consulting is your doctor or midwife, who can prescribe helpful medications or therapies to help you in your journey, should you need them.
If you are someone who is struggling through a difficult pregnancy, please know that you’re not alone. This Mother’s Day, let’s take a moment to consider both the miracle and the medical reality of childbirth. To all the moms out there, you are heard!
*images courtesy of Karine Vann