You may feel like a zombie for most of the nine months that you're growing another human in your uterus, but that's no excuse to look like one, is it?
Well, most pregnant women would disagree – I know I did, desperate as I was for any scrap of energy to get me through the day, let alone pass a brush through my tangled hair. But for those few times that I did make the effort to improve the reflection staring back at me in the mirror, I was rewarded by an uplifting sense of confidence. There's nothing like making a little effort to feel good about yourself and miraculously feel better about your endless list of pregnancy woes. Here, we pick our top six pregnancy lifesavers:
1 The first thing you will need to get through your pregnancy is some sort of a solution for the terrible hair days you are inevitably going to have (unless you're the type with perfect, smooth, silky, healthy, glowing hair, in which case you can stop reading).
You will need hats, caps, scarves and turbans to cover the grey that you'll be told you can't dye, and the strange, frizzy baby hairs that have suddenly decided to grow, giving you an uncanny resemblance to Einstein, or someone who has just been electrocuted.
No amount of hair creams, anti-frizz treatments, hair oils or prayer will calm your hair down – the best advice we can offer is to forego the ponytail and bun for now and leave your hair down to minimise the face-framing hairs standing on end. But if it's a product you're looking for, it can't hurt to try John Frieda's Frizz-Ease Curl Perfecting Spray - I get mine from any Boots pharmacy.
2 Don't underestimate the healing power of a beauty treatment. There are many that obviously are not safe to indulge in, such as a vigorous Moroccan bath or a chemical facial, but a pregnancy treatment will leave you glowing and relaxed.
At Sisters Beauty Lounge in Abu Dhabi, the Thai beautician Joon uses organic products for an excellent body scrub and a magical facial that are gentle on a pregnant woman.
Most spas have a pregnancy massage on their menu, and my favourite is the one at the Zen Spa in Abu Dhabi's Beach Rotana hotel: you can opt for the 60-minute or 90-minute massage.
After a day of shopping at Dubai Mall – and we do applaud you if your pregnancy allows enough energy to tackle that huge shopping centre – head to the spa at The Address hotel. It boasts a couple of treatments for mothers-to-be, such as the 60-minute Rose Hydrating Cocoon that will exfoliate and massage skin, and the 25-minute Rose Leg and Foot Refresher to boost circulation.
3 You'll notice that your doctor's main piece of advice is to drink plenty of water and fluids. I do that by taking advantage of the inexpensive, fresh fruit juices available in small shops and cafes all over the UAE. I also bought a colourful water bottle so I can encourage myself to keep drinking. But sometimes, despite your attempts to stay hydrated, lips continue to remain dry and chapped. Make sure you're never far from your favourite lip balm, whether it's something as simple as petroleum jelly or my personal favourite: Smith's Minted Rose Lip Balm.
4 Avoiding stretch marks is every pregnant woman's hope, so keep your skin well moisturised and you might be one of the lucky ones. Cowshed's Udderly Gorgeous Stretch Mark Balm promises to "deeply moisturise the skin, helping to encourage epidermal elasticity".
I really hope this is true because I've been slathering it on every evening, hoping it'll prevent those dreaded stretch marks from making an appearance. So far, so good, and it smells so wonderful. I got mine at Sisters Beauty Lounge. Alternatively, any of the body creams from The Body Shop should work as well, just as long as you keep the moisturising regimen up daily.
5 Foot massages will become your new best friend (as well the husband who must generously provide them). Buy a good foot cream; I keep it simple and use Heel Balm, available at most pharmacies. To be honest, though, any moisturising cream will do. This will become your favourite indulgence once the third trimester strikes: for five minutes, have the father-to-be slather some of that cream on your swollen feet and massage them, giving you an all-round kneading. Get him to work deeply on the tissues at the top of the feet, firmly moving his fingers up and down the spaces between the bones.
6 If you're one of the unlucky ones experiencing a ghastly number of breakouts during pregnancy, try the Éminence Organic Skin Care line. The Herbal Spot Serum worked on my zits when nothing else would. It comes in a small 30ml bottle and will go a long way because you only need a drop or two of the mild-smelling solution on a problem area every night; by the morning, any angry swelling should have subsided. In all cases, find a solution that works for you. Sometimes, that "glow" that is supposed to accompany pregnancy has to be helped along.
Dr Tom Mammone, the executive director of skin physiology and pharmacology at Clinique, offers some safe skincare tips for pregnant women:
Pregnancy can be a common trigger for pigmentation spots, which are called melasma or chloasma. These spots appear symmetrically on the upper lip, cheekbones and the lower chin in women over 20. The general understanding is that the condition is triggered by hormonal changes and exacerbated by UV exposure. There is also a type that occurs only during pregnancy or when taking birth control pills and other medications that affect hormones. In the latter case, the discolouration will usually disappear after the baby is born or the person stops taking the medication. If your main concern is uneven skin tone or spots caused by hyper-pigmentation because of non-hereditary causes such as sun, irritation, scarring, or pregnancy, then Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector, which targets hyper-pigmentation, is appropriate for you.