Expert Opinion:

If you’ve just discovered you’re pregnant, one of your first concerns might be whether or not it’s safe for you to work in a nail salon with all of the chemicals and other potential hazards. According to board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist Marjorie Greenfield, M.D., there is no clear-cut answer to this question. It’s difficult to measure exposures because they vary based on what the nail tech is doing at any given time. Greenfield urges expectant mothers to use common sense. “Check specific chemicals on your salon’s SDS to read about risks and handling, and make decisions based upon how you feel,” she says. “It’s common for fumes to make a woman nauseated in the first trimester of pregnancy, but if a chemical is making you feel woozy, it’s probably best to avoid it altogether.” She also urges pregnant nail techs to make sure they are in a well-ventilated area, to avoid soaking skin in any chemicals (gloves are a good option), and to consider wearing a mask to keep from breathing in debris.  

Wearing a mask may also help with nausea. “Nausea tends to peak around nine to 10 weeks, but usually gets better in a month or two,” says Greenfield. She also suggests packing your lunch and healthy snacks, not only for better nutrition, but to keep nausea at bay. “Never keep your stomach too full or too empty. Grazing all day will keep nausea down and blood sugar levels stable,” Greenfield explains. “Many women find that nibbling on dry cereal like Cheerios or crackers really helps with nausea. Your overall diet should include lots of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and lots of calcium in the form of low-fat dairy (if you can tolerate it).”

Back strain from sitting down all day can also be a concern for moms-to-be, so be sure to get up at least every two hours and try to walk and stretch for five to 10 minutes. If the weather is good, it’s a great idea to walk around and get some fresh air, but avoid the outdoors if conditions are icy or slippery, especially if you are far along in your pregnancy and could easily lose your balance and fall.
Once your baby has arrived and you’ve returned to work, be sure to find a clean, private, relaxing place to pump breast milk. And don’t let anyone relegate you to the bathroom to pump if you aren’t comfortable there. “If you wouldn’t prepare food there, don’t pump there,” Greenfield advises. “Pumping is not just mechanical; there’s an emotional component involved. Because the milk letdown is related to the love hormones, you really have to be thinking about your baby. You might want to look at your baby’s photo or hold an article of her clothing or something to get into the frame of mind to have a good experience.”

Tech Tips: 

I worked until two weeks before my due date and did acrylic nails and pedicures. I made sure to have good ventilation and I used a chemical extractor on my desk. Pedicures were definitely a challenge closer to my due date; having a pedi stool with a back helped. Breaks to walk around were key.
Heather Curtis, Sheer Bliss Hair and Nails, Craig, Colo.

I went through my first five months with terrible morning sickness. Thankfully, I have wonderful clients, bosses, and co-workers who completely understood what I was going through — I actually had to stop in the middle of doing clients’ nails to run to the bathroom to throw up regularly. I kept sleeves of premium crackers and PowerAde in my station, but I did end up going on an anti-nausea pill. It helped to not eat much until after 12 p.m., and so did napping between clients in the waxing rooms. As I got over the nausea and my belly got bigger, my concern was back pain. I handled that by making sure I used a specific chair with back support at all times. Overcoming tiredness was an issue for me as well, but I found again, after the morning sickness was over, a nice cup of hot lemon-ginger tea in the morning, snacking on veggies throughout the entire day, and lots of water helped incredibly!
Samantha Turkovics, Red Door Lounge, Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada

Suggested Reading: The Working Woman’s Pregnancy Book
Board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist Marjorie Greenfield, M.D. guides you through your nine months and beyond, addressing the special needs and concerns of the 60%-80% of women who work through their pregnancies.

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