The worst tests for bipolar

So this question of bipolar disorder has reared it’s head again and I *still* don’t know if I actually have it or not. It’s very frustrating to not know what’s wrong with you except that you know you don’t function properly. I had post-natal depression 100% but when I look at the mood scale from Bipolar UK I literally only fluctuate between a 7 and a 3 most of the time.

Which I don’t think is necessarily clinically significant to necessitate a BD diagnosis. I also don’t have underlying “phases” (usually… that PND really brought this home to me). There’s some evidence that ADHD’s hyperactive side can look a lot like hypomania and there’s little to separate them.

As a side-note, I feel like that mood scale linked above ought to be mandatory for everyone who is trying to mood chart because without it you’re trying to draw a map without a key. I now know why I failed at mood charting back in 2015.

While I’m waiting to get hold of a psychiatrist (again… RIP salary), I looked online and basically all the “test yourself for bipolar” quizzes go like this:

  1. Have you had mania? (well, duh, if I knew the answer to this I’d surely know if I had bipolar)
  2. Have you had hypomania? (gosh golly, if I knew the answer to this surely I’d already have a diagnosis… the nuances of hypomania and the difference between hypomanic symptoms and a hypomanic episode are utterly lost on some people)
  3. Have you had depression? (again, what counts as clinical depression and if it’s very obviously Post Natal Depression or Complex Grief, do those count or not?)
  4. Insert a bunch more questions to make it look like we didn’t half-ass this quiz
  5. Give us your email address so we can harass you forevermore send you your results.

The cyclothymia tests are actually nonexistent. Indeed, it seems no two clinicians can agree upon what cyclothymia actually is. I did read a really good chapter on it in “The treatment of bipolar disorder” published by Oxford University Press. That chapter is basically the only thing I’ve seen that actually makes sense of cyclothymia as a clinical entity.

The best part is, cyclothymia is milder than bipolar disorder (but still comes with suicide impulsivity) yet despite the fact that it’s generally agreed these days that people with bipolar don’t always need lifelong meds, the NHS guidelines say people with cyclothymia need to be on meds (that aren’t even approved for use for cyclothymia because literally nothing is) for the rest of their life.

Whut?

“In case it develops into full-blown bipolar.”

Riiiiiiight.

So they’re proposing I take very serious meds that will take years off my life when I don’t actually need them, despite the fact that the latest research says people with cyclothymia have a distinctly different set of debilitating symptoms than people with bipolar, it’s not just “soft bipolar” as some idiot clinicians call it, and never mind that people with cyclothymia are very sensitive to meds in general.

Frustratingly, the NHS can say whatever they want about cyclothymia because there are no NICE guidelines for it. That’s right. NICE recognizes cyclothymia but couldn’t be bothered to actually write any guidelines for how to define, diagnose or treat it, and they clearly state multiple times in their bipolar guidelines that they are not dealing with cyclothymia.

My current therapist is adamant I have bipolar, she doesn’t seem to know what cyclothymia is, she has dismissed ADHD as “not relevant” to my problems, and she seems to think I have no insight which makes no sense because everyone else I’ve ever seen always tells me I have lots of insight into my condition.

This whole thing is such a mess. And my husband, the biggest voice of doubt, keeps saying “I don’t think you have bipolar” like, do I need to borrow an elephant with “she has bipolar” written on the side of… of… those rug things elephants wear?! And does anyone know what those rug things are called?

Arrrgh how did I end up here again with the bipolar stuff? Should I be on meds? Who knows! I wish Blahpolar was still here because I know she would have talked this through with me and helped me work out where to go from here.

Or maybe she would have just made an appropriately-timed bipolar vegetable joke.

That would also help.

To be fair, I wish she was still here even if she never liked or commented on anything I ever wrote again.

Easy breastmilk soap recipe

Do you have excess breastmilk or oversupply of breastmilk? Perhaps you are looking for a way to preserve your breastmilk or turn it into a beautiful gift? If you’re anything like me, after six months or a year of breastfeeding, you have a freezer full of breastmilk and you want to do something with that liquid gold!

A breastmilk pendant is a beautiful idea but let’s be fair, it doesn’t use much of that milk. You’ll still have boatloads of the stuff left!

In New York beauty salons, breastmilk is seen as the “miracle ingredient” that can work wonders for your skin. People pay hundreds of dollars for breastmilk facials. Midwives often tell new mothers to put breastmilk on their sore nipples in the early days because of its amazing moisturising properties.

I have so much milk sitting around. I tried giving it away to hungry babies three months ago, and I didn’t get any takers in my small country. Instead, I decided to try turning it into various beauty products. Some came out better than others. Don’t make the mistakes I did. If you’re looking for a really quick and easy thing to do with your leftover breastmilk, here’s a fabulous simple melt and pour breastmilk soap recipe.

It uses something called melt and pour soap base, which is ready made for you to turn into soap. All you have to do is follow this easy breastmilk recipe to get the most creamy and cleansing bars of soap you ever tried! It’s also sulphate free and paraben free!

You will need:

A silicone soap mould I have these ones but you can get identical ones in the US here.

Stephenson’s melt and pour SLS free soap base available in the US here or here in the UK.

A microwaveable or heat proof glass jug (you need at least 500ml/1 pint, available here in the US and here in UK but they’re cheaper in Tesco if you’re near one).

A spatula for mixing (any non-metal spatula or wooden spoon will work).

A sharp knife to cut the soap base (any kitchen knife will be fine as long as it hasn’t blunted and the handle is safely attached to the blade).

Breastmilk.

The soap base is sold in boxes of 1kg and if you wanted to turn all of it into breastmilk soap you would need 500ml of breastmilk, but do not worry if you have less breastmilk. To make it as easy as possible, I’ve done this in 250g blocks of melt and pour soap base, which is a quarter of a tub and will fill your soap mould.

Method:

  1. Cut the 1kg block of Stephenson’s melt and pour SLS free organic soap base into quarters with a knife
  2. Taking one quarter of the soap base (roughly 250 grams), chop it into small squares and melt it in a glass jug in the microwave or put the glass jug into a pan of hot water just like you would if you were melting chocolate to make chocolate krispy cakes. Microwave on a low heat (I go for the lowest setting) for about 2 mins, check, then put it back in, checking every 30 seconds to 1 minute until it’s melted.
  3. Once the soap base is melted, add 125ml of cold (but not frozen) breastmilk and stir it well to get it all to mix.
  4. Pour your mixture into your soap mould. You can put it into the fridge to solidify faster, but don’t leave it more than an hour as melt and pour soap base contains glycerin which will start to draw moisture out of your fridge and make the soaps less solid!
  5. Once your soaps have solidified, turn them out and wrap them. Most people advocate putting them in plastic wrap such as saran wrap, but I prefer beeswax paper or baking paper as these are better for the environment.
  6. Use your soap! I found this to be super-moisturizing compared to store-bought soaps.

I love this straightforward and easy breastmilk soap recipe but I have made a few others, too, which I will post in the future.

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Mailerlite vs Mailchimp: A warning (it’s not what you think)

So about 12 months ago, I was using Mailchimp and there was suddenly a huge drama because they changed their fee structure and got a LOT more expensive. Customers started leaving them in droves. I didn’t understand the issue until I got my new bill and it was suddenly insanely high compared to how much money I was making.

I asked around and everyone told me it was so easy to switch to Mailerlite, and that they were better in a number of ways that no one could explain. I was pregnant and knew I needed to reduce my overheads.

So I exported my contacts and imported them into Mailerlite, where I grew my list to over 15,000 subscribers.

With Mailchimp, the only issue was the cost. Everything else about it worked perfectly, I never had a failed send or anything. They always just sorted out payment and everything was smooth. I don’t know what their customer service was like because I don’t remember ever having to contact them after the day I first signed up.

Also, Mailchimp works in China, and Mailerlite does not. I was living in China when I started emailing my list through Mailchimp instead of using batches via Google mail.

With Mailerlite, it seemed like every time my mailing list grew, they wanted me to re-verify myself, to fill out a tedious questionnaire (for the fifth time) about what I was using their services for, and they threw in some mandatory market research questions as well, which honestly is offensive but you do what you gotta do to get a half-price mailing service to email your newsletter for you.

The best part? They do this when you want to send an email, instead of when you hit the new subscriber threshold. This means, if you’re sending about something time-sensitive, like a flash sale or 24-hour deal, you will not get to send your email in time especially if you want to send according to timezone.

I didn’t like the fact that a lot more of my emails seemed to go to the spam folder when I used Mailerlite, either.

I sucked it up.

Then I had a baby, so I deleted my contacts because no-one wants to pay $150 a month for a mailing list they’re not actually sending any emails to for a year. I downloaded and carefully saved my 15000 contacts in a CSV file that I never actually looked at because I had more important things to do like keep a small baby alive.

Obviously.

Ready to get back to work, I uploaded my email list to Mailerlite and guess what? They wouldn’t let me re-verify because I’d already uploaded this list and deleted it.

So in desperation I went back to Mailchimp, thinking that paying $200 monthly is worth it if you actually get the service you’re paying for. I uploaded my mailing list.

Then I found out why you should never, EVER move your list to Mailerlite.

We’re always told that our mailing list is the most important marketing asset for our business because it is ours and we get to keep that no matter what happens to service providers, right?

WRONG.

Mailerlite has deleted so much information from the downloaded copy of my mailing list that Mailchimp actually doesn’t have the data it needs to let me upload to them.

So I opened the file to look through it. There’s email addresses, but then all the other columns are empty. No first names. No last names. No opt-in timestamps or IP addresses and no confirmation timestamps or IP addresses (all of which you need to be compliant with data handling, CAN-SPAM, and GDPR rules). It’s a mangled, useless CSV file that is as useless as a phone book comprising of phone numbers but no names.

I am effectively stuck with Mailerlite who seemed able to re-connect all the data when I uploaded the email addresses (presumably they’ve stored the rest of the data on their server and can access it by using the email addresses as a “primary key”, but I obviously have a right to have all that data, it’s not theirs, it’s mine, so they shouldn’t keep it like this). Who won’t let me go through their stupid validation and approval process. And anyway, I resent all the bullshit they’ve put me through so I’m not going back to them.

This means I have no mailing list. Mailerlite has destroyed it by deleting key data. Five years of hard work down the drain. Fifteen thousand fans of my business, who I cannot contact because Mailerlite have ensured I can’t go to another service provider.

God I wish someone had written about this before I switched to Mailerlite.

Please, please, PLEASE be careful. If you want to switch to Mailerlite, be sure you’re going to stay with them forever. Because they will not let you take your mailing list when you leave.

I guess that’s what you get when you go with a cut-price mailing list provider. I have learned my lesson the painfully, devastatingly hard way. I have no business to come back to after maternity leave. I built my business to give my baby a future, and now our situation is more precarious than ever.

If I am very, very lucky, I might still have an old version of my mailing list from when I switched from Mailchimp to Mailerlite in the first place. But obviously, that could have people on it who have since unsubscribed, so I have to weigh up whether I can use that old version or not.

This is my honest review of two companies I’ve spent thousands of dollars with, over the past half-decade. Verdict? I’d rather spend more money on a service that actually does what it says it’s going to. Your mileage may vary. If you have a different perspective, or a solution for this issue, please let me know in the comments.

Tested: The Holy Grail concealer for blue undereye circles, dark circles and tattoos.

I’ve been working on my under-eye blue circles for a few years now. Every time I get on top of them with a great skincare routine to erase dark circles, I forget to keep going with my routine then they make a comeback. Thanks, ADHD.

So it’s no surprise, then, that I have tried a lot of concealers to cover up under-eye discoloration and concealers to get rid of dark circles. And I’ve written a lot of reviews of concealers that get rid of dark circles. Here are my previous favorites, in case you are wondering.

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A few weeks ago, I found a product that was so good, it actually covered up my tattoo in just two coats. The Urban Decay All-Nighter waterproof concealer. Staring at the empty space where my tattoo used to be, I was still skeptical. I’ve been hurt by concealers that cover everything but cake in my fine lines and age me about two decades in one fell swoop. So I tested it some more.

Let’s look at it in more detail.

The Urban Decay All-Nighter waterproof concealer comes in a silver tube the size of a mascara. It looks great in my handbag. And because it’s shiny, it’s easy to find, even in low lighting like when you’re trying to touch up your makeup in the car.

Not that you’ll need to do many touch ups with this one. Honestly, with the amount of actors having to do their own make up right now, this product will be flying off the shelves.

Onto the testing.

So I have this tattoo. It’s Hello Kitty. You might think it was a moment of drunk regret, but you’d be wrong. I got this tattoo when I was in Santa Barbara, California, and the only time I’ve ever wanted to get rid of it was when I was in Japan because you’re famously not allowed to use the hot baths if you have tattoos, even Hello Kitty tattoos, in case you’re a gang member.

At the time I used a different method to get it to vanish, which I’ll talk more about some other time. Today, I decided to see if this waterproof concealer would have worked.

First I painted over half of it with one coat of the Urban Decay All-Nighter waterproof concealer. As you can see, the heavy black lines have significantly faded away.

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Interestingly, it actually conceals better in brighter light, as you can see in this photo with the flash on:

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However, since I don’t live my life on a film set, I live in a world of natural light, it would still be obvious to anyone who looked at my wrist that there was a tattoo there. Only now it was a tattoo covered in makeup.

So I added a second coat. That changed things.

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Now that’s what I call coverage. That’s in the same light as the first photo.

But wait. We haven’t tested two coats with the camera flash, yet.

Oh. My. God.

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You would literally have to be 30cm away from my wrist to know there was a tattoo there in bright light.

Okay, great, it works to make the tattoo disappear. But how long does that last?

Before we answer that, you’ll notice I’m wearing a dress with white stripes, I can confirm there was no transfer of cosmetics onto dress. Literally none.

Okay, now let’s see how long it lasted.

Using the time signatures from my phone, you can see I finished the second coat of concealer at 3pm:

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At 9pm, after about 6 hand washes, and doing the dishes, it was only looking a little faded, so it will give good coverage for at least 6 hours:

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At 2am, it had faded a bit but was still giving phenomenal coverage:

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“Ah,” you say, “But you said at the start of this review that testing it on a tattoo isn’t the same as testing it on your face.”

And you’d be right.

So I put it on my ugly mug and took some pictures. On one side, I put the Clio Kill Cushion Foundation SPF 50 PA++++ on top of my concealer. I left the other side bare except for the Urban Decay concealer.

I put it on at about 5pm and it gave pretty good coverage immediately (first photo is my face with no make-up):

And this was after applying the Urban Decay. On the right hand side of each picture, I put foundation over the top to see how this product would work with other make up, because let’s face it, few people wear just a concealer alone.

The coverage was so strong, and yet even up close, my face didn’t look made up, and there was no caking, it just looked so natural! If you get a good shade match for your skin, you could actually wear this concealer by itself.

To be honest I was quite busy that day so I didn’t get to check in again until 3am, at which point I’d lost my phone so I had to use my husband’s phone and get him to send the photos in a Facebook message. After 10 hours, his phone made it look like this, but I don’t know if his camera has some odd settings or isn’t HD or something like that because I didn’t feel that pretty when I looked in the mirror.

urban decay concealer review 3am

So because I wasn’t 100% sure of what I was seeing, I decided what the hey, let’s leave it on overnight and see what happened.

I woke up pretty late because I’m still breastfeeding a baby who demands milk every couple of hours and I’m coming off some medication I was taking for post-natal depression, and these things are conspiring to make me very, very sleepy right now. So it was 2:45pm when I got up and took a photo.

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Seriously I was shocked.

For comparison, I washed my face and took another photo #nomakeupselfie and all my usual imperfections came back:

 

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This apparently took ten minutes.

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And this is what my pillow and eye mask looked like after sleeping in my make-up:

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Guys the Urban Decay All-Nighter waterproof concealer is the real deal. 100%. If you can’t get rid of blue circles or want to know how to erase dark circles under eyes, this is the new best quick fix on the market. The best part? It’s waterproof and stays put for at least 12 hours. Even when you get it wet. There’s a huge range of shades and the bottom line is, it’s cheaper and better than Bobbi Brown’s concealer. And it looks better in your bag and doesn’t require you to buy a separate concealer brush.

Vertict: Holy grail product.

Get it here on Amazon if you’re in the UK and Ireland, or visit your local department store that stocks Urban Decay in the States.

Have you tried this, yet? Let me know in the comments!

“Protein filler ruined my hair” At-home vs salon protein filler review

Protein fillers are being touted as the best thing to ever happen to hairdressing. So I wanted to try them out. To make this a fair test, I waited 1 year between treatments, to be sure the first product was completely out of my hair.

For the at-home treatment, I used the Superdrug protein filler.

For the salon treatment, I got a Brazilian blowout at a local salon.

My hair type is 2c-3b naturally, and I don’t follow CGP (curly girl protocol) because it left my hair greasy at the top and dry at the bottom, something I’ll talk about at some point in the future.

The at-home treatment looked promising, and I’d seen some good reviews of it online, but I wish I knew then what I know now: Not all protein treatments are created equal, and if you have even slightly African hair, like mine, you need to be very careful about what products you use.

God I wish I’d known that. I even Googled “Is protein filler safe” and “can I use protein filler on frizzy hair” and all that came up was girl after girl with really ordinary hair before and flatironed but still ordinary hair after. The hype for at-home protein treatments drowned out any voices of dissent and my hair suffered the consequences.

The at-home hair protein filler went on according to the instructions. I’ve been beauty blogging for 5 years (6 in December) and I have used a LOT of boxed hair products, so I was confident I could do this. I waited the time. Rinsed when I was supposed to.

Funny, my hair felt rougher after I rinsed the product out than before I put it in my hair. I assumed it was because the final conditioner needed to go on, so I left it on for the right amount of time then rinsed again. I even rinsed with a blast of cool water at the end to close the cuticles and let it dry naturally to avoid heat damage. I gave this product every possible chance of working.

The next morning, I had to face the grim truth: The product had left my hair in a worse state than before I started. And later that day, I had to get onto a plane to New York for a book signing, where I’d wanted to look my best in front of readers and other authors, and instead, I looked like my hair had been styled after Ronald McDonald. I didn’t have time to research salons and sit still for someone to fix it because my schedule was too tight.

My hair was drier, brittler and more porous than before I’d used the protein filler.

All in all, I decided that protein fillers weren’t as good as I’d heard, and I moved on with my life.

Fast forward a year, I went to a new salon to get a haircut and the hairdresser suggested I try the Brazilian Blowout.

OMG what a difference that made. It didn’t straighten my hair (a lot of people have described it as a straightening treatment but this isn’t quite accurate), it just improved each individual strand. My hair was glossy, bouncy, and, for the first time in my life, manageable.

I. Was. Impressed.

Unfortunately, I have had to put a second treatment on hold indefinitely until the lockdown ends. The stylist said it would last 3 months but actually, it’s taken 5 months for it to become frizzy again and I’m left wondering how on earth I managed for 32 years without this in my life. This treatment is such a revelation. It cost £70 and took about an hour and a half but it’s worth every penny, and every minute, if you have hair like mine.

It’s just a pity the off-the-shelf at-home treatments only work if your hair is “normal”.

 

Postcards to my baby: Pattaya

Christmas Day 2017. Twenty-four degrees celsius, if you can believe it. Blue, cloudless sky, punctuated only by palm trees. The sound of the sea, gently rising up the clean sand, leaving gifts of shells for me to find. The calls of men selling hats, water bottles and street food on long bamboo poles or hand-carts as they amble up and down the beach.

For our Christmas dinner, we went to the Hard Rock Café Pattaya, and had a delicious English-style Christmas dinner complete with turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes, gravy and all the trimmings. After four months in East Asia, it was like coming home, without having to actually go back to England with all its problems.

After we had eaten, a group of twenty or so children arrived and took to the stage, singing Christmas carols they had learned in their English lessons, and their teacher explained how the school had been set up for them. Education is widely seen as the key to ending poverty, and in countries where literacy is low, getting schools built and teachers trained is very important.

I hope by the time you are old enough to see Thailand for yourself, those children are out changing the world and teaching the next generation.

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This is part 2 of my Postcards to my Baby series. Part 1 here. All photos copyright MamaAdventure.

What is a political issue?

The following are not political issues:
1. Misogyny
2. Racism
3. Homophobia/transphobia
4. Animal cruelty
5. Protecting the Environment
6. Cruelty to children

The following are political issues:
1. How many schools an area has
2. Whether roads are repaired
3. Parking
4. Speed limits
5. The opening times of local parks
6. How a law is written and interpreted

Know the difference. Black lives matter isn’t a political statement, it’s an expression that black people in America are currently not getting their basic human right to life.

If racism bothers you, find another mama blog to follow.

This was in response to some of the commenters I blocked and deleted on my last two posts.

A Template Letter to ask Police to use Bodycams at all times. Send it wide!

Dear Police Department,
I am writing to let you know that I strongly support the use of bodycam and dashcam footage for all law enforcement officers. This is for your benefit and the benefit of the community. Impartial bodycam footage can indemnify you and protect you as much as it can prove allegations against racist cops.

Please let your officers know they should be using bodycams at all times, and ensure they are provided with the resources, training, and workplace policies/culture to be able to do this.

I am also concerned about police violence and I would like it to be known that I do not support or endorse the use of unnecessary force against protesters. Violence does not de-escalate violent situations. It is being disproportionately used against persons of color and this is not acceptable. The police should be protecting people and keeping the peace, not attacking peaceful demonstrators.

Police officers should be using “sideways management” within the force to stop their colleagues from being racist, to challenge racist assumptions, and to report upward through the chain of command any incidents of racism either perpetrated against police officers of color or against the wider black/minority community.

Black lives matter.

Yours sincerely,
A concerned citizen.

How I avoided stretch marks with pregnancy and got rid of old stretch marks too!

I always thought this was a myth, and that it was impossible to avoid stretch marks or to get rid of stretch marks. My back is actually covered in stretch marks from when I used to be a professional ice skater, and my legs were, too, from all the stretching. But my tummy? No stretch marks. And I managed to diminish the ones on my legs, too! I’ve had those since I was 12! Okay, full disclosure, there’s the tiniest little scattering to the left of my belly button but check out the pics below to compare my belly to the stretch marks on my back, I am still shocked by how well this worked. I am 9 months postpartum.

Here’s how I did it. As they say, prevention is the best cure. It’s important to know that buying products won’t solve the problem by itself, you need to know how to use them, and you need to actually do it daily. When I was pregnant my skin got very sensitive so I had to be very careful what products I used. I all but stopped doing my facial skincare routine and had to completely avoid products containing retinol or hyaluronic acid, which are usually skincare staples for me, so pregnancy was a challenge to completely re-think my skincare routines and make them more natural. Links to products are further down.

 

  1. From about the second trimester, I tried to avoid exercising my stomach muscles. I cut my usual workout down to just gentle “granny yoga” or “chair yoga” every day. The goal was to stay in shape but to make sure my body prioritised growing a healthy baby not growing my muscles! I still did a bit of walking every day, and in my third trimester, I did a bit more, to prepare my body for labour (I had a C-section in the end but I really, really wanted to try for a v-birth).
  2. During the third trimester, I followed the brilliant active birth “hip wiggle” workout produced by Ulster Hospital (where I gave birth) available here on Youtube. This got the skin moving in all the right ways, opening up the hips and gently stretching which helped me avoid stretch marks. I did 15-30 minutes per day from 34 weeks pregnant.
  3. During every shower, I used a sponge and shower gel and massaged in gentle circles all over my body. This breaks up cellulite and scar tissue and increases cell turnover which promotes skin healing and renewal.
  4. After every shower, I gently massaged my growing stomach. Most days I used body lotion and Innisfree soybean essence. Once or twice a week I used either the Therapy? massage bar from Lush or grapeseed oil. I used this time to connect with my baby and tell them they were loved, wanted, and that we were looking forward to their arrival when they were ready.
  5. I took my prenatal vitamins every single day after the first trimester (I was too sick to take tablets in the first trimester but I’d been taking them daily for 6 months beforehand in preparation for this). These are especially formulated to give you the extra boost you need to grow the healthiest baby possible. They are also good for your skin, hair and nails.
  6. I tried to get at least 50g of protein everyday. Because I am dairy free, this came from peanut butter, nuts, pumpkin seeds, Silk soy milk, Silk almond milk (the UK equivalent to Silk soy milk is probably Alpro soya growing up milk but read the label to check the protein), textured vegetable protein (aka soy mince or TVP) and tofu. I also used vegan protein powder to add to my smoothies. The recommendation is 75g of protein per day but, living in a foreign country where food wasn’t as easy to source as it is in the west, I generally averaged about 55g (and this required a lot of effort, dairy free homemade lattes and peanut butter on everything).
  7. I drank a lot of fruit juice and worked hard to eat as many different types of fruit and vegetables as possible.
  8. I took lots of baths (with no bath bubbles). Usually I kept these at 37-38 degrees Celsius (just below 100F), although when I was in Japan I used the hot baths because there’s no scientific evidence that this is problematic for babies.
  9. I didn’t wear any kind of support band or compression band either during or after pregnancy. I tried about three different ones but I found they stopped my body’s natural movements and made me feel squashed, and I didn’t like that.
  10. I didn’t wear a bra until 7 months pregnant because I couldn’t get a maternity bra in China that fitted over my bump, so I eventually picked one up from Mothercare in Ireland and I highly recommend a shaped maternity bra.
  11. I didn’t wear anything at all with a waistline after I was about 6 weeks pregnant. No hose, no leggings, no trousers, no skirts… I stuck to dresses and flat sandals, and if I was cold, socks. This was on the advice of my ob-gyn in China, and I’ve heard this is also what they advise you in Japan and South Korea. My goal was to let my body grow and stretch in its most natural way possible, without being forced into a certain position or shape by clothing. They tell you to do this to protect the growing baby, and ensure blood flow to the womb, and I 100% get behind this. I don’t know if it’s why I had no pregnancy issues this time but seriously it was so comfortable. I met pregnant women in Ireland who were barely standing up at 7 months pregnant and I was still able to walk easily, clean my new house and carry furniture until about 4 days before the baby came, when a disastrous membrane sweep seemed to have moved the baby into an oblique lie. People can say I’m crazy, but I think our “maternity fashion” has a lot to answer for in the west and at the end of the day, I have the lack of stretch marks to prove it.
  12. After I had the baby, I continued using grapeseed oil and the Therapy? massage bar, as well as using a sponge to massage my skin in the shower.

The interesting thing about all this is, it actually helped heal stretch marks I’ve had on my legs since I was about 12 from doing excessive amounts of stretching for sport reasons (but the ones on my back are still vivid). I didn’t work on the ones on my back at all with any kind of skincare products (silly me) and they really stand out. I am now 9 months post partum so I don’t think those stretch marks on my legs are coming back, either.

Products I recommend to avoid stretch marks and get rid of them:

  1. A good prenatal vitamin. Pregnacare is the absolute best (US link). You can get it in loads of places in the UK but it’s here on UK Amazon If you are in the US, check the ingredients of anything labelled as a “prenatal vitamin” CAREFULLY. I bought my first set of prenatals from the US in September 2018 and I was shocked by how many of them contain vitamin A, which pregnant women should absolutely avoid for the safety of the baby. I was generally horrified by how unregulated the supplement industry is in the US and I only recommend Pregnacare. I had another brand which I got from Walmart and I had to throw them away because they were really bad.
  2. Grapeseed oil. This is the only oil that is able to penetrate deep enough into the skin layer to actually make a difference to scarring and stretch marks, and it’s a LOT cheaper than the expensive named-brand oil that claims to do the same thing (I have tried that other oil and found it to be useless). I used Now Solutions Grapeseed Oil which is reasonably priced in the US. In the UK, I’d go for this one next time because it’s a LOT cheaper and certified vegan and cruelty free.
  3. The Therapy? body massage bar by Lush, if you can source it. I had to import mine into China because there’s no Lush over there. It contains Shea Butter which is one of my fave ingredients because it’s so moisturizing.
  4. Innisfree soybean essence. This Korean stuff is amazing for a range of issues and is made from fermented soybeans. I’ve put this in a spray bottle to make a DIY K-beauty facial spritz and I spray it all over my body, too.
  5. A basic bath sponge and gentle shower gel. Literally any cheap sponge from Dollar Tree/Poundland will be fine.
  6. Vegan protein powder. This chocolate one is delicious! Collagen comes from protein so you need lots of protein to grow your skin and heal it during and after pregnancy. Protein is also important for the baby.

Things to avoid:

  1. Sunbathing. Pregnant skin is more sensitive than normal skin and you will burn. A sunburn is a sign of deep tissue damage which causes premature ageing of the skin, and collagen damage, which makes you more prone to stretch marks because age lines are a sign that your skin isn’t stretching as well as it used to. Cover up, even on that coveted babymoon. I travelled extensively while pregnant, in China, Malaysia, Japan and Ireland, and I 100% recommend you avoid the sun even though it’s tempting at times. If you need to go out in the sun, it should be SPF 50 PA+++ all the way!
  2. Anything that constricts your belly or claims to compress or “support” it, unless you need it for medical reasons.
  3. Excessive stomach exercise e.g. leg lifts or sit-ups.

Here’s some pictures of me postpartum (I’m standing in front of the shower curtain and my boobs are weird atm because I’m still breastfeeding and one boob is much bigger than the other, so no bras fit properly). As you can see I only got one tiny patch of stretch marks that are very, very faint on the lower right side of my belly button. This first pic shows my C-section scar to prove I’ve actually had a baby. I’ve also included a pic of the stretch marks on my back from years of exercise, to prove I’m not genetically immune to stretch marks or something (my next task is clearly to work on those ones on my back haha):

 

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That’s my how-to. Now what I really want to know is how to get rid of that brown line that goes north to south down my belly. I think it’s where the muscles separated ready for giving birth (my entire belly button disappeared and turned dark brown because it stretched so much due to past surgery preventing it from popping out, and it hasn’t completely gone back to normal yet) but they’ve never quite gone back. I’ve been doing so many stomach exercises but maybe it will just take time.

PS I’m not a doctor so legally I have to say, please consult a doctor before taking supplements and if you have any concerns about your health during pregnancy. This article contains affiliate links to Amazon where appropriate, but doesn’t affect the price you pay for anything.