Justina Perry founded MamaBabyBliss and has over 15 years’ experience in promoting wellbeing in pregnancy and new mums. She also trains the NHS to help improve postnatal wellbeing, so we caught up with her to ask her about the importance of all-natural products during and after pregnancy and find out how mothers can overcome the most common struggles during this time.
What are the best ways for mums-to-be to be to look after their wellbeing?
Pregnancy is an amazing time and should be enjoyed. However, it is also a process that we need to respect. Our bodies go through an incredible change and we need to pay to attention to any aches and pains that may occur. If you’re tired, rest and sleep. If you’re feeling anxious, then stop and literally, take a breather. If your back hurts, then go on all-fours and do some hip circles. Listen and trust your body. It knows what it needs.
And how does this alter once they have given birth?
After birth the focus totally shifts to the baby and there’s very little time or room for mum. Mothers place a huge amount of pressure on themselves and ‘mum-guilt’ is prevalent. We feel guilty that we aren’t doing enough for or with our babies and this has been hugely exacerbated by the lockdown. We tend to put ourselves last and completely neglect any kind of self-care. One of my favourite phrases is that you can’t pour from an empty cup. You can’t look after your baby if you don’t also look after yourself. When I talk to mothers, I often say it’s about gaining the maximum benefit in the minimum amount of time. So even just stopping and taking five focused breaths or doing a couple of yoga stretches (which you can do with baby) whenever you need to is enough to help to calm you down when you feel anxious, tense and overwhelmed.
Why is it important to use all-natural products when you are pregnant? What can happen if you don't?
Our skin is the largest organ of our body and readily absorbs what we put on it. That includes chemicals. Pregnancy is also a really precious time when we want to be giving ourselves and our babies the very best. Whilst you wouldn’t be causing any actual harm to yourself or your baby if you use chemical-based creams, you can’t guarantee that all chemicals are safe, nor are you actually giving you or your baby the best either. The way that we like to think of it, is if you care about what you put in your body, why wouldn’t you care about what you put on it? What we put on our skin should also truly nourish it. Coconut oil and shea butter are perfect moisturisers and safe for our babies. Wonderful nourishing oils such as jojoba (which mimics the skin’s sebum), calendula (which improves the skins elasticity) and rosehip oil (clinically proven to help heal scarring and prevent stretchmarks) are all a core ingredients in our Tummy Love Oil and all are examples of natural ingredients that do an amazing job of enriching the skin and are completely safe for us to massage on our precious bumps. Likewise, essential oils offer powerful benefits. The mandarin oil in our Zest pulse point roller ball helps relieve morning sickness and bergamot lime oil in our Joy pulse point roller ball helps alleviate anxiety. However, it is vital to only seek aromatherapy products that are have been deemed safe for pregnancy as some such as clary sage can stimulate labour.
Why are vegan products better to use than non-vegan ones?
We owe it to ourselves and to the future of our babies to preserve the planet which we know is already in danger. Often natural products contain ingredients like beeswax as a moisturising agent. Bees are in danger of extinction, so in our view we need to do as much as we can to protect the bees. It’s simply logical and if there’s a better and kinder alternative, let’s use it. Some well-known nipple creams contain lanolin which comes from sheep’s skin secretion. We know we wouldn’t be keen on putting that in our mouth so why put in our babies?
What more could the NHS be doing to help with the wellbeing of new mums?
We work very closely with the NHS, training staff in Mother & Baby Units in holistic therapies to support the mothers and pregnant women in their care. We get feedback first-hand on how much yoga and massage helps both the mums and the babies. However, there are only 21 units across the country (that’s England & Scotland and there are none in Wales or Ireland) and these are needed for those who have severe mental health illnesses such as postpartum psychosis. Yet, we know that the official statistics are that 1 in 5 women suffer from some kind of anxiety or depression during the perinatal phase. The numbers are likely to be much higher as many mothers will hide their depression and feelings behind the ‘mask of motherhood.’ I know that I was one of those mothers. The fact that depression in mothers often goes undetected tragically, also leads to the other devastating statistic that the main cause of maternal death in the UK is suicide. These are statistics that we have made our mission to stamp out and we would love to see yoga and massage integrated into the normal NHS pathway care for mothers. We also feel that the stigma of depression and mental health needs to be eradicated and it’s essential that mothers be encouraged to share openly and without fear what their feelings are.
What are the most common skin complaints for new and expectant mothers?
During pregnancy because of our fluctuating hormones, it can cause our skin to change. The changes can vary from anything to getting dry skin or finding that we break out in spots. There’s no hard and fast rule and it can also change throughout the different stages of pregnancy. We often do find that skin tends to get drier the further you get through pregnancy because the baby is taking so many nutrients from the mother, so keeping hydrated and eating healthily is essential. Of course, the skin across the tummy also stretches as the baby grows so using a good natural stretchmark oil is essential.
As a new mum, the biggest impact on the skin alongside hormones is sleep deprivation. That’s why daily TLC is so essential. We especially created our MamaBalm Rescue Butter with new mums in mind. It’s not only brilliant for cracked nipples but it’s fab for dry heels (who has time for a pedicure?), chapped hands (because of all the handwashing!) and it’s a fabulous lip gloss! Who doesn’t need a little instant bit of glamour!
During your 15 years of experience in promoting wellbeing in new mums and mums-to-be- what do you find women struggle with the most?
Guilt and over-thinking. Unfortunately, rather than trusting our instincts our inclination is to seek information and wisdom from Dr Google and external sources. This can often lead to comparison and feeling like we aren’t doing enough or that we are doing things wrong. But there is no wrong or one way. Every baby and mother is different. It’s so important that we switch off the external noise and just learn trust our own instinct.
Do you have any advice to overcome these struggles?
Keep reminding yourself that by default you have been created to do this. If we bring it right back to basics, as women we have been designed to this. Our body already knows exactly how to grow and birth a baby, we just have to trust that we also know how to mother it. I always ask mothers if nature is clever or stupid. Inevitably the answer is always ‘clever’. So, if nature is intelligent, would we have been given the hugely essential role of bringing and raising a new life on to the planet and not been given all the tools to do the job? The answer is of course not. We have actually been given everything we need. The amazing combination of our bodies, our hormones, our feelings and our instincts are all there to help us. We need to just switch our brains off and tap back into our innate mother’s wisdom.
How do you feel lockdown has impacted the experience of pregnancy and new motherhood?
Women feel like they have been massively deprived because they haven’t been able to live a normal life and they also feel like they have missed out. Whilst this is true to some extent, I try to remind people that there are also positives like having partners at home and that when it comes to our babies, they actually haven’t missed out all. The best form or entertainment is YOU.
What is your best advice for women who are struggling with the restrictions?
Be kind and gentle with yourself and allow yourself to feel what you feel. Take the pressure of yourself and make sure that you are talking to other mums. We are all going through this together and although you might feel like you’re on your own, you’re not. Make sure you’re doing something for yourself every day. Go out for a walk but don’t just do it for your baby. Put on a podcast, your favourite music or listen to an audiobook. Something that is just for YOU.
MamaBabyBliss founder and CEO Justina Perry commented: “Our bodies go through so many changes during pregnancy and new mums need to be nurtured as much as possible. That’s why we’ve worked with experts to create a skincare range which energises, soothes and protects the skin, and with all-natural ingredients our skincare range can safely be used on babies too. Not only does the MamaBabyBliss range nourish the body, but it also smells and looks great – making it a great gift for a new mum and her baby, or an everyday indulgence for expectant mums.”
The MamaBabyBliss skincare range is available from MamaBabyBliss.com or via Amazon.