What to Know About Manicures, Pedicures, and Pregnancy

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on April 07, 2022
5 min read

Pregnancy is a time of great anticipation for all expectant parents. However, it also comes with anxiety about what activities might harm your developing fetus. Beauty treatments are one type of activity that raises a lot of questions.

Manicures and pedicures are popular self-care activities. During pregnancy, it's nice to have someone else paint your toenails, especially if you can't reach them around your growing belly. Some people wonder if you can get your nails done during pregnancy since polishes and polish removers contain many chemicals. 

Most experts agree that manicures and pedicures are safe during pregnancy. If you go to a professional salon with good safety standards, you can enjoy some pampering while you're expecting.

Before getting any beauty treatment, the first thing to do is to make sure the salon follows the best practices for health and safety. The staff should use new instruments for each client and clear manicure and pedicure stations thoroughly between clients. You can call ahead to ask about their cleaning procedures. This will help you avoid the risk of infection from dirty tools or pedicure tubs.

 If you are concerned about fumes from chemicals, check with the salon manager about air quality. Some salons use small fans to disperse fumes. You could also request a station in a well-ventilated area of the salon, such as near the door.

If you want to be extra cautious, you can check with your state licensing board to see if the salon has had any issues with safety in the past. 

Another good way to get information about salons is to ask your friends and neighbors for recommendations. For example, if you know someone who got manicures during pregnancy, ask where they went and how the salon staff handled their pregnancy.

There are chemicals in nail treatment products that may cause concern for pregnant women. Many experts believe that limited exposure doesn't pose much danger to pregnant people or developing fetuses. There is a greater risk to pregnant salon workers. They might be exposed to chemicals for hours each day.

Acetone. Acetone is a solvent used for removing gel nails and sometimes regular nail polish. Studies show that acetone can affect pregnancy at high levels. Some studies suggest that exposure to solvents like acetone early in pregnancy has some risks, such as miscarriage. They can also cause fetal abnormalities similar to fetal alcohol syndrome. However, the studies were not specifically about salon clients or employees, so the effects of manicure solvents are not clear. 

Phthalates. Phthalates are a class of chemicals used in hundreds of products, including some nail polishes. There has been concern about phthalates because some studies show they affect reproductive health in animals. There is no known evidence that they negatively affect human pregnancies.

Methyl methacrylate monomer (MMA). MMA is a bonding agent that helps attach artificial nails to your natural nails. Like other acrylates, MMA can cause respiratory irritation and increase asthma symptoms. It has also been linked to symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, itching and rash, and trembling hands. Some experts recommend avoiding MMA whether you are pregnant or not.

The risks of getting a regular manicure without applying artificial nails are fairly low. Most experts agree that getting your nails groomed and painted poses minimal risk to your health or the health of your fetus. If you're concerned about ingredients in nail polish, ask if the salon can recommend a safe nail polish during pregnancy. You can even bring your own bottle and ask the technician to apply it.

Some people have increased sensitivity to odors during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. You may find that the smells in a salon bother you more than usual. If that's the case, it might be better to wait until later in pregnancy to get your nails done.

Another thing to consider is whether your nail technician will include a hand massage as part of the service. Certain pressure points on the hands are known to trigger contractions. Ask your technician to avoid pressing on the webbing between your thumb and forefinger. Or decline a hand massage altogether.

If you are having your nail polish changed, ask the technician to use a non-acetone polish remover. If they don't have one available, request that they use a cotton pad with acetone to remove polish instead of soaking your nails in it.

Gel manicures last longer than traditional manicures, but they require harsher chemicals. There are currently no studies on the effects of gel manicures on pregnancy. Experts do know that the acetone used to remove gel polish and MMA used to bond gel nails are generally harmful to health.

It might be best to limit or skip gel manicures during pregnancy. Some people find that pregnancy makes their nails grow faster and stronger, so you may not need artificial nails at all.

Like traditional manicures, the chemicals used in pedicures don't have any known effects on pregnancy. The greater danger from pedicures is irritation or infection from improperly cleaned instruments or soaking tubs. 

There are also instances where people contract nail fungus from pedicures. That won't harm the pregnancy, but it is a nuisance. Oral anti-fungal medications aren't recommended during pregnancy, so toenail fungus is harder to treat.

If you have swollen feet and ankles, soaking your feet in warm water and having a gentle foot massage might feel great. Some salons even offer pregnancy pedicures. Like the hands, there are pressure points in the foot that can trigger contractions, so ask the technician to be gentle with the massage. You can skip the massage completely if you're worried about pressure point contact.

If you work in a salon, discuss your job with your doctor. They might have recommendations for protecting yourself from daily exposure to the chemicals used in manicures. Ask your supervisor for accommodations like better airflow at your workstation and frequent breaks. Wearing a mask might help filter fumes and let you breathe a little easier. 

If you have any questions about safety during pregnancy, ask your doctor. They can help you decide what beauty treatments are right for you.