You've probably heard of coconut oil as a superfood and a super skincare ingredient, but did you know it's one of the best oils to use during pregnancy?
There are many different plant-based oils to choose from, but coconut is one of the most versatile. It can help your skin, hair, and health and is gentle enough to use on your little one after giving birth. Coconut oil is also typically good for even the most sensitive of skin.
Here's a closer look at this tropical oil, plus 8 ways you can use it during pregnancy and beyond.
What Is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is extracted by pressing the meat (kernel) of mature coconuts. The end result is a whitish oil that's solid at room temperature. Unrefined coconut oil retains a strong coconut-y smell, while refined coconut oil does not.
In the past, coconut oil was considered unhealthy because about 90% of its makeup is saturated fats. However, more research has revealed that this is not the case.
Not only do we now know that fat isn't bad for us, the fatty acids in coconut oil are known as medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). MCFAs are metabolized mostly in the liver, provide an accessible source of energy, and are less likely to lead to weight gain than long-chain fatty acids. (1)
Ways to Use Coconut Oil (Pregnancy & Postpartum)
Taking a warm bath is a great self-care activity during pregnancy. By adding in coconut oil, you can make the bath good for your skin as well.
The fatty acids in coconut oil will hydrate dry skin and provide a protective barrier against water loss. Because the main fatty acid in coconut oil has a low molecular weight, it will be absorbed into your skin instead of just sitting on top. (3)
Depending on how much hydration you want, you can add anywhere from 1 teaspoon to a few tablespoons of oil to your bath. For aromatherapy, mix a few drops of essential oils in with the coconut before adding it to the water.
Prevent Stretch Marks
There's no surefire way to prevent stretch marks, but keeping your skin moisturized can help. Stretch marks occur when your skin is stretched too far. Your skin tears and scars form.
It's much harder to get rid of stretch marks once they form than it is to prevent them. Keeping your skin hydrated with an oil like coconut keeps it more elastic and able to stretch further before it tears. Studies have also shown that coconut oil can increase collagen synthesis in your skin, which helps it stay healthy and elastic. (4)
All you need to do is regularly rub a little oil on your belly and any other skin areas where you think stretch marks might form.
Add It to Your Diet
As a healthy fat, coconut oil can benefit your body from the inside out during pregnancy. As mentioned, it provides your body with an accessible energy source and may provide an immune boost.
You can use coconut oil in place of butter and other oils to cook with (refined works best) and also add the raw (unrefined) version into smoothies or oatmeal. Even healthy fats can be over-consumed, so aim for about 2-3 tablespoons a day.
Soothe Irritated Skin
Pregnancy can come with all sorts of skin issues, including rashes and very dry or oily skin. Coconut oil might not be the best choice if you're dealing with acne and oily skin, but it can be extremely soothing for dry and irritated skin.
The antimicrobial nature of coconut oil is good for rashes and other skin issues. Its hydrating power helps to protect your skin from getting further irritated or dried out.
You can apply a layer of coconut oil to any itchy or dry patches of skin, or try this Calm Cream made with shea butter and coconut oil.
Calm Internal Issues
While there's no clinical evidence on this one, many pregnant mamas have reported relief from heartburn, indigestion, acid reflux, and constipation by using coconut oil.
This could be in part from its anti-inflammatory properties and possible laxative effects. (2) Coconut oil is a safe remedy to try for any of these issues, but be sure to consult your doctor if they persist.
Help for Dry Hair & Scalp
Dry scalp and hair often come along with dry skin. If you're struggling with either of these while pregnant, coconut oil can help.
Simply massage a small amount of coconut oil into your scalp and through your hair. You can do this before showering, in which case you want to let it sit 15-20 minutes before washing out. Or you can use coconut oil like a conditioner after shampooing your hair.
Coconut oil can also be an ingredient in a nourishing hair mask if you're dealing with postpartum hair loss after pregnancy.
Useful While Breastfeeding
The benefits of coconut oil continue after pregnancy. It's a great natural option to use on sore or cracked nipples if you're breastfeeding. The oil is safe and healthy for your baby as well, but you can wipe it off before feeding if it hasn't fully absorbed.
Coconut oil also contains a good amount of lauric acid, an important compound for your baby's immune system. Only breast milk has a higher amount of lauric acid than coconut oil.
Some natural health proponents believe that consuming coconut oil everyday can boost milk supply. This hasn't been proven yet, but if you're struggling with low supply, you may want to try herbal galactagogues or other foods that boost breast milk supply.
Soothe Your Baby's Skin
Coconut oil is soothing, hydrating, and gentle on your baby's skin just like it is on yours. You can use it for dry skin patches, cradle cap, diaper rash, and any irritated sports. It may even help with eczema.
Even though coconut oil is usually safe for sensitive skin, do a small patch test on your little one before applying to a large area. You can also try this multi-purpose, natural Baby Balm made with coconut oil and calming herbs.
Is Coconut Oil Safe for Pregnancy?
Coconut oil is a food and completely safe during pregnancy as part of a healthy diet. If you have any concerns or want to know how much to eat a day, try consulting a nutritionist or speaking with your healthcare practitioner.
Very rarely, allergic reactions to coconut oil can happen. You can always do a patch test on your skin (or your baby's) to make sure you aren't sensitive to it before using on larger areas.
In fact, using coconut oil is a great way to know that you aren't putting any harmful chemicals on your skin or in your body. It has lots of health benefits for pregnancy and beyond. Now that you know more about it, be sure to always have a jar on hand!