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Gel nails and birth: what you need to know according to NHS guidelines

Getting your nails done is one of life’s little treats and never more so than when you’re pregnant. Everything else in life might be going to sh*t but those shiny, glossy nails tell you and the world otherwise. 💅🏼

So we’re sorry to be the ones to tell you that having your nails looking fancy when giving birth is kind of a no-no. Here’s why…

What’s the advice?

The NHS recommends that pregnant women avoid wearing any type of nail polish, including gel nail polish and acrylics, during labour and delivery. This advice applies to both fingernails and toenails.

Why do my nails matter when giving birth?

The colour of your nail beds can provide vital information about your oxygen levels.

This is because nail beds are richly supplied with blood vessels.

The colour of the blood can therefore easily be seen through the nail when its in its natural form (i.e. not coloured or polished in any way).

When oxygen levels are good, the nails look healthy and well. However, when oxygen levels in the blood are low, the colour of nail beds can change and appear bluish or purple.

Monitoring the colour of the nail beds is therefore an important way for healthcare professionals to quickly see whether the body is getting enough oxygen. This is particularly important when giving birth as a low oxygen supply can cause serious complications for both mum and baby.

How are oxygen supplies monitored?

In addition to looking at the colour of the nails themselves, healthcare professionals may also use a device called a pulse oximeter to monitor oxygen levels in the body. This is particularly so during C-Section procedures.

A pulse oximeter is a small device that is typically placed on the end of the finger, although it can also be placed on other parts of the body such as the earlobe or toe.

It works by shining a small light through the skin and measuring the amount of light that is absorbed by the blood. The device then uses this information to calculate the percentage of oxygen in the blood.

Pulse oximetry is a non-invasive and painless way to monitor oxygen levels, and it is often used during labour and delivery to assess the health of both the mother and the baby. However, as mentioned earlier, nail polish, including gel nail polish and acrylics, can interfere with pulse oximeter readings.

It is therefore generally recommended to avoid wearing nail polish during medical procedures where oxygen levels are being monitored.

What if I’m planning on giving birth vaginally?

The advice about nails is the same whether you are planning on giving birth vaginally or via C-Section.

This is because around 25% of women who give birth will do so via C-Section and the majority of these procedures are unplanned. There is therefore a fairly good chance that even though you plan to give birth vaginally, you might end up giving birth via C-Section. And the last thing you want to be doing before you meet your baby is removing nail polish.

Is the guidance the same everywhere?

It’s important to remember that the NHS guidelines are only guidelines and there may well be different rules and procedures at different Trusts and hospitals. Speak to your midwife, ask questions and find out what the deal is for you.

Making the case for shorter nails

We totally understand that everyone has their own preference when it comes to nail length and style, and we’re not here to judge. But, if you’re taking care of a newborn, there are some great reasons to consider keeping your nails on the shorter side:

  • Short nails can prevent accidental scratches or injuries to a baby’s delicate skin
  • Babies have soft and sensitive skin, making their fingers and toes particularly vulnerable
  • Long nails can pick up more dirt and bacteria, which can harm the baby’s health
  • Bodily fluids such as poo, vomit, wee, and dribble can get trapped under long nails, increasing the risk of infection
  • Keeping nails short and clean is essential for reducing the risk of scratches and infections while caring for a baby
  • Frequent hand washing, especially before handling the baby, is also recommended for reducing the risk of infection

After you’ve nailed birth

We fully get that having freshly painted nails is a total mood lifter and can be the difference between a good and bad day. So whilst it may be a no-no for giving birth, we suggest booking it in that nail appointment as your first beauty treatment post-birth so that you can get back to feeling your best ASAP.

And if getting to the salon seems like a distant dream, we highly recommend this at-home option from Manucurist

manucurist set green flash


Birthbabe does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The resources on our website are provided for informational purposes only. You should always consult with a healthcare professional regarding any medical diagnoses or treatment options


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