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Whether you've dreamed of being pregnant for years or it's taken you by surprise, chances are you've imagined what pregnancy might look and feel like. You may be looking forward to the changes your body will undergo as your baby grows – or you may be dreading them.
If you're apprehensive about the transformation or worried that being pregnant means you'll "lose your looks," remind yourself that all these changes are happening for a good reason: You're creating a new human being! With that in mind, here are a few pointers to keep you looking – and feeling – your best.
When you feel bloated and sick to your stomach, simply getting off the couch can seem like challenge enough. But resist the urge to loaf. Even taking a 10- or 15-minute walk or doing a little yoga will leave you energized and feeling more like your pre-pregnancy self.
Exercise also promotes muscle tone, strength, and endurance, so it can help you manage the extra weight you're carrying, prepare you for the physical stress of labor, and make it much easier to bounce back after the baby is born.
See more on the benefits of prenatal exercise.
Don't underestimate the power of makeup
"Makeup can do wonders during pregnancy. It can be used as a tool to feel pretty and in control," says makeup artist Bobbi Brown. That's particularly important during a time when many women feel like they've lost control of their body.
Makeup can be a great way to give yourself a quick pick-me-up, so go ahead and have some fun. Try a new shade of lipstick or eye shadow, or go all out with a complete makeover.
Read more about looking great during pregnancy.
Avoid drastic hairstyle changes
One of the perks of pregnancy – thanks to pregnancy hormones – is thicker, more lustrous locks. (You're not actually growing more hair – you're just losing less than usual.) Some women also notice that their hair is shinier or the texture changes.
If you normally have a lot of thick hair and worry that it may become unmanageable, a shorter cut may be easier to maintain while you're pregnant. You could also try using clips, headbands, and side combs.
Just remember that these differences in hair texture and volume aren't permanent, so avoid making drastic changes and work with your stylist to find a cut that suits you.
Embrace your inner fashionista
There are so many fabulous choices in maternity wear that your biggest challenge will be sticking to your budget. Stay true to your style and build a small but practical pregnancy wardrobe around a few staples.
Maternity jeans can anchor most outfits and are available with elastic side panels or supportive tummy panels. Tops made of stretchy fabrics like Lycra can grow to accommodate a full-term belly. For fancier occasions, consider maternity wrap dresses – they're comfortable and create a flattering silhouette.
Black – the perennial favorite color of chic, nonpregnant fashion plates – also works wonders for future moms. Accent basic black clothing with statement jewelry or a colorful silk scarf. And although loose, roomy clothes are comfy, don't be afraid to wear form-fitting outfits that emphasize your growing bump.
For more fashion pointers, see our articles on the secrets of maternity dressing and how to dress for the workplace.
Don't neglect your skin
The same pregnancy hormones that send your emotions into overdrive can also wreak havoc on your skin. Your complexion may look great (thanks to that pregnancy glow) or you may break out like you're a teen again. Your skin may also become drier than usual and look splotchy.
If your skin troubles are distressing you, consider seeing a dermatologist for advice on treatments that are safe to use during pregnancy. He may suggest a home remedy or over-the-counter products, or even prescribe a medication that's safe for moms-to-be.
If you notice patches of darkened skin on your face, you may be experiencing melasma gravidarum, or the "mask of pregnancy." For most women, the discoloration gradually fades after delivery, but you can safely minimize it in the meantime by using a broad-spectrum sunblock with SPF 30 (or higher) every day and applying concealer.
A good moisturizer can work wonders anywhere your skin feels dry – including your expanding belly. "The best way to prevent that annoying itching as your belly expands is to keep it well moisturized," says Alexa Boer Kimball, a professor of dermatology at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
You may even want to try one of the belly creams purported to prevent stretch marks. Experts say they don't work, but some moms swear by them.
Splurge on a spa treatment
A manicure, pedicure, or facial can lift your spirits and give your self-image a quick boost. Throw in a pregnancy massage for good measure. There's nothing like being pampered for an hour or two.
If you can't afford to treat yourself at a spa, do a mask and manicure at home – or throw a "pampering party" with a few close friends.
Talk yourself into a good mood
If all else fails, remind yourself that even though you can't squeeze into a slinky dress or your favorite jeans right now, you're still fabulous. Beauty is a state of grace, not a certain look, size, or weight. You're pregnant, glowing, and beautiful.