We’ve all seen women giving birth on TV, almost always sporting a slightly damp forehead along with full makeup and shampoo-commercial hair. Even with the more realistic depictions of labor and delivery, there’s one thing you never see in those stirrups–stubbly legs. As we see the image of a 99-lb. starlet pushing out a baby that looks like a jelly-covered 6-month-old, TV executives also want us to believe that the typical woman who is 9-months pregnant shaves her legs the day of delivery, too.
Who Does It
If you think laser hair removal will solve your problems, you are not alone: More than 893,000 Americans underwent laser hair removal in 2009–82 percent of them women–according to data compiled by the Real Self website. We don’t know how many were pregnant, but the American Pregnancy Association says medical practitioners often tell their pregnant patients to avoid the procedure, citing the paucity of data about its effects.
How It Works
Using a hand-held tool set to a specific wavelength of light, a trained clinician targets the hair follicles under your skin. The laser’s heat damages the follicles, halting hair growth. According to the Mayo Clinic, common side effects include skin irritation and pigment changes, but they are usually slight and temporary. Before the procedure starts, you’ll get goggles to keep your eyes safe and your doctor may apply a numbing agent to make it hurt less.
Laser hair removal offers near-permanent results, the American Pregnancy website reports, with efficacy varying by hair type and how many treatments you can tolerate. According to the Mayo Clinic, six or so appointments, scheduled every few weeks, lead to the best outcome. Annual or semi-annual maintenance treatments can further boost your hair-free status.
Experts at the Health Physics Society frequently get asked if laser hair removal endangers the fetus. Ninni Jacob, a certified health physicist, answered one such query by saying that even laser procedures combined with radiation were safe, saying that it’s “not penetrating like X-rays” and won’t go deeper than a millimeter or two into the skin. Jacob concluded that it won’t hurt your unborn baby but is also not an obstetrician or pregnancy expert.
The Bottom Line
The procedure isn’t painless. Increased skin sensitivity during pregnancy could make it hurt even more, warns the American Pregnancy website. Laser hair removal works best on light-skinned people with dark hair, but even then, there’s no guarantee of results. And, the Hair Facts website points out, oversight on clinicians varies. Some states allow only doctors to perform the procedure; others let any beauty salon employee do it. A treatment gone wrong could mean burns or skin discoloration. So, while the laser likely won’t hurt your baby, it’s up to you to decide if a hair-free delivery is worth it.
- entspannung image by Patrizier-Design from Fotolia.com