Even if you’re normally scrupulously clean, you’ll find yourself washing your hands a lot more in pregnancy as you maintain good food and personal hygiene. Washing your hands is one of the easiest and most effective measures you can take against foodborne illness in pregnancy.
The way and frequency most people wash their hands can vary a lot. We’ve done it all our lives, so rarely stop to think if we’re doing it in the “best” way. The basic guidelines, according to the FDA, are:
- Wash your hands before and after handling any food
- Wash your hands after going to the bathroom, a diaper change, or handling animals. Wear gloves if you’re changing pet litter or gardening.
- Use warm, not cold water, and soap (1-5ml is normal)
- Wash all surfaces of your hands and under your nails for at least 20 seconds
- Rinse your hands and dry them on a clean and dry towel (or paper towel)
It sounds simple, but count how long you normally wash your hands for – twenty seconds is a long time! There’s no need to obsess over whether your hands are clean ALL the time. It’s just good to be mindful of it and get into the habit, as well as other things like keeping clean hand towels handy. Some recommendations of useful items that may help are below.
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The Best Pregnancy-Safe Hand Soap
Most hand soaps are pregnancy-safe, particularly as they’re not topical (they don’t stay on your skin, you rinse them off) so if you have a favorite hand soap, there’s no reason to stop using it just because you’re pregnant.
There’s also no need to use antibacterial soap if you don’t want to. Currently, there isn’t enough scientific data to suggest that antibacterial soaps are any better at preventing illness (source: FDA).
Similarly, antibacterial gels or foams are generally only used as a stop-gap, if you don’t have immediate access to soap and water. They’re not a replacement for good hand-washing with warm soap and water.
If you’re stuck for choice, I like EO (essential oils) Hand Soap, as it’s made from decent botanicals and smells really nice (click to check the price on Amazon).
Also the range from Puracy (also on Amazon) is one of my go-to soaps because their hand soap creates a really good, foamy lather that makes your hands feel clean and soft after you’ve used it.
The Best Nail Brush for Hand Hygiene
Many people only use a nail brush if their nails are actively dirty, but it’s a good idea to get one for general hand cleaning and washing, too.
If you already have a (clean) nail brush in the house, then go ahead and use that – there’s no need to get anything special. However, I’d recommend avoiding the cheaper, nylon-bristle ones as they start to shred (or the bristles start to come out) after any kind of vigorous use.
Natural bristle ones are better quality, on the whole. I use a Redecker nail brush (available on Amazon) made from natural bristle and wood. So long as it’s kept clean, it does a fantastic (and quick) job of nail cleaning.
Gloves for Hand Protection
Since I’m covering hand hygiene, I ought to mention that there are some instances where you need to wear gloves when you’re pregnant because hand washing isn’t sufficient. This is the case if you come into contact with soil, or poop – especially cat poop.
If you have a cat and you’re pregnant, you should either get someone else to clean the cat litter tray or wear gloves when you do it. This is because cat poop may carry the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis, a rare but serious illness if you get it when you’re pregnant (source: NHS).
Note: You can still pet your cat, though – it’s not carried on their fur. However, you should wash your hands after touching any animal.
Due to the same toxoplasmosis risk, you should wear gloves when gardening as the same parasite may be present in the soil (particularly in places where cats may defecate).
For any messy jobs like cat litter changing or cleaning out trash cans, I’d recommend strong Nitrile disposable gloves, like these Gloveworks ones on Amazon. For gardening, just make sure that the gloves aren’t porous like canvas or cotton ones. Instead, use something like these Hanhelp waterproof gloves (also on Amazon) to protect your hands from wet soil.
Besides your hands, it’s also important to keep your kitchen clean too – I wrote about that here. If you cook a lot at home, you might be interested in reading about food prep accessories and kitchen hygiene essentials that might help, including a whole separate section on culinary thermometers and their importance in pregnancy.
If you’ve had enough of thinking about cleaning (who hasn’t?) then have a look at my list of pregnancy-safe food and treats instead.