Delivery-room makeovers

PERFECT HAIR: Ah, the bouncy, perfectly formed curls of a new mum. The first official photo of Beyonce & Blue Ivy.
PERFECT HAIR: Ah, the bouncy, perfectly formed curls of a new mum. The first official photo of Beyonce & Blue Ivy.

With the eye of the world's media aimed squarely at her, you wouldn't blame Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge for having a pre-delivery makeover. But, what about all the other expectant mums?

The latest trend out of the delivery room is seeing immaculately made-up new mums. Increasingly, women are hitting the salon for blow dries, manicures, spray tans and eyelash extensions just before they reach D-day (that's delivery day) to ensure they are looking their best for labour - and the subsequent first photo.

Shereen K admits to waxing and fake-tanning in between her contractions when her waters broke ten days early.  "It threw all my plans into mayhem, so I wasn't prepped at all," she says. "In the car on the way to the hospital I was plucking my eyebrows."

She says it was not out of vanity, but to regain some control of the situation. "[I wanted to] look together so perhaps the delivery might be equally as smooth and without issue," she says. "For me it was about feeling prepared and using that first baby image to convey the 'in control' vibe."

Childbirth is undoubtedly one of the most important things a woman can ever do in her life, but why do women feel the need to look their best for it?

One delivery room nurse, who asked to remain anonymous, says she once had to assist an in-labour women remove all the crystals from her genitals because she had been "vajazzled" and they were in the way.

First time mother, Bronwen, also had 'the works' done before checking into the hospital. "I had a facial, got my hair done, ensured I was waxed and had a mani/pedi," she says. "I'm actually pretty low-maintenance and I would only normally do this kind of thing for a special occasion, so I was probably in nesting mode."  

Even after a 36-hour labour she ensured the first shots to hit the internet were flattering. "If I looked like hell, they wouldn't have made it online."

This need to present perfectly may be the fault of Facebook, some say. "I think the trend has been driven by social media, where there is increased pressure to project only the perfect and happy moments of our lives," says The Gift of Sleep co-author and lifestyle columnist Rebecca Sparrow. "How often do any of us post a photo of ourselves looking not quite our best? And there's nothing like childbirth where there is an undercurrent of expectation for women to have the rosy cheeks, shining eyes and natural 'new motherhood' glow as we cradle our newborn. The reality, of course, is very different."

Even so, tanning expert Katrina Brown is used to requests from close-to-the-finish-line women and new mums. "I have clients who have booked me to tan them in the hospital right after the birth," she says. "Sweating can cause the tan to come off so some ladies feel it is important to be tanned again after."   

Spray tanner and makeup artist Stacey McPherson agrees, adding that she sprays tans many clients throughout their pregnancies (using an organic solution). "Some clients come in a day before their due dates. They want to look vibrant in their photos rather than looking like they've run a marathon."

"The main motivation is to feel good about themselves," says hairstylist Paloma Rose Garcia, who tends to expectant mothers at her salon regularly. "When they are only days away they can feel uncomfortable, not themselves or even completely unattractive, so having some pampering is a great way for them to get relaxed."

The concern is if the need for relaxation turns into a fixation. "When you've been through childbirth you've just experienced one of the most powerful, exhausting, exhilarating, draining experiences of your life," says Sparrow. "This expectation that you'll come out the other side looking 'magazine ready' is ridiculous.

"And really? At that moment when you're cradling your newborn in your arms, breathing them in, how YOU look will be the very last thing on your mind."