At the beginning of my pregnancy, I was determined to look fantastic all the time. No one was going to say, Poor thing. She shouldn’t have gotten pregnant so early. I wanted my appearance to reflect how I felt about having a baby.

As the weeks wore on, however, I was aghast to see a drooping form in the mirror with tired, shadowy eyes, a form that moved painfully, as though it were about to throw up. (It was) A pregnant woman has the potential for dazzling beauty. For one thing, it comes from the inside out. She is listening to everything that goes on inside her, aware of a new creative power at work. Her beauty cannot be applied, like makeup, from the outside, but glows from within, a secret smile.

For some, breasts swell and create gorgeous cleavage; pink cheeks from the extra blood supply give a rosy glow; hormones cause facial tissues to soften, and small scars and blemishes to disappear. It helps that the woman is often deeply relaxed, and perhaps deeply happy.

At the beginning of my pregnancy, I was determined to look fantastic all the time. No one was going to say, Poor thing. She shouldn’t have gotten pregnant so early. I wanted my appearance to reflect how I felt about having a baby.

As the weeks wore on, however, I was aghast to see a drooping form in the mirror with tired, shadowy eyes, a form that moved painfully, as though it were about to throw up. (It was)

We all want to look radiant and beautiful, but how can you when you don’t feel radiant? When you are feeling sick, tired, and heavy, your skin is blotchy and erupting, and you feel angry at the world?

If this sounds familiar, then let me share with you some beauty secrets I discovered over the past few months.

My greatest discovery is how to carry all this new weight. I’m talking about 2nd trimester weight, which is concentrated in the belly, though some people gain in the first four months as well.

The secret is to keep your body supple by stretching it. There are dozens of ways: yoga, swimming, pilates. You can take classes, rent tapes, find books at the library. Do what works best for you.

I take a quiet time before bed and stretch everything I can: legs, back, waist, neck, arms. It’s my own version of yoga. I try to pay attention to my back, which carries the tension of the extra weight. Twists and waist-bends are great. An excellent belly-toner is to lie on your back with your hands resting gently on your belly. Keeping knees and toes together, raise your legs and slowly draw circles in the air with them. Go from smaller to wider circles, then back to smaller. (Never do anything that is uncomfortable for your belly.)

It is always important to go slowly and breathe deeply so that you don’t strain any muscles. (Controlled breathing will also prepare you for labor, when it is helpful to ride out the contractions by breathing with them.) Your baby will love it when you are able to relax deeply too.

This kind of exercise is as gentle as a spring day, and you can start at any time. Even the smallest amount will improve your posture and energy. Instead of moving stiffly with my new belly, I find myself moving easily. I can stand for longer periods of time and go lightly up the stairs. I actually feel quite graceful these days!

Believe it or not, your body is made for this. The pregnant body is producing a hormone called relaxin which helps the uterine muscles to stretch as they grow. Relaxin also relaxes the intestines, unfortunately, which is why some pregnant women have constipation. On the bright side, it affects your joints and muscles, so that it is actually easier for the pregnant woman to grow supple.

The next beauty secret is to keep your skin sparkling clean. The pregnant woman has the greatest potential for perfect skin after an eleven-year-old girl. Your body’s own hormones are keeping your facial tissues full and plump, your heart is pumping a dynamic blood supply into your cheeks and lips.

However, sudden hormone changes, especially in early pregnancy, can cause occasional eruptions or discoloration. The vital step is to keep it cleanÉinside and out.

You’ve probably noticed that whatever keeps you healthy keeps you beautiful (good diet, lots of sleep, etc.). It’s true of drinking water. Your body relies on adequate hydration, which is about ten or twelve glasses of water a day, when you’re pregnant, to rid itself of impurities and intestinal garbage. Your skin, which is your largest organ of elimination, also works to expel toxins and impurities in your system. If you are not flushing them out with water, your skin will have to deal with them. Inadequate flushing is a major cause of skin erruptions.

Adequate water intake has improved my whole pregnancy, from sleeping better to feeling less nauseous. There are some who say it is the only rememdy for constipation. But the most satisfying effect, for me, was the beautiful skin. (Your baby will thank you, too, because he or she is using so much water to grow.)

The other vital measure for beautiful skin is cleansing. If it is not part of your routine, try it and see the difference it makes for your skin. Morning and night, remove the dead cells and oils that cloud your skin. Use your regular cleanser, and a cosmetic pad, which gives a fine, thorough cleanse. I use vinegar, which has an acid that cuts oils, kills micro-bacteria, and removes old skin without drying it out-one of nature’s great cosmetic gifts.

To keep your skin nourished, invest in a high-quality moisturizer such as Avena or Avalon Botanicals. Studies show that using a moisturizer daily will decrease fine wrinkles and other signs of aging. (So does experience: ancient Greek beauties used olive oil, and Egyptians used milk.)

Blemishes and discolorations may be a normal result of hormone changes, for some. In that case, don’t worry: they will clear up after the baby is born.

There are few rules about wearing makeup during pregnancy. Some cosmetics companies have a line of pregnancy makeup. The only difference from regular makeup, as far as I can tell, is the price.

Remember, though, that makeup is hard on your skin, which is a freely breathing organism, and needs to have clean pores in order to be healthy. If you wear foundation, use it sparingly. Makeup experts recommend using a concealer on blemishes and dark patches under the eyes, and just enough foundation to blend it in. There is a beautiful transparency to bare skin which foundation cannot reproduce.

The makeup to use is anything that enhances natural radiance, especially pale, shimmering colors that catch the light. (You will notice that healthy skin does this naturally.) Try silvery or skin-toned shimmer on the inner eye-lid, brow-bone and cheekbone. Use lipgloss. Blush or skin-toned bronzing gives you glow. There’s nothing wrong with applying it when you don’t feel it!