"Some colours termed natural are made from fruits and flowers, but their powder base could have harmful chemicals such as lead and mercury which can get absorbed and affect the foetus in a pregnant woman," Anuradha Kapur, Gynaecologist at Delhi's Max Hospital, said.

"For example, natural henna is considered safe, but black henna with paraphenylendiamine (PPD) may cause allergic reactions. Colours containing either of these forms of henna will probably be labelled as natural. So pregnant women should only use homemade Holi colours," she added.

Consultant Gynaecologist at Gurgaon's Columbia Asia Hospital Chetna Jain agreed, saying that while the term "natural" may be used loosely, there are doubts over the regulation of the colours.

"The quality control may not be good and there is a huge possibility of contamination of colours which are labelled herbal and considered safe. And these can be harmful to the foetus as they can be inadvertently swallowed or get absorbed from the skin," Jainsaid.

Pregnant women have reduced immunity levels, therefore, they are more susceptible to illnesses and infections, and their skin is more sensitive as well.
To avoid any reaction, doctors recommend playing with colours made at home.

 The caution also applies to new moms who are still breastfeeding their children.

 "Chemical colours are made of synthetic, industrial dyes or oxidised metals which can be dangerous and have harmful health effects on the baby through breast milk. Some colours are even carcinogenic. So lactating mothers should practise same caution as pregnant women," Kapur said.

Homemade colours, doctors recommend, can be made by using turmeric, roli (sindoor), boiled beetroot and onions. Tradition, if it must be followed, can be respected by placing a sandalwood or saffron tika on the baby's forehead.

Apart from caution with colours, doctors also listed a few guidelines to keep off harm during the festival.

"Be careful about what you eat. It is essential that you avoid heavy or exceptionally oily food that can cause indigestion or heartburn. Avoid drinks and stay hydrated," Gynaecologist Anjali Kumar of Paras Hospital recommended.

One should also keep a count of caffeine intake which is present in tea and coffee and even chocolates.

Jain also recommended wearing well-fitting clothes, anti-skid shoes and goggles, as well as the support of an adult or even a wall since playing with water can increase one's chances of slipping and falling.

Applying moisturiser on the skin and oil on the hair will help washing off colours with greater ease."Mischief-mongers hurling water balloons during Holi is common and to avoid getting hurt, pregnant women must carry an umbrella while stepping out," Kapur said.

Washing oneself properly is especially important for lactating mothers who otherwise risk their baby ingesting colours."With a little caution, Holi can be enjoyed by all, including mothers-to-be and new mothers. Just don't over-exert yourself," Kapur advised.


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