Q&A: Can I have my toenails painted if I’m having a c-section?

It might seem like a strange question, but it’s one mums prepping for c-sections in the Mum’s Grapevine Due Date groups are tossing around. And it all has to do with monitoring oxygen levels.

Bit of a vain question to ask, but any ladies with booked c-sections, can you have your toenails painted? I have a pedi booked, but don’t want to waste it if I can’t have them painted!

Francis, Mum's Grapevine reader

Mum’s Grapevine expert, specialist Sydney obstetrician Dr Gary Sykes explains why it’s ok to keep your pedi appointment.


In the past, the anaesthetist would look at how pink your nail-bed was during the operation to give an idea of how well oxygenated you were. Now anaesthetics have very accurate monitoring machines that can very accurately check all sorts of vital signs during your operation including your oxygen level.

For oxygen and heart rate monitoring typically, a fingertip oximeter is used. It monitors your body’s oxygen saturation level and your heart rate simply by placing your fingertip into its sensor. Even so, most hospital surgery admission instructions state: ‘Do not wear nail polish’. That’s because on occasions the nail polish will interfere with the accuracy of the oximeter.

But in my experience, anaesthetists are not concerned if you have nail polish on.

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