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Pregnant at the Spa

Posted Jul 13 2011 3:00am

Pregnancy is a blessed and exciting time in a woman's life. But let's be honest: It's likely she won't feel like a radiant Earth Mother during the entire span of those nine months. 
Her once-clear complexion can be dotted with pimples. Ankles and calves are sometimes swollen. The waistline-well, it pulls a disappearing act. And that's just the physical side of things; there's also the mental and emotional stress of becoming a parent. Fortunately, a prenatal visit to the spa can deliver some much-needed relaxation. In fact, it may also make labor more tolerable: "When a mother is in good health and feels better, she's more likely to have an easier labor and be more comfortable," says Eileen Ehudin Beard, senior practice advisor for the American College of Nurse-Midwives.
That said, there are spa services every expectant mother should steer clear of, which is why many spas offer treatments created specifically for pregnant women. Because studies suggest exposure to high heat-especially in early pregnancy-is associated with birth defects and miscarriage, it's wise for pregnant women to avoid saunas and whirlpools, for instance. When it comes to massage, it's best to skip deep-tissue work or stretching-which are often too vigorous and can overwork and cause pain to already-relaxed joints-unless the therapist is specially trained to work on pregnant women. Treatment ingredients are another key consideration. Many pregnant women are particularly sensitive to certain scents, so it's a good idea to ask to smell any lotions and potions before they're used. Also, essential oils should be a red flag; although some experts say lavender and other flower-based oils are safe when diluted, others caution against them entirely. No matter what products are used, make sure they are organic to avoid any potentially dangerous chemicals entering the bloodstream. Despite these limitations, there are still many spa options for pregnant women. Check the menu for prenatal treatments, which have been adapted to address an expectant mother's special needs. For instance, because it's unsafe for a pregnant woman to lie flat on her back or on her stomach, during a pregnancy massage the therapist will help her find a comfortable and safe position on her side using pillows or other supports. And most pregnancy-specific facials avoid harsh ingredients or anything that will leave the skin more susceptible to sun damage-like strong peels, lasers, or extractions-because high levels of hormones can make complexions more sensitive.Ultimately, it's important to mention the pregnancy when a treatment is booked so the spa can offer guidance. It will be well worth it: Even just an hour of pampering can allow a mom-to-be to connect with her changing body and genuinely improve how she feels, benefiting both her and the baby.
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