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Spa Treatments for Pregnant Women

While researching an article in the fitness market, I was offered spa services at a high-end health club and spa. My giddiness over this generous ‘perk’ quickly dissipated when I remembered there are certain spa activities I may not be able to enjoy in the sixth month of pregnancy.

I knew from reading (and from those signs posted on the walls at hotel pools) that a hot tub, sauna, or any activity that would raise my body temperature was out. What does that leave?

Manicures and pedicures are highly recommended in parenting magazines as a relaxing treat for pregnant women. But some nail polishes contain phthalates, as well as formaldehyde and toluene, which are believed to cause birth defects. Fortunately, phthalates are not absorbed through the nails.

To be safe, find a spa that offers toluene- and formaldehyde free formulas, or receive the mani-pedi in a well-ventilated area. You can also wear a mask, like nail technicians wear. Chances are the limited exposure you receive from bi-weekly or monthly treatments is not enough to worry about. If you decide to polish your nails yourself, be sure to do that in a well-ventilated area, too.

If you’re concerned about the sterility of manicure/pedicure instruments, you can bring your own. Pregnant or not, I am always a stickler for sterilized instruments, and, if the instruments have been sitting out, I ask the nail technician to re-sterilize them in front of me. It’s never been a problem. I have also walked out of nail places because I felt they were not up to my standards for cleanliness. With the weakened immune system that comes with pregnancy, you’ll want to be particularly vigilant about cleanliness and sterilization procedures.

Many pedicures also include a foot massage. Ask your technician to forego this part of the treatment, as foot massage may hit pressure points that can induce labor, and should only be performed by a trained professional in this field.

Massage is, however, an ‘approved’ spa treatment for pregnant women. The Atlantic Club’s Milagro Spa in New Jersey even offers a maternity massage on specially-designed beds to accommodate the needs of pregnant women in their second and third trimesters. I am definitely adding this one to my list!

Maternity massage treatments use a special table designed to accommodate your belly. The therapist should not massage your abdomen, or should use only a very light touch in that area.

If your spa doesn’t provide a specific maternity treatment, ensure the massage therapist is trained in pre-natal massage, and ask that he or she does not massage the belly area or your feet. The therapist may also provide special pillows designed to position you comfortably, or simply allow you to remain on your left side for the duration of the massage. Pregnant women should limit their time on their back or right side. Massage should not be performed in the first trimester at all.

Can you add aromatherapy to your spa package? According to What to Expect When You’re Expecting, some oils can trigger contractions, so steer clear of basil, cedar wood, clay sage, fennel, juniper, marjoram, myrrh, rosemary, sage and thyme. Any strong scents may bother the overly-sensitive sense of smell in many pregnant women, so you’re better off foregoing aromatherapy massage altogether.

Taking the advice of most books and Web sites, I ‘consulted with my doctor’ to confirm what other treatments might be safe. She gave me the go-ahead for some activities I would think might be off-limits, including a sea salt exfoliation, mud wrap and oil wrap. Common sense dictates that the latter two may raise my body temperature past safe limits. I’ll trust my judgment and skip them.

Besides, I don’t want to be greedy. A mani-pedi, maternity massage and perhaps a few laps in the pool will create a relaxing, memorable experience for me.


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