Spas are definitely not off-limits during pregnancy as long as you take some precautions. Here's the low-down on how to safely indulge in some much-needed pampering.
Stay cool Jacuzzis and heated mud wraps – anything that jacks up your core body temperature – are off limits during pregnancy. Studies show even 10 minutes in a hot tub during the first four to six weeks could increase the chances of miscarriage. Getting overheated later in pregnancy is also risky.
“When your skin heats up, your blood vessels dilate and draw blood away from the placenta, putting you at risk for preterm labour,” says Joanna Greenhalgh, a registered midwife in Sprucegrove, Alta. (Exercise is generally OK because it’s unlikely to cause hyperthermia – an abnormally high body temperature of 101F. However, it takes only 10 minutes in a hot tub to raise your body temperature to 102F or higher.)
Rub it in While massage is a wonderful way to relieve pregnancy-related aches and pains, it’s important to tell your therapist that you’re expecting and how far along you are. “If reflexology is part of the treatment, the practitioner will avoid points on the wrists and ankles that might make you cramp,” says Greenhalgh.
Lying on your stomach for a massage is perfectly safe, as long as you’re comfortable. But lying on your back after the five-month mark could cause your blood pressure to drop and make you feel faint, due to the weight of your uterus on your vena cava, the large veins that carry blood from your lower body to your heart. Most therapists will use pillows and side-lying positions to accommodate your new shape.
Read more: Treat your feet>
Ouch!! While pregnant, you may notice that your skin is extra sensitive. It’s best to skip scrubs and certain procedures, such as microdermabrasion and chemical peels, to avoid irritation, but gentle facials are fine.
“You also probably won’t find waxing that pleasant,” Greenhalgh adds. Ballem was a diligent waxer pre-pregnancy, but only went once during her nine months. “I just found it so painful that I couldn’t do it,” she says. “My skin was far too sensitive.”
For all lotions and potions applied during spa treatments, have the aesthetician do a patch test first to see what happens, says Greenhalgh. “If all is well after 10 minutes, it’s safe to go ahead.” While research on nail salon chemicals and pregnancy is not conclusive, many spas now use polishes that are free of toluene, formaldehyde and DBP (dibutyl phthalate).
Do your homework Look for spas specializing in prenatal treatments and asked a lot of questions. You just need to check that all the products and treatments are pregnancy-approved, advises Greenhalgh. “Then, simply relax and enjoy yourself.”
A version of this article appeared in our April 2012 issue with the headline of "Pamper Rx."