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Spa treatments while pregnant: Safety tips

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

What's safe? What's not?

For some women, pregnancy is a breeze filled with compliments about glowing skin and a divine, growing belly bump. For others, it's much harder. But whichever camp you fall into, every pregnant woman deserves to be pampered now and again.

Pregnant Woman at SpaMany spas these days have added pregnancy-related services, such as pregnancy massage to the menu. These are designed with pregnant woman in mind, however before you jump right into your spa adventure here's what you need to know while undergoing spa treatments while pregnant.

Choosing the right spa

Spa services often involve products and techniques that, if done right, will relax the mother. But if they are done incorrectly, or with the wrong products, they could be harmful to the mom and baby. To choose a spa appropriate for pregnancy, experts say to look for an accredited spa with experience with pregnancy.

"Ensure the spa has a prenatal massage included in their standard menu of services. This will indicated that the spa understands the unique requirements of prenatal massage, have thought through the process, and are capable of effectively providing the service at anytime," said the spa director for the Lakeway Resort and Spa in Austin, Texas.

Choosing the right services

Author Shelly Rivoli was disappointed when she went to Oprah's favorite spa, Miraval in Tucson, Arizona, and discovered that at seven-months-pregnant, she couldn't have some of the services she'd been looking forward to. But that disappointment changed to bliss when she underwent a Desert Rain Salt Scrub. "[It]was heaven on earth, and made all the more enjoyable because of the belly pad they used so that I could lie down comfortably on my front," Shelly says.

She also enjoyed a massage, as well as a facial the following day. "The esthetician accommodated my pregnant belly by raising up the seat more than usual, and that was divine, as well as just enjoying the quiet and comfort of being pampered. From there I went in for an (abhyanga) massage, where again I was accommodated with a belly pad, and I think the oils were especially helpful and comforting to my stretching skin."

Pregnancy massage, or massages while pregnant, are great for relieving overtaxed muscles and bones. Facials are also a favorite service, some experts say.

"Clients always love a relaxing facial, as often times the skin changes dramatically during pregnancy. Opt for a hydrating facial rather than a chemical peel - which are not advised while pregnant," says beauty expert Susie Galvez, who is the author of numerous books. "Still one of the best values for the cost is a spa pedicure. It lasts over one month, and for those having a bit of trouble reaching, let alone seeing their toes, it is a truly pampering experience."

What to avoid

Hot tubs are off-limits during pregnancy and so are spa services that raise the body temperature like sauna time and wraps.

Also, be careful about what essential oils are used in your treatments -- some are not safe during pregnancy. "Some essential oils are not in line with pregnancy - so check what oils are used before receiving a treatment. Visit www.aromatherapy.com for research. But don't be afraid to use essential oils - they can be great for addressing different side effects of your pregnancy. Just be aware of how you react to them -- pregnancy can create a hypersensitive sense of smell," says Ann Brown, an International Spa Association Board Member and spa director at Spa Shiki at the Lodge of Four Seasons in Lake Ozark, MO.

If something doesn't seem right, then be sure to question it. After Kelly of the Mrs. CPA blog had a relaxing pregnancy message, she sat down for a facial ... and it was disastrous.

"For my facial, the person for that was not knowledgeable in pregnancy skin sensitivity. At one point I actually yelled out! Everything burned and hurt, and I kept thinking that the next thing she would do would be something to cool my face off and help sooth it. But it just kept being something that HURT! Finally at the end she tried to put some kind of vitamin C serum on my face and it felt like liquid fire. I yelled out and she had to wipe it off quickly. Then she did the extractions. They were so bad I had scabs on my face for a week. I was mortified," Kelly says.

Galvez says that if you find yourself in Kelly's shoes, then speak up immediately. "Talk to the esthetician and express any uncomfortable feelings. A facial should be relaxing and nourishing for the skin and the client," she says.

Making the most of the time

Don't just run in and out when you are at the spa and pregnant. Take your time and enjoy everything the spa has to offer.

"Relax in the meditation room, if the spa has one. Drink a ... detoxifying cup of hot tea. Slowing down is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself to pamper you and your baby. Spa treatments help you pay attention to your body and how you are feeling, so use the time at the spa to focus on what makes you feel beautiful and healthy," says Brown.

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