Q&A: Are Spas Safe?

If you're looking for some special time just for you -- a spa is a great option. Just be sure to watch out for these factors during pregnancy.

Q. I'm feeling so ugly and need something to lift my spirits. Is there any kind of spa splurge that's safe?

A. At this point in your pregnancy, you may not feel beautiful. Heck, you may have trouble just getting out of bed and matching your socks in the morning. You definitely deserve a beauty treatment, and there are many safe ones from which you can choose.

  • Manicures and pedicures. These are a great way to feel a glimmer of glamour. Bring your own instruments to the salon or ask your aesthetician to use a fresh set. Although the chance of an equipment-borne infection is low, it's best to avoid the risk altogether early in your pregnancy. Stay away from cuticle cutting, acrylics, and any polishes that might contain dibutyl phthalate (DBP), a class of chemicals that cause developmental deformities in animals. You can use paste-on nail tips without those chemicals.
  • Facials and makeovers. A facial is fine as long as your aesthetician keeps it simple (cleansing, massaging, and moisturizing your skin). Things to avoid include invasive extractions, chemical peels, and electronic stimulation. If you have a makeover, avoid cosmetics that contain phthalates, the chemicals often used in deodorants, fragrances, lotions, and sprays. Chemicals in this class are used industrially as solvents and softeners; they are commonly found in pesticides, nail polish, and paint.
  • Hair treatments. Your new abundance of estrogen may increase the growth rate of your hair. If this happens, your hair might not shed as quickly, and it may look shinier or healthier than ever before. On the other hand, you may now wince at the sight of the black roots quickly overtaking that blond hair you've always worked hard to maintain. Your hair might be straighter and limper than usual or drier and stiff-feeling because of hormone fluctuations. What can you do?

    Recent studies show no link between birth defects and hair dyes, permanents, or hair relaxants. This has led the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to OK these hair treatments during pregnancy. However, be aware that the hormonal changes that affect your hair during pregnancy may also alter the way your hair reacts to the products you usually use, leaving you with surprising textures and colors. This might be a good time to consider adopting a new, flattering haircut and a more natural look. You could also try a henna rinse; this is free of noxious ammonia, peroxide, and metals. Or use a highlight that's painted on; it's less likely than all-over color to produce a disastrous effect during pregnancy.
  • Shaving and waxing. You can still shave or wax your leg hair during pregnancy. However, waxing may prove extra painful now because of your pumped-up blood vessels. Use leg lotions to ease fatigue. Those lovely mint-scented soaks are safe for your aching legs and feet; use water that is cool or warm, not hot (hot water dries out the skin).
  • Heat treatments. One of the biggest spa no-no's during pregnancy is anything involving heat treatments. Mud and seaweed wraps are totally off-limits; so is hydrotherapy because an elevated body temperature during early pregnancy may be linked to miscarriage and birth defects.
  • Massages. With backaches, leg cramps, and tired neck and shoulders, a pregnant woman has every reason to crave a massage. It's important to find a massage therapist licensed by the American Massage Therapy Association and familiar with techniques that are both safe and relaxing for expectant mothers. For instance, your massage therapist should have a special table with an opening or pillows that will allow you to lie on your stomach or be supported on one side without lying on your baby and feeling uncomfortable. Your belly shouldn't be massaged because it can cause uncomfortable uterine contractions.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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