Tired. Swollen. Achy. That's how many people traditionally assumed pregnant women feel. But now a growing number of spas nationwide are offering a host of specialized treatments from prenatal massage and pedicures to lymphatic drainage and facials to make expectant moms feel pampered, soothed, and more beautiful than ever. In a change from the time when spas focused more on what pregnant women couldn't do, they're not only welcoming moms-to-be but offering everything from specialized pregnancy packages to classes in prenatal fitness, childbirth, breastfeeding, and self-hypnosis for labor pain.
"It's very important to feel good because pregnancy is not an illness," says Jonathan Scher, M.D., a leading ob-gyn at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. "Spas relax and rejuvenate you so you're less susceptible to stress, which has been linked to various pregnancy complications, such as premature labor and hypertensive disorders."
Whether or not you get to one of the new pregnancy spas during your nine months, you can learn from their tricks of the trade and try them at home.
Benefit: Relaxes tense muscles and alleviates such pregnancy woes as lower-back aches, leg pain (like sciatica), and swollen legs and feet.
At-Home Version: Use an unscented massage oil (available at stores that sell bath and body products, including Caswell Massey, The Body Shop, and Garden Botanika). Have your partner use flat-handed pressure to gently knead your body from head to toe as you lie on alternating sides. Pregnant women tend to slouch, which can strain the lower back. Your partner can counteract this by placing a fist against each of your hips and pushing in with equal pressure. Another way to ease lower-back pain is for your partner to place a can of frozen juice concentrate on the small of your back and to lightly roll it up and down against your spine or any part of your back that's sore.
Benefit: Remedies the hormonal complexion changes many expectant moms experience, including excessively oily or dry skin as well as melasma -- a dark skin discoloration on the face that's sometimes referred to as the pregnancy mask.
At-Home Version: Mix a cup of plain yogurt with the juice of one lemon (for oily skin) or a teaspoon of honey (for dry skin). Apply as a mask; the lactic acid in the yogurt will act as a natural exfoliant. Leave on for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse off thoroughly with lukewarm water.
Benefit: This light-touch massage and cooling gel treatment improves the circulation of fluids that frequently pool in your lower extremities during pregnancy and reduces the swelling in your legs.
At-Home Version: Sit on a sofa or bed with your legs elevated in front of you at hip level or higher, suggests Angela Cortright, owner of Spa Gregorie's in Newport Beach, CA. (Gravity helps reduce the swelling.) Then have your partner very gently massage your swollen legs with a cooling gel (Decléor Circulagel Refreshing Toning Gel and Mustela 9 Months Instant Comfort Legs both contain refreshing botanical ingredients), working from your heels up to your knees and always stroking toward your heart.
Benefit: Soothes sore feet, increases circulation, and reduces swelling.
At-Home Version: Mix a half cup of brown sugar with a half cup of olive oil in a small bowl. Fill a basin with warm water and one-eighth cup of moisturizing body wash (such as Dove All Day Moisturizing Body Wash or Freeman Bare Foot Softening Foot Soak). Buff-dry heels, tops of toes, corns, and calluses. Clip and file toenails. Gently massage a generous handful of the sugar and oil mixture from the heels to the knees. Submerge feet in the basin and rinse legs; soak for 10 minutes. Dry, then apply a moisturizing foot cream (for extra softening, use one with exfoliating properties, like Philosophy Soul Owner Exfoliating Foot Cream or Bliss Foot Patrol). Push back and clear away excess cuticles. Apply polish.
Originally published in the April 2004 issue of Child magazine.
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