Most pregnant women feel better if they rest, take gentle exercise, and eat little and often. All in all, then, a spa trip sounds ideal. There are some treatments you shouldn't have in pregnancy and you'll need to stay away from the heat facilities, but you can still make the most of a pampering spa day or stay.
Try to plan your stay at a spa with your pregnancy in mind. Instead of going to every exercise class and eating cordon-bleu meals, adopt a different mindset. Try some sweet-sleep early nights and late mornings. Then add a swim or a walk in the grounds. Eat what you can when you can; if you need to, call the spa and pre-order the foods that you find easy to keep down.
Can I have treatments?
A massage may help with your tiredness. Many spas offer a pregnancy massage carried out on bean bags or a specially adapted chair so you don't have to lie on your stomach. You may well find that your chosen spa will not give some treatments to women in their first trimester, such as a full-body massage or body wrap. Don't be tempted go ahead anyway, as there are some aromatherapy massage oils it's wise to avoid in early pregnancy; even specialist pregnancy massages and treatments are often only recommended after 12 weeks.
Many mums-to-be find aromatherapy treatments helpful in easing pregnancy discomforts: you may find citrus oils, such as tangerine and neroli, as well as lavender, frankincense and rose particularly soothing. Detailed evidence of the effects of essential oils on pregnancy is thin on the ground, so you may like to err on the side of caution and ask for a massage with a plain oil. Your skin may feel more sensitive while you're pregnant, too, so take this into account.
In early pregnancy, you may have to focus on beauty treatments such as a facial or pedicure, and maybe a neck-and-shoulder massage. You could also use the pool and do gentler exercise classes such as yoga.
Can I use the hot tub?
Saunas and Jacuzzis are not recommended at any stage during pregnancy because of the risk of overheating.(1) A bath or anything else that makes your skin red and makes you sweat is probably too hot. Stick to the pool and cooler treatments. Some spas offer laconiums and tepidariums -- warm rooms and beds that pose no danger but still soothe and relax. Check with the spa what they offer.
If you're in very early pregnancy, the spa may let you postpone your visit by a few weeks so that you can book in for some pregnancy-specific treatments. Add in a manicure and a pedicure, and you might just feel like a new you (or even the old you)!
Can I have a manicure?
You can certainly have someone tidy and shape both your fingernails and toenails. Some pregnant women worry about the use of nail varnish, though, because of the chemicals that the polish contains. The chemicals often include formaldehyde, toluene and phthalates.
Phthalates are plasticisers, used to make plastic flexible in a whole range of products; some are banned from use in cosmetics. Phthalates have been linked to damage to a developing baby's reproductive system, and an increased risk of asthma and cancer. Toluene is a clear liquid that makes nail polish smooth and also dry more quickly. Formaldehyde is a preservative used in varnish as a nail hardener. These chemicals are very unlikely to do you or your baby any harm at the levels at which they are present in nail varnish, but you may want to avoid them completely. In Europe, cosmetic container labels must list all the ingredients used in the product formulation, so you can check if a polish uses phthalates.
Many polishes are now made without phthalates, formaldehyde and toluene, so check the brand the spa uses in advance if you want to be completely careful.
1. Chambers C. 2006. 'Review article: Risks of hyperthermia associated with hot tub or spa use by pregnant women. Birth Defects Research (Part A).' Clinical and Molecular Teratology. Vol 76 pp569-573 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16998815 [Accessed September 2011]