Spa reviews


For spa-loving, moms-to-be, the often posed question is: “Should I go to the spa if I’m pregnant?” Writer and mommy-to-be Nicole Crozier visits three Toronto spas and one wellness centre and finds out the answer is “yes” but certain precautions are probably a good idea.

by Nicole Crozier

Good news for expecting moms – there are spa treatments out there designed just for you! And, as the case may be, for ME. I’m expecting my first child any day now.

Mommy-to-be at a Spa courtesy of DreamstimeHere are four Toronto spas I visited to speak with experts and sample several of the best spa treatments for moms-to-be.

Health Winds The Health and Wellness Spa forgoes the “belly hole” table for pregnancy massage and errs on the side of caution with the use of essential oils. Read more...

Elixir Organic Spa's zero chemicals policy is good news for expecting mamas concerned about the effects of chemicals. Read more...

Lifecycles Wellness recommends Acupuncture and Chinese Mug Wart for low energy, swollen ankles, achy legs, breech and late babies. Read more...

Stillwater suggests a water therapy treatment for moms-to-be.


One of Canada’s most respected spa aficionados, Kailee Kline, owner and spa director of HealthWinds (located in mid-town Toronto), spoke with me about HealthWinds’ treatments and philosophy to err on the side of caution with expecting moms. For example, they don’t use the massage table with the belly hole, a popular option.

At HealthWinds, a registered massage therapist performs the massage with mommy-to-be lying on her side because “it is the natural sleeping position for most pregnant women,” said Kline. She’s right. It’s the only sleeping position available to me since around month five!

And, when it comes to essential oil, Kline thinks it best to err on the side of caution.

“During pregnancy women can be very sensitive to smells and ingredients, no matter how natural. The consensus on essential oils being safe for pregnancy is mixed and polarized. While usage is still not advised for the first 3 months, views have relaxed somewhat as research has proven to be inconclusive.

She says essential oils diluted with carrier oils chamomile, geranium, jasmine and lavender are often used during pregnancy. At HealthWinds, only Neal's Yard Remedies are used.

Kline has a history with treating expecting women including once attending a 30-hour birth as a massage therapist. “We see many clients through their pregnancies and they continue to visit us afterwards,” says Kline.

Dressed in the spa’s cozy robe and flip-flops. I served myself a cup of caffeine-free tea and waited in the lounge for my therapist, Jen. The sound of the water feature, spa guests in robes, the soft lighting, it all got to me and I could physically feel anxieties and stress began to leave my body. This was nothing compared to the ultimate state I found myself in during my 45-minute pregnancy massage.

Lying on my side with a pillow to support my belly, another placed between my knees to take the strain off the lower back and inner thighs and one for my head, I was very comfortable.

Deep in relaxation mode, limp limbs, my body being gently massaged up one side, down the other, music with Buddha bells chiming and the unexpected sounds of baby laughter fading in and out. Nice touch, I think. But then I realize it’s a real baby, just outside my treatment room. “Sometimes parents come in and take turns watching the baby and having massages,” Jen tells me. Immediately I add HealthWinds to my mental list of baby dates.

Next, I learn a little about skin care products and the harmful chemicals lacking in the ones used at HealthWinds. My feet are treated to a pumice and peppermint scrub and a blueberry and soy moisturizer both products from Eminence Organics.

Almond oil is used to soften my cuticles and a non-acetone polish remover gets rid of the toxic polish on my toes to be replaced with a deep crimson from the Zoya natural nail polish line. Free of toluene, formaldehyde, DBP (phthalates) camphor and guilt.
Kline says, “Moisturizing the skin daily is something we take for granted and don't stop to think about what might be passing the skin barrier and being absorbed into our bodies. During pregnancy we do need to be more cautious as some potentially harmful topical ingredients get absorbed into the bloodstream. Two to watch out for are retinoids found in anti-aging products and salicylic acid often found in cleansers and toners. While they may not be problematic for all, some women may have reactions to them. It is always best to consult your physician about the safest products to use on the skin during pregnancy especially if sensitivities develop.”


If I can’t pronounce the ingredients, I try to avoid the product. This has become my pregnancy mantra in an effort to minimize toxins. Elixir Organic Spa’s 100% organic spa concept fits my bill and their two dedicated mama-to-be services upped the ante. I opted for both: the Mango Blossom Facial and Skin-Saving Belly Facial.

Lynn Shulman founded Elixir eight years ago with the intention of using, “as much raw material as possible and the minimum amount of processing as possible in all our products,” she says. 

My therapist, Tsering, painted my six-month-round belly with her warm Mango mixture, and pointed out how Baby is positioned - my little one’s head, his or her rump. It was an intimate and luxurious baby belly treatment. It was also the first time I spent that much time watching and being enamored with my growing belly, a pastime that I have since come to treasure.

Elixir also sells a range of organic skin care products including a baby line from WoodSprite.


Lifecycles Wellness located in upscale Yorkville is a women’s health centre focused on fertility, pregnancy and postpartum care.

I met with Doctor of Chinese Medicine, Tanya Smith, to talk about available wellness treatments for expecting mothers. After our chat, she invited me up onto the table to try out a few treatments myself.

Dr. Smith asks if I have any concerns or problems and I confess to my swollen and achy calves and feet, my overall low energy and shortness of breath likely related to what my midwife has told me is my low iron diagnosis. A heavy load is lifted. I find it difficult to admit that I’m struggling, like it’s a weakness of some kind on my part. An unnecessary issue that I know I share with other moms-to-be.

She recommends Acupuncture and Chinese Mug Wart, a leaf used in Chinese Medicine. The goal is to increase blood flow to my legs to stop the aching and to aid the absorption of the iron supplements I am taking to ultimately give me more energy.

Lying on my side, Dr. Smith asks where most of the pain is and places a thin, acupuncture needle gently into my problem areas. If you haven’t experienced acupuncture you should know that it doesn’t hurt. There is a sensation but it should not be painful. The basic idea behind it is to relieve pressure, relax you and stimulate blood flow by opening blockages of energy in the body.

Many pregnant clients, like me, come to her with the same knowledge, “I’ve heard that acupuncture may be useful,” but don’t know exactly how. It’s “incredibly useful for a wide range of fertility and pregnancy problems,” explains Dr. Smith including but not limited to, nausea & vomiting, heartburn, constipation, varicose veins, urinary tract infections, breech and posterior positions and evidently swollen and achy legs.

“There are so many things you don’t have to suffer,” she says referring to women who are pregnant.

After about fifteen minutes with the needles Dr. Smith brings out a dried form of the leaf, Chinese Mug Wart known as Moxa. When lit, the end of the black stick resembles the ember of a burning cigar. Placing the heat close to the needle in order to warm it and in turn the area being treated, increased blood flow and energy are directed to the area. This technique is called moxibustion.

It might have been the acupuncture alone or the moxibustion or the combination, but something definitely worked for me. I actually felt a renewed spring in my step the moment I stood up. As the day wore on my usual 5pm exhaustion did not come. It worked! “Chinese medicine has been around for 5,000 years,” Dr. Smith reminded me.

At Lifecycles Wellness, acupuncture and moxibustion are used for more specific pregnancy issues as well. To aid in the turning of a breech baby, as labor preparation and to induce labor. If a woman is in her 41st week of pregnancy, Dr. Smith will work with her to avoid medical induction. She told me she has an 80% success rate.

For more information on acupuncture and moxibustion during pregnancy visit Debra Betts – The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Childbirth and Pregnancy


I am here at Stillwater in the posh Yorkville area of downtown Toronto for their Essential Aqua Massage - 45 minutes of floating massage, recommended for moms-to-be and performed by a registered massage therapist who has studied water therapy.

After changing into a bathing suit and donning a robe, I wait for my therapist in the mid-day bustle of the co-ed lounge. There is lots of chatter amongst friends who have come together and are enjoying tea and coffee, biscotti and fresh-fruit-infused water.

My therapist, Trish, calls my name and off we go towards the private Stillwater Room and its marble plunge pool. The water is warm, not hot, and it’s chlorinated.

Submerging my body, I immediately feel so much lighter. Trish straps floaters on each of my thighs and leads me into the middle of the pool where the massage will take place.

Trish supports my head with one hand and massages me from fingertips to toes with the other. She presses into my tense spots while lifting my upper body right out of the water. She pushes me away from her and pulls me back, swirls me around the pool, stretching out my sides. I take full advantage of this opportunity to bliss out. I have a feeling that once baby arrives, total relaxation time could be hard to come by.

Even the rumble of the subway, heard beneath the water became a welcome part of my journey.

“The only downfall of the treatment,” says Trish, “is leaving the pool.” She was right. Lifting my legs as I climbed each step out of the pool was increasingly difficult as the reality of my full weight slowly hit me.

I returned to the change room for a little lie down in a small semi-private lounge area, and turned off the personal television to listen to Baby. Total calm. I think he/she enjoyed the pool massage as much as I did.

Editor’s note:

According to Stillwater, obstetrician and gynocologist Catherine Lynch says as long as the chemicals are appropriately monitored, swimming in a chlorinated pool isn't a problem. It might actually make you feel good — especially later in your pregnancy — to float in the water.

The water itself poses no risk to you or your baby: Research hasn't found any health hazards for healthy pregnant women from the bacteria, chlorine, or other chemicals in pools. But do skip the hot tub and sauna, as overheating can hamper the development of a growing fetus, according to various studies.

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Nicole Crozier is a Toronto-based writer who was expecting her first child when she researched and wrote this article . She is now the proud mother of a beautiful baby boy..



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