For spa-loving, moms-to-be, the often posed question is: “Should I go to the spa if I’m pregnant?” Writer and then mommy-to-be, Nicole Crozier, visited three Toronto spas to find 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.
Here 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.
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.”
Elixir Organic Spa’s zero chemicals policy is good news for expecting mamas concerned about the effects of chemicals.
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.
Stillwater suggests a water therapy treatment for moms-to-be. At Stillwater, in the posh Yorkville area of downtown Toronto, their Essential Aqua Massage is a 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.
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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.