Can you get spa treatments if you're pregnant?

massages while pregnant
A massage by a certified prenatal massage therapist can really do the trick for a tired pregnant woman.
Steve Mason/Digital Vision/Thinkstock

Pregnant women's bodies go through lots of daily stresses, so a big day at the spa might seem like the perfect way to relieve them. But it's important to know that while some spa treatments -- especially ones honed by medical and spa professionals -- are alright for pregnant women to luxuriate in, others are strictly off limits.

To kick things off, let's cover some of the treatments that are perfectly safe for expecting mothers -- but with two important caveats. The first, that a mother-to-be should only visit spa professionals who are specifically trained to perform prenatal treatments. The second, that she must be having a normal pregnancy. If there are concerns that the pregnancy is not proceeding exactly as planned, she should consult her doctor before scheduling a spa visit.


Once such conditions are met, it's perfectly safe to enjoy some spa specials. For example, massage is generally green-lighted, although some experts disagree about whether it's wise to receive massages in the first trimester. Again, a certified prenatal massage therapist is a must, and tables with holes in the middle for the belly are dubious and likely best avoided for safety reasons since they don't adequately support the weight of the baby. Instead, a masseuse can perform a massage while the mommy-in-the-making is lying on her side propped up with pillows, or deliver a neck and back massage while she's seated upright. Pregnant women can also enjoy leg and foot massages for aching lower extremities.

Facials are acceptable, provided they contain only all-natural products. Even then, it's possible sensitive pregnancy skin won't be pleased, so be sure to test applications on a small, inconspicuous patch of skin before beginning. No chemical peels allowed. Acupuncture is also safe, so long as the acupuncturist is properly trained. The ancient spa technique can help with migraines, back pain and morning sickness, but it's also sometimes used to help induce labor. In a similar manner, reflexology can speed up labor, but it's also helpful for relieving pregnancy symptoms like heartburn. In the hands of a capable professional, it can be a nice, relaxing treatment. Finally, baths -- warm baths, never hot -- are perfect for a soothing soak.

That being said, lots of activities on a typical spa services list are strictly off limits. On the next page, we'll cover those.


Spa Services to Strictly Avoid

prenatal yoga
Some spas offer prenatal yoga classes, which can help pregnant women stay in shape, improve circulation, ease joints and learn deep breathing techniques.

So while some spa indulgences are perfectly safe for pregnant women to sample, others are a very bad idea. Anything with chemicals, for example, is definitely ruled out. Hot baths, even if alternated with dips in a cool pool, are also unquestionably unacceptable, along with steam rooms, saunas, hot tubs, mud baths, hot waxes and body wraps, because they can all cause a dangerous rise in core body temperature. Typically, if the water turns your skin pink or makes you sweat, it's way too hot. If in doubt, use a thermometer to test the water temperature, and always pay attention to feelings of dizziness, faintness, clamminess, chills, extreme thirst, dry mouth or nausea. If you have any of these symptoms, exit the tub immediately and call your doctor.

Along with facility pools, pedicures can also be troublesome. Even the best spas experience challenges keeping their pools and pedicure equipment free of bacteria, so pregnant women are probably better off just skipping these particular spa services for a few months, or at the very least doing a thorough Q&A with the spa professionals to find out what precautions they take to keep things clean. Get them to clean everything right before you put your feet in, and consider bringing you own tools for them to use. Also, if you do decide to go ahead and get a pedicure, you'll probably want to skip the foot and calf massage because the nail technician will likely not be a pregnancy-trained reflexologist; hitting certain pressure points can trigger labor. If it's a manicure you're after, make sure the nail polish is free of any nasty controversial chemicals.


And while detox treatments might at first glance sound like a good idea to purify the soon-to-be-mother's body, they're not. The process of getting toxins out means that first they have to be released into the blood stream, and a woman who's expecting is not the only one dependent on that blood. Essential oils are also tricky. None should be used during the first trimester, and although some are all right later in the pregnancy, they need to be heavily diluted before being administered. Other ones, though, are still off limits because they can set off uterine contractions.

When it comes to hair removal, waxes and electrolysis are generally considered OK, although they may be more painful than usual because of sensitive skin issues. On the other hand, depilatories and bleaches should be absolutely avoided. They're absorbed into the skin and not enough studies have been conducted to test whether they have harmful effects.

And always remember, it's a good idea to consult a physician before trying anything that sounds like it might be a little too risqué for a pregnant women to partake in. For more information on spas and pregnancy, follow the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Alvarez, Manny. "Pregnant at the Spa: Do's and Don'ts." Fox News. June 6, 2007. (5/5/2010),2933,278134,00.html
  • American Massage Therapy Consumer Guide. (5/5/2010)
  • "Are hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms safe during pregnancy?" March of Dimes. January 2007. (5/5/2010)
  • Behbehani, Mandy. "Baby Bump? Play it safe at the spa." The San Francisco Chronicle. April 18, 2010. (5/5/2010)
  • Brue, Alexia. "Pregnancy Without the Pause." SpaFinder Lifestyle. (5/5/2010)
  • Campbell, Fiona. "Spa treats for mums-to-be." The Guardian. Feb. 20, 2004. (5/5/2010)
  • Heubeck, Elizabeth. "The Risks of Spa Treatments." Web MD. (5/5/2010)
  • "How safe is it to have spa treatments during pregnancy?" (5/5/2010)
  • "I've got a spa trip booked and I've just found out I'm pregnant. Should I still go?" The Good Spa Guide. (5/5/2010)
  • Robertson, Annabelle. "Pregnant and Pampered: Moms-to-be Splurge on Spa Treatment." CBS News. Sept. 9, 2008. (5/5/2010)
  • Stillerman, Elaine. "Prenatal Massage During the First Trimester." Massage Today. January 2006. (5/5/2010)
  • "What about spa treatments-hot wax, wraps, mud baths, facials, etc.-during pregnancy?" March of Dimes. January 2007. (5/5/2010)