Great Expectations

When it comes to spa clients in need of soothing, perhaps no one is more worthy than a pregnant woman. “I cannot think of anyone more deserving,” says Barbara Stirewalt, spa director at The Spa at Mohonk Mountain House (New Paltz, NY). “Fatigue, the physical changes that occur with pregnancy, and the anxiousness of expecting a child—a pregnant woman is the perfect prospective spa-goer.”

She’s also a potentially lucrative client. According to a recent online survey conducted by Barefoot & Pregnant, one of the nation’s first prenatal spas, and Mama Mio, a skincare line for women specializing in pre- and postnatal care, more and more pregnant women are visiting spas and expecting the best. Nearly all moms surveyed (95 percent) said they would be more likely to visit a spa with specialized prenatal training over another spa. More than 60 percent of respondents received prenatal spa treatments during pregnancy—38 percent booked two to three spa services throughout their pregnancy, and 28 percent booked four or more services. “We hear from many moms-to-be that their love affair with massage and spa treatments began during pregnancy, so by creating a safe, nurturing environment, you are forging a relationship that lives long past their pregnancies,” says Jill Dunk, founding partner of Mama Mio. “If a pregnant mom is treated well during pregnancy, she may be yours for life,” adds Stacy Denney, founder and CEO of Barefoot & Pregnant and Belly Friendly, a multi-level education, recognition, and marketing partnership focused on making spas proficient in catering to expecting moms.


Go-To Treatments

Massage is the most popular service for pregnant women. According to the American Pregnancy Association, studies indicate that massage therapy performed during pregnancy can reduce anxiety, decrease symptoms of depression, relieve muscle aches and joint pain, and improve labor outcomes and newborn health. It’s easy to prep a room for this special massage. Just have plenty of pillows, cushions, and wedges handy to make clients as comfortable as possible, and be generous with the draping. “During the second trimester, massage can address many discomforts, such as the rapidly growing uterus, stretching and thickening ligaments, and separating abdominal muscles,” says Denney. “During the third trimester, edema (water retention) can cause discomfort. The connective tissue in a woman’s body softens and loosens up, and the joints between the bones of her pelvis become more relaxed, which can cause hip pain.”

As such, focusing on the legs and on the head, neck, and shoulders can be a godsend for moms-to-be. A popular service from Mama Mio is the Yummy Tummy ($155 suggested, 60 minutes). It involves the application of a soothing and hydrating serum and a treatment mask on the stomach, as well as a scalp, face, and upper body massage to help relieve pregnancy-related aches and pains. Another excellent option is nailcare, with a focus on massaging a pregnant client’s often sore and swollen legs and feet. You should also not underestimate the potential of facials targeted to the ails of pregnancy, including sensitive skin, dryness, and hyperpigmentation. “Facials feel great and can enhance the glow of pregnancy,” says Denney.

Certain soothing ingredients are ideal for pregnant guests. Stirewalt suggests sticking with natural and organic options. Suki Kramer, founder of Suki Skincare, says nourishing cocoa butter can keep clients’ skin supple and stretch mark free. Dunk promotes the use of products that are infused with omegas 3, 6, and 9, such as rosehip seed oil, shea butter, and wheat-germ oil. “During pregnancy and lactation, omega levels will diminish, so the skin will undergo its biggest challenge—pregnancy—when it is at its weakest point,” she says. “Thus, the topical application of omegas 3, 6, and 9 will help the skin throughout the nine-month stretch.”


Precautions and Considerations

As with any guest with a medical condition, there are some spa options pregnant women should avoid, the first of which is heat. Advise your pregnant clients to skip your steam room, sauna, and soaking tubs. It’s also a good time for them to pass on warm wraps. “If mom gets too warm, blood vessels dilate to bring more blood to the skin’s surface for cooling, which can make her lightheaded and uncomfortable,” says Denney. Plus, Dunk points out, studies have found that raising core body temperature over 102.2 degrees can lead to birth defects and possibly miscarriage.

It’s also important to be gentle. Deep tissue, sports massage, and other rigorous treatments should be avoided. Special consideration also needs to be made for the often-sensitive and rapidly changing skin of pregnant clients, which means that strong peels, microdermabrasion, lasers, IPL, and other invasive skincare services should be off the menu, as should overpowering fragrances.

Additionally, there are some ingredients that are not recommended during pregnancy. Kramer says to steer clear of artificial fragrances, dyes, phthalates, and preservatives, which can be toxic to mom and baby. Other ingredients to avoid, according to Dunk, include benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, salicylic acid, and soy products, which are considered to be xenoestrogens and mimic the effects of estrogen. A few other notes of caution? Clients who have been put on bed rest or otherwise identified as high risk should get a doctor’s approval before being allowed to receive a treatment. It’s also a good idea to wait until after the first trimester (12 weeks) to perform a massage.


Training Tips

Though special licensing to treat pregnant guests is not universally required in spas, training therapists to work with prenatal clients will always be a sound investment. “A massage therapist needs to know points and areas to avoid, as well as techniques that relieve some of the symptoms an expectant mom often experiences,” says Stirewalt.

Dunk agrees that spa practitioners should be well trained and up-to-date on the latest techniques. “Certified therapists are educated on not only the functional aspects of providing a safe prenatal massage but also the physical and emotional aspects of what’s happening with their pregnant guest and her baby,” she says. Plus, she adds, pregnant women, especially first-timers, are full of questions and fears that need to be addressed and relieved through the confidence of knowing that the professional with whom they are working truly understands what they are experiencing.


Packages, Promotions, and Retail

As the popularity and revenue potential of treating pregnant clients grows, many spas are expanding their prenatal menus and offering creative treatment packages that cater to these guests. Anara Spa at the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i Resort & Spa (HI) recently debuted an entire menu of services for expectant mothers using nourishing Malie Organic products. Highlights include the Hapai Head to Toe Deluxe ($230, 80 minutes), which involves a relaxing massage of the hips, back, and belly, and a circulation-stimulating massage of legs, feet, arms and hands, and the Honi Honi Hapai Escape ($350, 1 hour 50 minutes), which provides a full-body  massage using coconut oil and warm stones, followed by a heated coconut milk scalp massage and a volcanic pumice scrub and cool stone rub on the feet. 

Relax on Cloud 9 (Staten Island, NY), a Belly Friendly partner spa, has tripled its prenatal business by making maternity more than just a bullet point on the menu. Pregnancy expert and author Carol Osborne organized a 32-hour training course in which therapists learned how to provide treatments in a safe and comfortable side-lying position, as well as the belly lift technique that instantly relieves back pain. The spa is also adding an organic skincare line and will soon offer an expecting couples’ treatment that will train dads to provide hands-on help during labor and a  follow-up infant massage session.

In fact, many spas are finding success by keeping both partners in mind. The Spa at Mohonk Mountain House offers “Hello Baby!” (For Parents-to-Be) ($255 per couple, 50 minutes), which includes a Maternity Massage for moms and an Eagle Cliff Deep Tissue Massage for her partner. The Mandarin Oriental, Miami also caters to couples with its Blissful Beginnings package (starting at $1,240), which includes two nights accommodations, daily breakfast for two, a welcome amenity, two hours of signature treatment rituals per person in The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Miami’s Couples’ Suite, private couples’ yoga, spa gifts, and more. The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto has also found success with its Babymoon package (starting at $630 per night). It includes deluxe accommodations, breakfast for two, a custom baby-themed welcome amenity, and a $300 spa credit at Spa My Blend by Clarins. A popular choice is the Beautiful Mother to Be ($195, 90 minutes), which incorporates specific techniques to help relax the back muscles, release water retention, promote lighter legs, improve skin elasticity, and help prevent stretch marks. “Every pregnant woman who has this treatment comes out of the service visibly more relaxed than when they came in,” says spa director Jill Carlen.

Spa directors should also think outside of the box when seeking pregnant clients. Dunk suggests reaching out to the local pregnancy community of doulas, obstetricians, midwives, learning centers, and yoga studios. Denney recommends partnering with businesses that offer workshops, fitness, and more for new moms and moms-to-be. And don’t forget your local hospitals, many of which offer massages and other treatments on-site.

Another opportunity comes in the form of retail, ranging from products and kits tailored to pregnant guests to gifts for moms and babies. “Give mom encouragement to continue to take care of herself, put her feet up, take a nap, and pamper herself with products that not only nourish her skin but also give her special bonding time with her baby,” says Dunk. “Sometimes all it takes is that little word of encouragement to focus her thoughts onto her wellbeing. Happy mama, happy baby.”

Entice your expectant and postpartum clients with this selection of mom-focused products.


3Girls Holistic New Mama Healing Herbal Bath: This bath helps soothe a new mom’s nether-regions from the swelling and damage that often accompany childbirth.


aden + anais Mum + Bub Stretch Mark Reducing Cream: Darutoside, an ingredient that helps reduce the appearance of stretch marks, is the highlight of this cream.


Boots No7 Beautiful Skin Rapid Spot Rescue: Ideal for tackling acne-prone pregnant skin, the formula works to reduce blemish size and redness.


Clarins Stretch Mark Control: This fragrance-free blend contains crowberry extract to help prevent stretch marks and enhance the production of collagen.


Elemis Japanese Camellia Oil: This light oil, which is safe for babies and pregnancy massage, improves elasticity, helps stretch marks, and reduces formation of scar tissue.


Ilike Organic Skin Care Firming Grapeseed Body Oil: Free radicals associated with dehydrated or tired skin during pregnancy are fought with this oil that helps regenerate collagen tissues.


Le Mieux Moisture Infusion Mask: Containing algae, green tea extracts, hyaluronic acid, and more, this mask provides a super-hydrating treatment for a pregnant woman.


Mama Mio Pregnancy Essentials Kit: This chic set is packed with three pregnancy must-haves—Boob Tube, Lucky Legs, and Tummy Rub Butter.


Naturopathica Pumpkin Purifying Enzyme Peel: This peel is a favorite among expectant mothers, as it promotes smooth, clarified skin.


Novena Maternal Skin Care Organic Beauty Breast Cream: Specially made for the delicate skin of the breast, this cream is for women who have existing stretch marks from past pregnancies or sudden growth spurts and those who want to prevent them.


Orlane S.O.S. Abdomen: Ideal for  helping new moms tighten loose  tummy skin, this concoction contains caffeine and fucus (a seaweed  native to Brittany), which flush fat out of the tissue, stimulate circulation, and firm the skin.

Osmosis Pür Medical Skincare  Replenish Antioxidant/Repair  Serum: This serum replenishes  antioxidants and prevents  and fights free-radical damage  in moms’ weakened skin.


Tata Harper Revitalizing Body Oil: Pregnant clients can increase skin’s elasticity and keep it supple with this non-greasy, fast-absorbing oil.


The Spoiled Mama Bump Gloss  Stretch Mark Oil: Long-lasting,  hydrating, and rich in antioxidants  and collagen-building components,  this lavender-scented oil is gentle enough for mothers and babies.