When Kelly Kockos, 38, drove by Barefoot and Pregnant, a maternity spa in Sausalito, Calif., she knew it would be the perfect gift for her newly pregnant girlfriend. What she didn't know was that she, too, would soon be enjoying the maternity spa.
"It was wonderful," she says. "They laid me on my side with all these pillows, and it was probably the most comfortable I'd been in nine months. They know where to put the pillows and where to put the pressure, and it was so relieving and nice to have time to myself and to be pampered."
Kockos is among a growing number of moms-to-be who are spending their pregnancies -- or part of them, anyway -- in the lap of luxury. Whether for pregnancy massages, facials, private yoga sessions, or the more traditional "mani-pedi" (manicure-pedicure) combo, women around the country are indulging in maternity spa treatments. Prices range from $15 -$75 for waxings to $195 for a "belly cast" -- a mold of your pregnant stomach. Belly massages start at about $70 in most spas.
"When you're pregnant, there are all these weird changes going on with your body, so massage gives you a chance to celebrate it," Kockos says."It's something everyone should do."
The Need for Maternity Spas
Stacy Denney, chief executive officer of Barefoot and Pregnant and author of Spa Mama: Pampering for the Mother to Be, says that maternity spas are increasingly viewed as a necessity, not a luxury.
"A lot of people look at it as pampering," she says. "But we're not in our mother's time. We're a different society and a different environment. We're older and we're working 40 and 50 hours a week -- both before and after the baby is born."
According to the CDC, the average age of mothers has steadily increased in the past 30 years. In 1970, the average age of all new mothers was 24.6. By 2002, the number was 27 -- an all-time high for the nation.
"The trend in delayed childbirth is universal -- observed nationwide and among all groups in the population," concluded the 2002 report.
Because older women tend to have careers, which means more disposable income, they're more apt to go to a maternity spa.
In suburban Cincinnati, women can enjoy the recently opened Becoming Mom, a maternity spa devoted to pampering soon-to-be and new mothers. In New York City, expectant mothers head to Edamame Spa for a full range of maternity treatments. The company has now expanded into several locations, including neighboring New Jersey and Massachusetts, as well as Charlotte, N.C.
Denney believes there are only a handful of maternity spas, but traditional spas around the country are offering pre-partum treatments such as belly massages. She operates Barefoot and Pregnant out of Sausalito, Calif., and Carefree, Ariz., and says she is licensing the trade name to other spas. She's in talks with several hotels and is also launching an online social network.
"We wanted to create a community where women could help other women," she explains. "As we did, we found that there was a need for all sorts of other full spa services dedicated to the expectant mom -- not just prenatal massage, but acupuncture, facials, massages geared to each week of your pregnancy, which has different symptoms throughout, and treatments for everything from migraines to carpal tunnel syndrome."
Maternity Spa Safety
Donald Lindblad, MD, an obstetrician/gynecologist in Santa Barbara, Calif., sees no problem with spa treatments, including pregnancy massages, as long as they are not "excessively rigorous." In some cases, he says, the experience could be beneficial.
"Many pregnant women feel they don't look very good," he explains. "They feel fat or they have pigmentation, so there may be psychological benefits -- an uplifting effect -- with these treatments."
Pregnancy massages, in particular, could help on a more physical level, he adds, by easing the backaches that so many pregnant women experience. And concerns about the absorption of creams and lotions are unfounded, he says.
"Very few medications have been proven to cause deformities in humans, but as a general rule we try and avoid them," he says. "There are no studies about the effects of oils and creams, however, but it's probably safe to use them."
Lindblad suggests avoiding chemicals and medications during the first trimester, if possible, when the critical development is occurring. This would include exposure to fumes such as nail polish -- although little absorption is likely to occur, he says, especially if adequate ventilation is used.
Maternity Spas Reduce Stress
Another reason for the increase of maternity spas may be stress.
Julie Scott, MD, a perinatologist in Scottsdale, Ariz., sees a lot of expectant mothers in her practice. She was perturbed by the stress and anxiety that women were facing in their pregnancies - much of which was exacerbated by their physicians.
"The women in our community are older and have delayed having children until they have established their careers and their marriages, so they're coming at it at a different time in their life," she explains. "They may have faced fertility issues or medical issues, which traditional physicians look at as complications, so they've been given a list of things they can't do. They've been told that their pregnancies are complicated, which means they have a certain level of stress."
So Scott got together with colleagues Karri Francois, MD, and Kathleen Harris, MD, also perinatologists, and founded AMOMI, a pregnancy wellness spa. It's the only physician-supervised maternity spa in the country for high-risk pregnancies, Scott says.
"Our goal was to minimize that feeling [of stress] and say that pregnancy is normal," she explains. "It's a state of health, and we should be focusing on the positive aspects and optimizing their health and well-being by complete counseling, nutritional therapy, and alternative therapies, as well as consistent medical care."
Maternity Spas: More Than Just Massage
In addition to traditional spa treatments such as belly massages and facials, AMOMI offers a wide range of educational opportunities for their clients, including classes on nutrition, labor and delivery, and pain management choices. Like Barefoot and Pregnant, AMOMI offers pregnancy exercise classes as well.
After birth, clients can go into AMOMI for a postpartum tune-up and get everything from microdermabrasion and laser hair and vein removal to a "New Mommy and Me" massage and facial. Prices range from $60 for a facial to $175 or $250 for laser vein renewal, but AMOMI also offers packages, like a half-day getaway, the "Trimester Trifecta" (three services per trimester), or "9 Months of Bliss," which offers treatments throughout the pregnancy.
"We're not the women that our moms used to be, when it was a badge of honor to carry the physical effects of the pregnancy," Scott says about the cosmetic procedures. "Women nowadays see themselves very differently. These are women who want to get back to their pre-pregnancy wellness state, and there's no reason they can't."
Surprisingly, even the economic downtown isn't affecting the maternity spa business, which is booming. AMOMI recently opened its doors to an influx of clients. And Denney says she's seen no decrease in revenue at all.
"From a business aspect, there's no seasonality," she explains. "It's a short-term thing, so people are willing to spend more money."