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Spa Treatment Safety

"Treat yourself well" is a great motto for pregnancy. Beauty splurges, such as pedicures, are easy ways to feel good, so indulge! But be aware of potential hazards in other treatments -- and always inform the salon that you're pregnant. Some guidelines:

Facials are usually safe. But skip peels that contain glycolic acid, which may irritate skin made more sensitive by pregnancy. And after the second trimester, lying on your back could affect the blood supply to your baby-to-be. Instead, ask that the chair be tilted up, or lie on your left side.

Massage can help soothe aches -- particularly lower back pain, sciatica, and swelling. Make sure your masseuse is trained in prenatal massage, and that she props you up with a pillow -- so you're on your left side -- or uses a table with a hole in the center to accommodate your belly. The pressure of her hands should be lighter than usual, especially around the abdominal area. You may want her to avoid "trigger" points, including those on the shoulders, shins, and below the ankle, which some massage therapists believe could induce uterine contractions.

Hot Tubs, Steam Rooms, and Saunas should be avoided, experts say, unless the temperature can be kept below 101 degrees. Even then, they suggest staying only 10 minutes or less, since maternal temperature over 102 degrees can affect the brain development of a fetus.

Electrolysis Many experts suggest you also avoid this procedure, especially during the first trimester. Why? No one is sure how electric current may affect a developing fetus. In fact, Judy Adams, president of the Society of Clinical and Medical Electrologists, recommends putting off electrolysis until after the baby.

Aromatherapy can help quell fatigue and anxiety. However, some plant oils -- including fennel, basil, thyme, and myrrh -- shouldn't be used during pregnancy, because of suspected physiological effects on the baby. The bottom line: It's better to err on the side of safety and save aromatherapy for a postpartum treat, according to Wilma Bergfeld, M.D., head of the clinical research department of dermatology at the Cleveland Clinic.

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