Pampering while pregnant -- is it safe?
When Donna Fenter was pregnant a few years ago, she took time to pamper herself.
“I would get pregnancy massages at the local spa, and I’d even tell my husband that I wasn’t allowed to pump gas,” she said with a laugh. “I’m not sure if it was true, but he did it anyway.”
Pregnancy care nowadays is much different than it was 25 years ago. Instead of Lamaze classes and frumpy frocks, moms-to-be are enjoying a stop at the salon for a little breather of their own. But while it’s healthy to feel good about yourself, can the steps you take to beautify while pregnant hurt your baby?
“There really aren’t absolutes, but we tell a mom, 'If a small risk is worth it to you, we don’t have specific dos and don’ts,’ ” said Stephen Briggs, an obstetrician and gynecologist at The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich. “We’re not going to urge you to harm your baby, and with anything you do, there’s a chance it could put you at risk.”
Though many activities, such as dyeing hair or getting a pedicure, are not overtly dangerous to pregnant women, Briggs said women who do want to pamper themselves through a hair and nail makeover may want to avoid them during the first trimester. Much of a fetus is still in an intense development stage until 12 to 14 weeks into the pregnancy, he said.
So what is safe, and what’s not?
Elizabeth Cahill of Colchester swears by massage and acupuncture. She used both techniques to avoid pain during her pregnancy.
Cahill, a licensed massage therapist, said while masseurs should be aware there are certain points on the body that shouldn’t be pressured, pregnancy massages can be heaven on earth for some expectant mothers.
“There are some sustained points along the ankle, some on the hand and one below the knee that shouldn’t be touched, but if you’re with the right person, they know that,” she said.
While many offices have specially designed tables for massaging pregnant women, Cahill said that in her practice, she typically asks women to lay on their side to ensure proper blood flow. It’s even safe for pregnant women to have acupuncture, which can help to relieve heartburn for some, Cahill said.
Erica Kesselman, an obstetrician and gynecologist with Day Kimball Hospital in Putnam, said the one thing she stringently opposes for expectant mothers is spending time in a hot tub. Though a warm bath is safe, hot tubs and Jacuzzis raise the body’s temperature and maintain the higher level, which isn’t safe for the baby.
“There’s definitely something to be said for feeling pretty when you’re pregnant, because there are so many things that make you feel yucky,” Kesselman said. “If you can do things that make you feel that way, that’s great. Just make sure you trust the places you’re going to.”
Kesselman said she tells her patients that facials, manicures (no acrylic nails) and pedicures are OK as long as they’re done at a clean facility with reputable staff. Even dyeing hair is safe, but she recommends the use of vegetable-based dyes to minimize risk.
If you’re also looking to minimize your weight gain during pregnancy, Kesselman said women can safely do prenatal yoga and pilates with no problem. The key to successfully exercising during pregnancy is not to begin a regimen for the first time while carrying a baby.
“We tell people to have continuing good health. Continue what you’re doing, but don’t just start something when you’re pregnant,” she said.
Lastly, while cravings for odd foods may leave a bad taste in some mouths, both Kesselman and Briggs say that other than avoiding raw fish and deli meats (for bacterial purposes), as well as large steak fish such as swordfish or shark, many of the foods in your regular diet are safe for pregnancy.
“It’s the same for unpasteurized cheese, because it’s just too risky,” Kesselman said. “But if you really have to have that deli meat, make it a melt. They’re small changes, but it can make a big difference.”
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