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Tue 20 Jan 2009 04:00 AM

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Mother care

How to develop a treatment menu to capture the attention of mums-to be.

How to develop a treatment menu to capture the attention of mums-to be.There is no doubt that the pregnant woman is the perfect spa consumer; at no other stage in her life does a female need to take better care of herself.

As bad habits and dodgy diets are banished in favour of healthy options, there is a gap left that is ripe for the spa industry to fill.

Most spas around the world actually take that precaution and say 'we're not going to touch you until you've passed your first trimester'.

Pregnant women that may never have used a spa before could be persuaded that they really need its services, as may new mums that want to get their bodies back into shape, as long as the spa treatments are designed specifically for the pre- and post-natal female.

While attracting this segment of the female customer-base is a great niche to tap into, the trend for offering pregnancy treatments is a new one, particularly in the Middle East's developing spa sector.

As a result, research into this niche has revealed some discrepancies between the advice and techniques offered by spas.

If you are considering introducing a range of treatments for the pre- and post-natal spa market, advice from a medical professional is essential, and learning from like-minded spa managers that have experimented with this sensitive market will also be beneficial.

Spa Manager highlights the main areas for consideration to ensure the needs of mums-to-be and new mums are addressed in a relaxing, fun and most importantly, safe, manner.

Timing and trimesters

For any spa considering developing a spa menu for pregnant clients, the first factor to decide upon is at what stages of pregnancy treatments can be offered at.

Dubai-based SensAsia Urban Spa owner Salina Handa, who has developed a whole menu - Sensmama - for pregnant women, says the spa will not perform anything other than a facial on pregnant ladies during the first trimester.

"The reason we won't do any body treatments until a client has passed their first trimester is because miscarriages are so high in your first trimester. Most spas around the world actually take that precaution and say ‘we're not going to touch you until you've passed your first trimester,'" says Handa.

Once this has passed, she says the massages and other treatments, which include Buddah Belly Mask and Scrub a Dub Mum, can be carried out "until the day you deliver".Aromatherapy Associates co-founder and president Geraldine Howard also prefers to err on the side of caution.

"We recommend that clients do not have our pregnancy massage until after the first trimester has passed," says Howard.

This is not the same across the board, however. The ESPA Pre and Post Natal Treatment offered at The Spa at The Address, Downtown Burj Dubai, is suitable for women at all stages of pregnancy according to spa manager Susan Yarbug.

"We do it very gently. What we need to do is to find out how pregnant she is and any precautions, such as if she had an injury or if the doctor has given any advice, for example, if the baby has changed position," she says.

The Elemis Nurturing Massage for Mother to Be, created by Elemis director of treatment and product development Noella Gabriel at the Elemis day-spa in Mayfair, London, and offered at Cleopatra's Spa in Dubai, is also available at all stages of pregnancy. It is tailored to suit each of the three trimesters.

"The treatment flow is very different over the three trimesters. During the first trimester the client suffers from morning sickness with no bump and extreme tiredness. The skin becomes very dry. During the second trimester the bump and bust are growing, tiredness increases and now the body is becoming very, very dry and the lower back is changing shape," says Gabriel.

"During the third trimester the bump is fully grown, the client may suffer from swollen ankles, little sleep and increased body temperature. All of the above must be addressed within treatment flow and design and is done so within the Elemis Nurturing Massage for Mother to Be," she adds.

Perfect products

Another area where some uncertainties have arisen is in the choice of products suitable for pregnant women.

At SensAsia, Handa blends her own oils because she says some essential oils can be "quite dangerous" for both pregnant and breast-feeding women. Examples of suitable oils include lavender, geranium and rosewood with an almond base oil to prevent stretch marks, and lavender, cypress and geranium to reduce fluid retention, although this can only be used once the client has passed five months of pregnancy.

Yarbug agrees that no aromatherapy at all should be used, and recommends using macadamia butter, coconut, grapeseed  and calendula oils. The ESPA treatment itself uses a calendula infused oil, Pink Clay Mud and various nourishing creams.

The assumption might be that product ranges for pregnant women are limited, but this is not the case. Kerstin Florian International offers the Aromatherapy Organic Harmony Body Oil, which combines an organic blend of Chinese geranium, said to help circulation and act as an anti-depressant, pink grapefruit, mandarin orange and lavender. It has a 1.5% essential oil concentration.

Elemis has a wide range of products recommended for use during pregnancy, such as the Elemis Instant Refreshing Gel. For homecare, the company recommends Rosewood Essential Oil added to its Japanese Camellia Oil to help prevent stretch marks.Howard says that some aromatherapy products can be used but again, she urges caution and reinforces that they should only be used from the second trimester.

"A pregnant woman should be careful of using essential oils that are too strong in concentration and could potentially be too potent for the baby, since it is considered possible that the essential oils can penetrate through to the baby's blood," warns Howard.

"My advice would be to use essential oils that can help improve the capillary circulation to the skin such as Rose or citrus oils such as Sweet Orange and Neroli, and encourage skin cell renewal with Patchouli or Sandalwood. Camomile is soothing and comforting for when skin gets sensitive and can also be used on babies more than three months old," she suggests.

Tailored technique

As well as using specific products, massage technique needs to be adapted to pregnant women, from the pressure of the stroke to the position on the bed. Although Handa and Yarbug said they had experience of using treatment beds with a hole for the ‘bump' to fit through in the middle, they said they now opted for more relaxed positions.

"We use a V-shaped pillow around the neck and we also put bolsters around each side and we incline the bed. It's a very comfortable position. Sometimes we ask clients to lay on their side too," says Yarbug.

"We do it on the side," agrees Handa. "The bed is inclined up to a 45˚ or 50˚ angle, because you want blood flow to continue to the heart because the vena cava is under strain during pregnancy, and we pop a pillow between the knees. It's how you would sleep on your side in bed. We even give you a bolster to hug while laying on your side so your arms know what to do," says Handa.

Gabriel believes Elemis has found the optimum position, however.

"Having gone through nine months of pregnancy and starved of good touch in a dignified position I felt very strongly that Elemis would introduce into their treatment offering a unique massage style performed on a soft, pliable surface such as a beanbag.

"The beanbag has the movement to shape and mould any size of body without exerting pressure on the lower back. It can support the knees and the upper back and is a much more dignified pose for a heavily pregnant expectant mum," she explains.

"Good consultation is essential. You must avoid heavy pressure, thumb pressure on the lower back and working on the ankle area, and in the first trimester avoid tummy massage due to morning sickness.

"Once the therapist becomes familiar with the client's personality and shape it is an amazing support for any woman during the nine-month journey. The pregnancy massage is very much about intuition and flow rather than hard heavy pressure."

Handa adds that there's a misconception that pregnancy massage is very technical.

"It's really not; there are certain areas you have to avoid, but it's a very light massage; that's the most important thing the therapist has to understand. You cannot use hard pressure on a pregnant woman's body, you'll over-stimulate her system," says Handa.

She adds that she is currently working on developing a specific course of post-natal treatments for SensAsia and that a new pre-natal treatment, Temple Time, which is a hot oil head massage to treat headaches, was introduced at the end of last year.

The manager of the new Nivea Haus Spa at The Dubai Mall is also looking to introduce a menu for the pre- and post-natal market, as well as the Nivea Baby range for retail.

"There's a really big niche out there," concludes spa manager Sallyann Simmons.

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