Exploring treatments to tackle a series of pregnancy-related issues

If there’s ever a time a woman needs to be looked after it’s during pregnancy. Clients feel tired, emotional and achy in this nine-month period, having to deal with a whole host of ailments as their pregnancy progresses. But a tailored, restorative treatment can be a great way to de-stress, and with research backing the benefits of massage for mums-to-be, the industry is seeing a shift in salons now specialising in these sought-out treatments. 

Training to specialise in this area can boost your business in terms of sales and customer loyalty, but there’s more to it than just adding a pregnancy massage to your treatment list. Your therapists need to be trained in all aspects of handling a pregnant client to deliver a first-class treatment.

Do swot up on techniques
Before you start treating mums-to-be, it’s important your therapists are trained in pregnancy massage and that your business has all the relevant insurance in place to cover that. “The feedback we’ve had from clients is that they go to salons where pregnancy massage is offered but face a lot of limitations, and it’s because the therapist hasn’t been fully trained,” says Justina Perry, founder of specialist pregnancy and new mum product and treatment brand Mama Baby Bliss.

“They don’t have enough confidence when doing it and this is because they haven’t had the grounding in anatomy and physiology, and in what the ailments are and how to tailor treatments to suit client needs.” Any existing treatments you have that are not specifically for pregnant clientele, such as facials, manicures and pedicures, will also need to be amended to take in the needs of an expecting mother.

Don’t forget to ask key questions
Clients may feel delicate during pregnancy so it’s important to spend extra time with them in consultations. Asking crucial questions such as which trimester they are in, whether they have any allergies, if they are taking any medication and so forth will allow you to perform the treatment safely. “You need to carry out a full medical history, including asking about any complications and highrisk conditions. If there’s a complication, the client will need a letter from their midwife or consultant that says they are happy for them to have the treatment,’ says Sarah Barnes, owner of Inula Beauty salon in Essex.

And don’t forget to ask the client which pregnancy symptoms they have been suffering from, especially since their last visit. “Don’t just ask them how they are feeling today but enquire whether they are suffering from specific ailments such as sleeplessness, back ache and anxiety. It’s interesting; if you simply ask a client how they feel they’ll say ‘fine’, but if you go through the ailments one by one they suddenly give you this long list of aches,” adds Sara Orme, therapy manager at Eden Hall Day Spa in Nottinghamshire. She also advises therapists to ask about high blood pressure because it can be a sign of pre-eclampsia, a serious pregnancy condition, which is a contraindication for massage. A tailored consultation form for pregnancy will help you address all these areas.

Do stock up on equipment
The environment can make the difference between an outstanding and a mediocre treatment. Your rooms need to be properly equipped with adjustable couches, temperature controls so the client doesn’t get too hot, as body temperature is naturally higher in the second and third trimester, and a plentiful supply of pillows and blankets. “When massaging the client, it’s all about how you position them. We lay clients on their side and use three pillows to give support – one between the legs, one behind the head and one under the belly. Never, ever lie a client on her back or front,” advises Barnes.

Don’t forget client comfort
You have to adapt your technique to address the changes her body is going through and how she is feeling on the day of the treatment. “Many women are juggling pregnancy with careers and are working far closer to their due dates than ever before. This puts huge stress on their bodies at a time when they should be looking after themselves,” explains Brown. In the first trimester it’s common to suffer from morning sickness, so you don’t want to perform a treatment that is over-stimulating for the body. A facial is a good alternative to a massage and at the House of Elemis in London it has been proving popular with mums-to-be. “All facials [for pregnant clients] are performed by putting the client in an upright position, with pillows supporting the knees and a very gentle pressure applied,” says Nicci Anstey, head of training and sales development at Elemis.

Clients in their second trimester are starting to blossom and will be beginning to lose that exhausted feeling caused by morning sickness, but other ailments can kick in. “There is a big change in a woman’s body in this time,” says Perry. “Digestion can become more sluggish, hips can ache and migraines can come on, but a massage will help by releasing tension.” In the third trimester it’s best to focus on the back and sacrum. “These women are carrying around extra weight and their posture is changing, so they will be feeling tense. A body massage with decent pressure around the back and shoulders can be good,” adds Perry. She also explains that extra care needs to be taken around the legs as blood volume increases as much as 50% during pregnancy, with circulation often becoming poor. This can put a pregnant woman at risk of blood clots, so very light strokes on the legs are advised.

Do encourage communication
It’s normal to not want to disturb your client during treatment, but with expectant mothers you have to keep the communication lines open as they can feel comfortable one minute then be stiff the next. “At the start of the treatment tell your client to let you know at any time if they need the toilet, a glass of water or to change position. If you cover those things at the beginning they’ll feel like they can talk to you rather than just lying there thinking: ‘I’m uncomfortable,’” says Orme.

She also advises building in extra time for the treatment, anything between 15 and 20 minutes, so you can perform it properly – even with impromptu breaks. This way you won’t feel like you’re rushing. “This is beneficial for the therapist and the client as you’ve got to take your time and build trust. In some ways it’s even more important with a pregnant client because it’s more personal for them – they are not only trusting you with their body but also with their baby,” Orme adds.

Don’t use abrasive products
Skin is extremely sensitive at this time and can become oilier or drier than usual, depending on the person. Prior to treatment, perform a skin analysis to see what has changed since you last saw the client and avoid using anything too abrasive in the treatment. “This audience is very sensitive about what they put on their skin,” explains Perry. “Before, they may have used anything, but now they are aware of what they are putting on their bodies because of how that may impact the baby.”

Skin usually stretches most in the second and third trimesters, so you will need to use something gentle and nourishing – like an oil infused with rosehip that has been blended specifically for pregnancy. “But always ask permission to apply oils over the bump as some clients may prefer you not touch it at all,” advises Anstey. You’ve also got to get your scents right as women have a heightened sense of smell during pregnancy. “Strong smells or non-approved essential oils can induce nausea. The other aromas to stay away from are rosemary, peppermint and sage – all the stimulating oils – because they can be too much,” says Orme.

Do prepare for all eventualities
Katie Kirk, spa manger at Mill Wheel Spa in Staffordshire, trains her staff about working with pregnant clients so they are able to deal with any scenario that is thrown at them. She gives an example: “We had a lady in the other day who was pregnant but she was only nine weeks gone. She hadn’t told the friends she was with and only revealed it to us during the consultation. “It was a difficult situation because they had all booked in for the same treatment but she couldn’t have it because she was high-risk – she had given birth 14 weeks prior and lost the baby full-term. However, we had a good chat with her and performed a treatment in accordance with what we could do for someone in her position so she didn’t feel left out.”

Don’t offer restrictive packages
Pregnant clients like to have the option of building their own treatment packages to suit their needs, as Orme has found at Eden Hall. “We’ve done mother-to-be massage packages before and it hasn’t gone so well because these clients like the option of being able to make their own special day. We’ve found the most popular treatment combination is a pedicure and our signature pregnancy massage.”

Perry concurs this is a good route to go down and says Mama Baby Bliss often creates bespoke six-month packages for clients; for example, six massage treatments for the price of five with each one created differently based on what the client needs at that stage of pregnancy. “Ailments evolve and change,” says Perry. “We use the same sequence and strokes but focus on different areas, so the emphasis might be on the legs in one massage and then the back and shoulders in another.”