Pregnancy-Safe Body Treatments

By Published On: December 2nd, 2022
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These beauty and wellness routines are safe for relieving aches and pains while expecting.

Medical Expert: Jimmy Miller, MD, OB-GYN

From tightly stretched skin, swollen ankles and legs, and backaches—the third trimester can be brutal on the body. A little extra self-care to relax, recharge and find relief before your wee one arrives might be just what’s needed to power through until delivery day.

Below we have treatments that have an OB’s stamp of approval (just note the cases where it might not be the best option for your stage of pregnancy). Choose the remedy that sounds ideal for your specific pain point—and enjoy!

Best for Itchy Bumps

Aside from the many physical changes and symptoms of pregnancy, you may have a new awareness of your skin. Not just the wonder and amazement of your expanding belly, but also an unpleasant itchy sensation that comes with it. A few different things can cause itchy skin: First, the rush of hormones and increased blood supply can sometimes be the culprit. Increased dryness and stretching skin can also cause that tingly feeling. While mild itching is completely normal, be sure to mention to your doctor if it goes beyond a slight urge to scratch.

The best thing you can do to beat the itch is to moisturize the skin regularly. A sheet mask, such as Ever Eden Soothing Belly Mask ($11) fits over your entire bump (you can choose between first/second-trimester size or second/third-trimester size) and soaks your skin in nourishment in the form of moisturizing plant-based oils, like olive, coconut, and jojoba. Let the mask sit for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the sheet and rubbing in any excess serum. For a daily dose of hydration, a lusciously thick lotion, such as Josie Maran Whipped Argan Oil Body Butter ($38) is a treat to apply. The whipped cream melts into the skin like literal butter (despite the formula being vegan) and leaves the body feeling smooth and soft yet never slick or greasy. I’m partial to the sweet citrus scent, but it also comes in an unscented version for sensitive pregnant noses.

Best for Swollen Feet and Legs

As you get deeper into your pregnancy, some swelling of the feet and ankles is common thanks to the excess fluid and the hormones that are allowing your ligaments and tendons to relax and stretch. It’s also not uncommon to go up a shoe size as the same hormones that affect your pelvis and back may also flatten or lengthen your feet. Beauty Pie Super Tonic Peppermint Leg & Foot Scrub ($75) pulls double duty by sloughing off dry, dead skin cells while massaging your tired feet and legs. The peppermint also delivers a refreshing, chilly sensation to the experience. Honest Beauty Chill Mama Cooling Jelly ($15) also draws on peppermint extract, along with aloe and eucalyptus to soothe swelling. Bonus: This hydrating jelly may also feel nice on the itchy skin of your growing bump.

Best for Hip and Back Pain

First off, belly bands are fantastic for supporting the bump and easing pain. “They take pressure off the hips and support the lower back,” says Jimmy Miller, MD, an OB-GYN and founder of Monarch Obstetrics and Gynecology in Wooster, Ohio. “These are especially fantastic for the third trimester and working long days on your feet—the more these can be used, the greater decrease in late third-trimester back pain,” he explains.

Prenatal massages are a great way to get a full-body rub down that focuses on your unique needs. But tap your partner in for an impromptu session for those tough days when a professional visit isn’t in the cards. A bit of oil, such as Pipette Belly Oil ($20) delivers a little something-something to a basic back rub. While designed for the belly, the blend of sunflower and grapeseed oils combined with ceramides and squalane are fantastic for hydrating the skin all over the body, plus provide glide for the massage.

If you consult ol’ Google Rx, there is some conflicting information about the safety of heating pads when you’re expecting, however, Dr. Miller is here to set the record straight: “Heating pads are fine for short stints,” he says. “But, never place a heating pad on your abdomen at any point during pregnancy. A lower back heating pad set at a medium-to-low setting can be helpful for low back and hip pain.” The goal is not to increase your core body temperature, so like your favorite soup recipe, think low and slow. One caveat to this rule is, “When your baby is in the lower pelvis in the first trimester, avoid heating pads to the lower back,” says Dr. Miller. 

Best for Whole Body Relief

“Yoga is by far one of the best things a pregnant patient can do for themselves and their delivery,” Dr. Miller says, “It is a great stress reliever for the body and mind.”

Not sure what flow to choose? Look for Yin or other restorative yoga practices. “Slow yoga is one of the best yoga forms for pregnancy. You want daily, slow, long stretches (30-second holds or longer). This allows the joints of the hips to relax and the muscles to stretch,” explains Dr. Miller.

“Be careful to slowly settle into poses, especially for those that are not accustomed to yoga, as pregnancy relaxes your joints and ligaments, which can lead to injuries in more aggressive stretches (pigeon pose, for example). There are no concerns with any standard yoga position prior to 20 weeks pregnant,” says Dr. Miller, adding, “After 20 weeks you should modify any yoga position that has you lying directly on your stomach.”

Foam rolling is another great full-body care practice to incorporate into your routine—but remember safety first. “Foam rolling should be avoided directly on the abdomen during pregnancy, but foam rolling of the back and hips are safe,” Dr. Miller says. “In the third trimester, when foam rolling your back, be mindful that the curvature of your back has changed,” he explains. While foam rollers are generally safe, avoid percussive or massage guns. “[These tools] create volatile motions that, while low-risk for fetal injury, could seriously injure the placenta,” Dr. Miller says.

As relaxing as they may be, hot tubs, saunas, and hot yoga sessions should be avoided in all trimesters, Dr. Miller says. “First-trimester exposure to hot tubs has been linked to neural tube defects (such as spina bifida).” However, lukewarm baths can be a great pain reliever. “Your goal when taking baths should be to not increase your core temperature. Average body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, so tub baths should be below 98 degrees,” explains Dr. Miller. Spice up your tepid bathwater with a relaxing, sleep-inducing lavender-scented soak, such as Bath & Body Works Lavender Vanilla Luxe Bath ($19).

While there are a few common body treatments to avoid when you’re expecting (heat being the biggie), there are also many self-care practices you can enjoy, and maybe even appreciate more, for pregnancy-induced aches and pains. Here’s hoping you can fit in some TLC for your strong mom body before your baby arrives.

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