Welcome to Mother’s Day Week at The Klog! In honor of the hardest-working women on the planet, we’re publishing a collection of articles and videos devoted to moms-to-be, new moms, and the moms we’ve been relying on for years. Here, we shine a light on the special massage during pregnancy that Korean women rely on to increase circulation and diminish spider veins.
Love it or hate it, most women who have gone through pregnancy agree that being pregnant is one of the most intriguing experiences they’ve had in their lives. It’s no secret that I’m part of the “love it” camp—my Instagram feed is sprinkled with scenes from prenatal massages, the pregnant women priority seats in the subway, and even the pregnant women express check-out lane at the grocery store:
But I also happen to live in South Korea, a country with one of the lowest birthrates in the world and one of the most advanced beauty and health industries. Being pregnant here means that expecting moms can expect a little more pampering during the nine months when they need it most.
Here’s how I survived nine months of pregnancy with pampering that started at home and continued through the last trimester with the help of the many prenatal services (including a massage during pregnancy) available in Korea.
Personal prenatal routine:
This doesn’t happen to everyone, but I was blessed with the fabled “pregnancy glow.” Since becoming pregnant with my first child, my hormonal acne along my jawline has all but disappeared, and my skin has been in the best condition of my adult life. This means I don’t have to actively seek out new products for a new skin condition, but I do pay more attention to ingredients and make sure that my routine doesn’t include anything harmful to a developing fetus.
When I’m pregnant, I gravitate towards products with shorter ingredient lists, such as Innisfree’s Minimum line and the Numero 10 essence from Belief. Natural and organic food specialty stores, including Hansalim and Chorokmaeul are good sources for more nature-oriented Korean skin care products. And whenever possible, I seek out whole natural ingredients such as food-grade cocoa butter for my belly as opposed to other stretch mark prevention creams (although it’s debatable whether any cream can truly prevent stretch marks).
My weekly indulgence is a routine facial, but it’s not always something you can do during pregnancy. I didn’t continue facials with my first pregnancy because I wasn’t comfortable not being able to check the ingredients in the products used. I wasn’t as uptight during my second pregnancy, and received facials into the eighth month, but soon found it unbearable to be on my back for more than a few minutes. When I’m going through facial withdrawals, I make up for it by building more time into my weekly routine for face sheet masks, T-zone clay packs, and neck and collarbone masks for the décolletage, such as the Neogen White Truffle Hydramax Knit Mask.
Prenatal care for the body:
Prenatal care in Korea is designed for relaxation as much as it is intended to relieve expecting moms of the aches that come with the loosened joints, water retention and other wonders of pregnancy. And that’s exactly why I’m a big fan of the special massage for pregnancy Korean women get done. Having an hour of pampering is good for my mental wellbeing as it’s moisturizing and soothing for my body.
I’ve had prenatal treatments at home, hotels, skincare shops, and at joriwon (postpartum care center; most postpartum care center packages include a pre-birth facial and body massage). While many businesses offer prenatal services, it’s always a good idea to select a professional who’s experienced in prenatal care and massage. Trained therapists will know which pressure and reflex points can possibly trigger uterine contractions and work around them (they’re mostly around your ankle and heel).
Prenatal bodycare focuses on the lower part of your body, namely the lower back, hips and legs that usually suffer the most. If you’re a fan of deep-tissue, you may be disappointed because prenatal care providers take caution when dealing with two clients at once. Keep your expectations low (for pressure, that is), and don’t expect the kind of intensity you’d expect for a normal massage. Because of your growing belly you’ll be lying on your side, so it’s important that you have pillows or a body pillow to drape your leg and arm. If there’s an opening for a face on the massage table, you can weave your arm through that hole to provide relief for your weight-bearing shoulder.
Despite the variation in style, pressure and products of each prenatal care experience I’ve had, one thing that remains consistent: the promotion of blood circulation. Drastic changes to circulatory system as your body grows a little human seem to be the culprit of many pregnancy woes from leg cramps to spider veins (the increased pressure on your blood vessels can cause veins to swell and become more visible). This is also the common concern of all treatments I’ve experienced, and it’s addressed by natural oils and light pressure using sweeping motions from your neck to feet.
Lastly, a word on timing: Most prenatal services and massage during pregnancy are offered well after you’ve settled into the second trimester, and you might not need to book one until your third trimester when the body is heavier and achier. Like all things prenatal, facials and massages tend to carry a premium when you’re pregnant, so save them for when you really need (or crave) them!