By Jenny Deam
There’s a reason they call it labor.
Being a pregnant and giving birth is really, really hard work and most women in the final stretch can look and feel the worse for their toil. So who better to deserve perfectly arched brows or polished toenails on feet they might not have seen since the belly got in the way?
And if a bit of pampering helps bring down dangerously high blood pressure or distracts an anxious, high-risk mom-to-be, so much the better.
Last month Danielle Bellinzoni, pregnant with twin boys, was whisked unexpectedly from a routine ultrasound and deposited into an 11th floor room at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women after a complication with one of the babies was found. She would remain on hospital bed rest as her medical team tried to delay delivery as long as possible to get her closer to her late October due date.
“Trying to keep these boys in here a little while longer,” she said as she patted her belly.
At her bedside, Jennifer DeSoto, carefully applied long strokes of brilliant “Kiss in Paris” red shellac to Bellinzoni’s fingernails. Next up would be her toes. A lavender-vanilla diffuser sprayed its scent to create as much of a spa atmosphere as possible in a hospital room.
DeSoto runs Bella Mademoiselle, an in-hospital beauty service catering specifically to maternity patients at Texas Children’s Hospital and Texas Woman’s Hospital. Be it a mani-pedis, facials, or eye brow waxing, DeSoto said business is brisk these days.
She typically books about 50 appointments a month, often for several hours each, she said.
“It’s a couple hours to forget that you are here,” DeSoto said, calling it “routine maintenance” for women who may be used to weekly appointments and are now stuck in the hospital, sometimes for months at a time.
While there are lots of spas in Houston that offer maternity massages and mani-pedi packages, Bella Mademoiselle is believed to be the only in-hospital spa service in the Texas Medical Center.
“The physicians seem to really appreciate the service for their patients,” DeSoto said.
While there may not be any hard scientific evidence linking organic sugar scrubs or “Cloud 9 foot and leg massage” to better pregnancy outcomes, Dr. Beth Davis, at Baylor Obstetrics and Gynecology at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, said the more intangible mental health benefits should not be dismissed — or mocked.
For women who have had to relinquish control and spend their days hooked up to fetal monitors, any brief return to normalcy is important to get them through, she said.
“It takes a toll on you,” said Davis, who is Bellinzoni’s doctor.
Davis knows because she was on hospital bed rest for two months when she was pregnant. A manicure and pedicure, she said, was the prefect prescription for getting her mind off her situation and bringing down her stress level.
And there is absolutely medical proof that high levels of stress can be dangerous to a pregnancy, especially one already troubled, she said.
The spa treatments are part of an evolving labor and delivery culture in hospitals competing for moms-to-be. Some hospitals and birthing centers have redecorated rooms to make them more homey, and many offer gourmet post-delivery meals.
The spa treatments are not cheap. Bellinzoni’s sister dropped $90 for the two-hour appointment as a gift, one Bellinzoni appreciated.
“It feels good to look good,” she said, “It’s OK for women to self-indulge. This is quite a journey we are on.”
Hours later she was rushed into an emergency Caesarean-section. Sons Bowe and Luke made their debut on Aug. 31, weighing in at 3 pounds, 11 ounces, and 3 pounds 13 ounces, respectively.
They are small but healthy, Davis said a few days after delivery. The twins will probably remain in the hospital for about a month.
And as for the new mom — “If nothing else,” Davis said, “she looks fabulous.”