Monday, June 7, 2010

The Skinny On Prenatal Massage in the DC area: Part 2

Ok, onto the massage reviews:

Spa on the Hill

Therapist: Sandy, specializes in prenatal, as well as deep tissue, and Swedish massage. She is a Reiki master and also teaches massage in Falls Church
Years of experience: 14
Side or Stomach?: Stomach (pillow contraption with belly cut out)
First Trimester?: Yes
Induction: Yes

About the Spa: 
Spa on the Hill is a rather new (2008) upscale boutique spa located in a renovated townhouse on Capitol Hill. If the address sounds familiar it’s because prior to being SPOTH, a business called Mommy Massage was formerly located in that townhouse.  Staying true to the Mommy Massage roots, Spa On The Hill is the first spa in the area that focuses on pregnant women and offers a number of spa treatments and classes for mothers and parents to be.  I found the atmosphere of this small boutique spa both charming and calming.  Although I mainly corresponded with Kevin, the manager, everyone I spoke with was polite and helpful.  Very unpretentious.

My Massage Experience:
This was my first prenatal massage on my tummy.  The spa uses special cushions that allow you to lay face down. The cushions support your pelvic area and have adjustable cut outs for your belly and breasts.  It felt a little weird at first, but once I got situated, it was glorious.  I went into the spa that day with a very sore lower back and achy hips--my therapist, Sandy, had her work cut out for her.  I like a deep massage, don’t really love the gentle touch, long stroke massage.  Sandy didn’t disappoint.   The massage turned into a bit of a physical therapy session once she reached my hips and lower back.  Turns out the pain in my back was referred pain from my lateral hip rotators and quadratus lomborum.  I won’t lie, it didn’t tickle, but Sandy worked out all of my pain.  I never knew where the pain was coming from, but once she identified it and worked it out I actually walked and slept better.  It was an excellent massage and I also loved the mix of massage oils that they used—very subtle scent but very relaxing.  The warm towel around the neck was also a big hit. I could have laid in that dark lavendar room for hours if I didn’t have a sitter waiting for me at home.  I would go back in a flash. Highly recommended, especially if you want a spa that is focused on the needs of pregnant women.

Prenatal Signature Massage             75 min/$110       105 min/$145
Prenatal Therapeutic Massage             75 min/$100      105 min/$135
Prenatal Relaxation Massage             75 min/$90        105 min/$125
Natural Induction Massage              75 min/$100      105 min/$135
Includes a full 60/90 min bodywork session and 15 min relaxation time    

1013 E Street SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 543-5950

Sugar House Day Spa
Therapist: Kerry
Years of experience: 12+, specializes in prenatal, reflexology, among others
Side or Stomach?: Stomach (pillow contraption with belly cut out)
First Trimester?: No
Induction: Yes

About the Spa:
Sugar House Day Spa is an upscale boutique spa located in a renovated townhouse in Old Town Alexandria.  In addition to massage, the spa also offers body treatments, skin care therapies, medi-spa, as well as salon services.  To be honest, since prenatal massage is one of many treatments available at Sugar House, I didn’t expect a lot.  I sort of expected to be short changed.  However, I was pleasantly surprised. 

My Massage Experience:
Kerry was very experienced and knowledgeable. She made sure I was very comfortable and talked me through the massage and was careful to note where my aches and pains were.  My tension this time was predominantly in my shoulders and upper back.  Kerry worked out all the knots and aches.  It was a deep and firm massage (for as deep as a prenatal massage can be). I also laid on my back for a short time while she did legs, arms and back of neck.  Some women are very leery of laying on their back at all, I’m not, and this was soo worth it.  I slept like a baby after this massage.  The atmosphere was utterly calming and I also liked the gentle aroma of the oil or cream used here.  So even though I occasionally find the people who work at Sugar House pretentious, and even though the manager never got back to me, it was a fantastic massage and I would recommend it. 

Cost:    Prenatal Massage  50 min/$90   80 min/$120

111 North Alfred Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 549-9940

Body, Mind & Sole
Therapist: Julie
Years of Experience: 7+, specializes in prenatal, deep tissue, reflexology
Side or Stomach: Side with pillows
First trimester?: No
Induction?: maybe

About the Spa:
Body, Mind & Sole is located in a non-descript store front in the Del Ray section of Alexandria.  I actually walked right by it the first time I went looking for it.  I also went back onto my computer to check the address and reviews to make sure I was at the right place, since it wasn’t what I expected!  Let me be blunt here BM&S is no-frills compared to the other spas.  It has an earthy and organic feel -- very Del Ray.  When you enter it feels a little more like an office than a spa, but don’t be discouraged, the focus at Body, Mind & Sole is on your body treatment.  It’s a small outfit made up of a handful of therapists who take their work seriously.  If you’ve ever lived overseas – Asia in particular—you might be more familiar with low key neighborhood spas like this that are located in store fronts and don’t offer all the big spa bells and whistles.  The benefit of a small spa like this is that you are definitely an individual here, not just an appointment and you can get a good massage for a decent price.  Also, they include a footbath with each massage - a nice relaxing touch.

My Massage Experience:
From what I could tell, there was one main massage room at B,M& S. The room is relaxing and there is a large mural on the ceiling. I was situated on my side for the massage with pillows for support between my knees.  My shoulders and neck were my main complaint during this massage and Julie definitely focused on those areas.  Julie was knowledgeable and accommodating. I enjoyed the massage although it wasn’t as deep as I like.  I should note that this was my first prenatal massage ever, and my first on my side.  Personally, I don’t like lying on my side for long periods of time–like more than 10 minutes.  So it took me a while to get used to lying this way for my massage.  All in all, I would recommend B,M&S for a solid massage—they also offer preconception and postpartum massages.  I would definitely go for the 60 min or longer massage.  I did the 30 min one and wish I had done the 60.  If you don’t need the all the frills of a big spa, but like personal atmosphere and reasonable prices —check out Body, Mind & Sole.

Prenatal massage  30 min/$50  60 min/$85  75 min/$100   90 min/$120
*all include foot bath
Preconception and postpartum massage also available

2111 Mt. Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22301
(703) 739-2111

Massage Envy
Therapist: Shalita
Years of Experience: 8+, specializes in prenatal, hot stone, deep tissue
Side or Stomach: Side with body pillow
First Trimester: No
Induction: Not technically, but will give later term massages

About the Spa:
Massage Envy is a chain spa with four locations in the DC area.  I was intrigued by Massage Envy because I see and hear about them constantly (they have pretty much saturated the market with advertisements.)  After visiting two upscale boutique spas in the area and one smaller, organic spa, I wanted to see how a chain spa stacked up.  The spa is located in a shopping center in Falls Church, that also houses a supermarket and a pharmacy, among other businesses.  From the outside, it looks like a hair salon.  The waiting room was very clean, bright and new, but it also felt more like a hotel lobby than a spa—at least to me.  Everyone was very professional and polite in the reception area (they were colder and more uppity on the phone).  A spa representative sat down with me and explained the benefits of the massage and asked what areas I wished to focus on.  It sort of felt like hospital triage.  What I realized later was that my representative is a sales person.  She’s sweet and kind and walks you through everything before you go in and then after the massage she goes in for the hard sell.  

So here’s the deal – Massage Envy has an introductory $49 massage deal for new customers.  If you decide to come back for another massage it costs $98.  However, if you sign up for their wellness program for $60/month you get 1 massage a month.   However, you really have to be committed to this since it’s very hard to break your contract (like a gym membership).  If you want to cancel your membership you must have a doctor’s note with a medical reason why you can’t continue or you must prove that you are moving more than 25 miles away from a Massage Envy location. 

My Massage Experience:
It definitely felt like a hotel spa when I went back. It was peaceful and clean, but it was crowded.  However, there are at least 12 rooms at this location so they can accommodate a number of people.  The massage room itself was also very clean/sterile.  I have to say the massage bed was the coolest of the four in that it mechanically raised and lowered and was heated!  I really liked the heated bed! I received my massage while situated on my side while holding a body pillow.  Shalita was nice, knowledgeable, but very cautious.  I got the feeling that they are trained by ME to really err on the side of caution when giving a prenatal massage.  They don’t do first trimester massage, don’t massage feet, and are super cautious with the amount of pressure.  The massage was not deep,  Shalita did a lot of long, medium pressure strokes.  I have had massages like this before—I don’t really enjoy soft strokes.  When my body aches I don’t want my therapist to be gentle.  Also, they use a cream instead of scented oil.  It was ok, but I prefer oil.  They are definitely trying to appeal to the masses. Overall it was a decent massage, but I wouldn’t pay $98 for another.

Cost: First time customers: 60 min/$49   Returning: 60 min/$98
Wellness membership: $60/month includes 1 massage per month.  Very difficult to cancel.  Must have explicit note from doctor or must move more than 25 miles from a massage envy

Potomac Yard 3600 South Glebe Road #120
Arlington, VA 22202
(703) 414-0808
Falls Church 1208-D West Broad St. 
Falls Church, VA 22046
(703) 226-8999
Bethesda 7033 Arlington Rd 
Bethesda, MD 20814
(301) 652-8877
Rockville 12266-Q Rockville Pike 
Rockville, MD 20852
(240) 221-0078

So here’s my take:

If you want a spa experience along with a fantastic massage: Spa on the Hill or Sugar House

If you want a spa that really focuses on pregnant women and offers and excellent prenatal services: Spa on the Hill

If you are looking for a solid, affordable massage and don’t require the bells and whistles of the bigger spas:  Body, Mind & Sole

If you are looking to have multiple massages during hour pregnancy and can’t spend $90 everytime supplement with a shorter massage at: Body, Mind & Sole

If you are new to massage completely: Spa on the Hill or Sugar House

If you are super anal and need a place that is new and clean and sterile: Massage Envy

If you want to get other spa or salon services done during the same visit: Sugar House


Others places to get a prenatal massage in the area that have received good reviews:

High End (60 min massage more than $100)

The Spa @ The Mandarin Oriental (DC)
Maternity Massage: 1 hr 20 min / $195 weekdays ($215 weekends)

Nusta Day Spa (DC)
Pregnancy Massage: 50 min/$105      80min/$150

Shakti Mind Body Studio (DC)
Prenatal Massage: 60 min/$120

Tranquil Space (DC & Arlington, VA)
Prenatal Massage: 60 min/$110
Other prenatal offerings: childbirth education, prenatal yoga

Mid-Range (60 min massage less than $100)

Old Town Massage (Alexandria, VA)
Prenatal Massage:  60 min/$90

Rejuvenations (Herndon, VA)
Pregnancy Massage: 60/ $96   90/$135

Sanctuary Massage  (Alexandria, VA)
Pregnancy Massage: 30 min/$60   60 min/ $90   90 min/ $125   120 min /$160
Other prenatal offerings: fertility massage, post partum massage


  1. Thanks for the helpful reviews. I'm in my third trimester and was actually thinking of going to Massage Envy...think I've changed my mind now. The sales pitch is a complete turn-off for me and leaves me tense.

  2. I had a GREAT pre-natal massage at The Healing Tree in Delray, Alexandria with Maryellen (the founder). She works on specific requests and gave me a good, deep massage. I was face down to start (they have the cushions with the belly and breast cut-outs) and found it to be surprisingly comfortable. When I was face up, she elevated the massage table slightly so that I wasn't completely flat on my back. I was having sinus allergy issues and she helped to relieve some of that pressure too. All in all, I highly recommend The Healing Tree!

  3. Jamu massage won't lie to you and say that the post natal weight loss treatment was super relaxing. It wasn't. But was it effective? HELL YEAH!