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Belly 'facials,' photographers for moms-to-be

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  • Luxury services abound for women expecting a baby
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  • Belly "facials," in-home massage, plan maternity leave, explain bills
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By Sarah Jio
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(LifeWire) -- Before the crying, diaper changes and sleepless nights set in, a growing number of moms-to-be are spending their pregnancies in the lap of luxury. From belly "facials" to in-home massage therapy and private yoga sessions, women are indulging like it might be their last chance.

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"There are so many luxury services available to pregnant women these days," says Hilary Zalon, founder of TheCradle.com, a Web site focused on pregnancy and parenting.

Babies cost an average of $10,600 in the first year to feed, clothe and care for, according to 2007 federal statistics, but Zalon estimates some women spend that much on luxury services alone during their pregnancies.

"People are waiting until later in life to have babies, and that means they have more disposable cash," she says. Plus, "people are seeing all these pregnant celebrities." If Halle Berry can wear a Diane von Furstenberg maternity dress, why can't you?

At your service

It's not just a matter of older moms with money to burn that's given rise to these services, says psychologist Deborah Roth Ledley, founder of TheCalmMom.com, a Web site and online forum for new moms. Families are smaller than they were in past generations, she says. Often, they're scattered across great distances, meaning fewer relatives to rely on for help.

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"I do think that a service like this probably serves as a replacement for what moms used to help their daughters with prior to the arrival of a baby, Ledley says.

Say you're eight months pregnant, your husband is away on business, and you find yourself with an intense craving for won ton soup -- at midnight. You could pray that your favorite Chinese restaurant is still open for deliveries, or you could call your personal pregnancy concierge.

These services, which have begun to appear in larger cities in the past couple years, specialize in helping expectant mothers have stress-free pregnancies. For an hourly fee of $100 or more, some companies will spoon-feed you Ben and Jerry's ice cream or slather cocoa butter on your belly; others provide more traditional services.

For example, The Baby Planners, based in Los Angeles, can help you plan your dream nursery, hook you up with the best pregnancy photographer in town, book a prenatal massage or even help you pick a preschool. Packages start at $500.

Other services operate like a life coach for pregnancy. Seattle Baby Planners specializes in helping clients plan and negotiate maternity leave at their workplace, understand medical coverage and hospital bills, and find the best doulas (birthing coaches) and lactation consultants.

"There are so many things to do before the baby comes," says owner Kelly Oswald. "We help figure all that out for you."

The pampered parent-to-be

It's not just planning women want help with. Tired of cooking? Enter a personal chef or gourmet meal delivery.

Fresh Dining, which delivers in Los Angeles and San Diego, offers a service called "Fresh Mommy" -- tailored to the specific nutritional needs of pregnant women and new mothers -- that delivers a cooler of five fresh (not frozen) meals to clients' doorsteps for about $65 a day.

Couples are splurging on pre-baby vacations, too. Nearly 60 percent of couples surveyed go on a "babymoon" before becoming parents, according to a 2005 online poll sponsored by Liberty Travel and BabyCenter.com. The survey, conducted by novaQuant Inc., received responses from 798 BabyCenter.com users.

Dallas residents Kelley and Carl Loredo sunned themselves at a five-star resort in Mexico last year when Kelley was 13 weeks pregnant. "We knew we'd never get to travel again without the guilt," she says.

Now knee-deep in caring for their twin baby girls, she says the trip was their "last hurrah." "It was totally relaxing," says Kelley. "It was the calm before the storm."

Keeping it in check

Ledley thinks expectant moms should do nice things for themselves. But nice things don't need to be expensive or over the top.

Think about what might boost your spirits and make life a little easier in the short term, she says. "Maybe massages will do the trick, or a great prenatal exercise class, or a cute new haircut, or lunch with a girlfriend."

She warns couples to keep an eye on their bank account. "Be mindful that babies cost a lot of money. Grocery bills skyrocket when you add in diapers, wipes and formula. And childcare can cost as much as a college education these days," Ledley says.

"So, if you have the funds available to go on a super-luxurious babymoon, by all means go and have a super time. But do not let pre-baby indulgences put you into debt."

Besides, in the end, no matter how many massages you've had or how much you've spent on maternity clothes, one thing is certain, says Ledley: "The arrival of a baby is a shock to anyone's system, regardless of the amount of pampering they engaged in pre-baby." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

LifeWire provides original and syndicated lifestyle content to Web publishers. Sarah Jio is a Seattle-based writer who has contributed to "O, The Oprah Magazine," "Gourmet," and "Glamour."

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