What would be more soothing than a hot bath filled with essential oils to ease the aches and pains of pregnancy? Or how about taking your relaxation to the next level in a private whirlpool bath? Perhaps slipping into a stress-relieving sauna to purify the skin and sweat away your tension? These experiences may sound wonderful, but are hot baths, hot tubs, and saunas safe during pregnancy?
This post investigates the facts and medical research to let you know how you can safely relax during pregnancy.
Hot Baths and Pregnancy
Drawing a hot bath in the comfort of your own home is one of the easiest ways to unwind. But how safe are hot baths if you’re carrying a little one inside you? According to Fit Pregnancy magazine, hot baths can be a safe way to destress throughout your nine months of pregnancy. Dr. Taaly Silberstein, an OB-GYN who practices in California, elaborates:
“As long as the water temperature doesn’t get too hot and you keep soaks to approximately 10 minutes, you can bathe until the day you deliver.”
So, how hot is “too hot”? As a general rule, you should avoid raising your body temperature to more than 102 degrees Fahrenheit during pregnancy, which is why intense exercise like hot yoga is discouraged.
To keep your body temperature safely below the 102-degree threshold, purchase a bath thermometer and monitor the temperature of the water in your tub. The water should at no point go above 100 degrees, but it would be prudent to keep the temperature several degrees lower than that benchmark. Fortunately, regulating the temperature in a bathtub is easy to do, as the water naturally cools off after being exposed to the air.
Hot Tubs and Pregnancy
Jacuzzi, whirlpool, hot tub — whatever you call it, the name evokes blissful images of relaxation and pampering. Unless you have a hot tub at home, you most likely will be visiting a spa to experience this indulgent ritual. The good news is that, like hot baths, soaks in hot tubs may also be safe during pregnancy if you keep the water below 100 degrees. However, in a spa it may not be as easy to control the temperature as it is in your own home. Plus, the water in hot tubs is continuously heated unlike in bathtubs, where the water gradually chills.
Therefore, notify spa staff that you need to keep the water consistently below 100 degrees for the safety of your unborn baby. Monitor the exact amount of time you spend in the hot tub, limiting your session to less than 10 minutes. Finally, make sure you’re beyond your first trimester for the safest possible experience.
Hot Tubs and Birth Defects
So, are hot tubs universally safe for pregnant women if the proper precautions are followed? Not necessarily. Hot tubs can be hot beds of germs if not kept clean, making both fungal and bacterial growth more likely.
Plus, some studies advise against the use of hot tubs during the first trimester. For example, a National Birth Defects Prevention study found that mothers who spent time in hot tubs, especially during the early stages of pregnancy, were more likely to have infants with birth defects. Gastroschisis and anencephaly were two birth defects identified in the study.
Notably, the women whose babies experienced these birth defects spent significant amounts of time (e.g., 30 minutes or more per session) in hot tubs over several months. Therefore, the elevated risk of birth defects could stem from the repeated exposure to heat. Furthermore, the study did not account for water temperatures. So, it is possible that the mothers bathed in the danger zone of 100 degrees or higher.
The bottom line about hot baths versus hot tubs during pregnancy? Hot baths may be the safest (not to mention the cheapest) and most hygienic bet for moms who need some R&R during pregnancy.
Saunas and Pregnancy
Originating as a holistic health practice in Finland thousands of years ago, saunas are steam baths with a clear purpose: to make you sweat. Sauna devotees claim detoxification and pain relief benefits, but can pregnant women partake? After all, if hot yoga is dangerous during pregnancy, then wouldn’t a sauna be, too?
A strenuous 60-minute hot yoga class is very different from a sedentary 5-minute sauna session. In fact, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology indicates that saunas may be safe for pregnant women who spend less than 15 minutes in the heat and maintain that core inner-body temperature of less than 102 degrees.
How to Safely Destress During Pregnancy
The last thing you want when you attempt to unwind with a bath or sauna session is to feel more tense worrying about the possible effects on your baby. So, it is important to speak with your doctor before booking your next spa appointment. Also, be mindful of the fact that extra precautions need to be taken during the delicate first trimester of pregnancy. This means it’s best not to take any chances with a dip in the hot tub during your first three months of pregnancy or before consulting with your physician.
Once you’ve reached your second trimester, you may explore the possibility of bathing for a few minutes in a hot tub if your OB-GYN gives you the green light. Everything in moderation, including exercise, can help you enjoy both a healthy and restful pregnancy.