Why Are Hot Baths Bad for Pregnancy?

Reviewed on 5/21/2021
Many pregnant women like taking hot baths in a bathtub to relieve stress and pain.
Many pregnant women like taking hot baths in a bathtub to relieve stress and pain.

Many pregnant women like taking hot baths in a bathtub to relieve stress and pain. A hot bath with soothing Epsom salts can reduce lower back pain, stress and help relax the muscles and nerves. However, prolonged hot baths may not be a good idea, especially in the first three months of pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) conducted studies. They support the finding that body temperature rising above 102.2 ºF when a person is in a hot bath may increase the incidences of birth defects in the baby.

How do you safely take a bath?

It is important to keep the core body temperature below 101 °F during pregnancy. A healthy pregnant woman’s internal body temperature is usually around 99 °F or 0.4 to 0.8 °F degrees higher than a healthy, nonpregnant woman’s body temperature. Hot tubs are often factory programmed to maintain a water temperature of approximately 104 ºF. As a person soaks and relaxes, their body temperature may hit 102 ºF or higher in just 10 minutes. Hence, given a choice, a hot shower is a better option compared to a hot bath.

While taking a hot bath, try to come out in less than 10 minutes. A thermometer may be used to check the temperature. A few studies have shown that water baths up to 104 °F will not raise the core body temperature to rise to unsafe levels for up to 20 minutes. However, each person may react differently to the temperature, hence it is better to avoid high temperatures. If the woman feels overheated, she may take a cool shower to bring down the body temperature. Signs of overheating include feeling hot, red skin and sweating. Giddiness, nausea, loss of balance or fainting can occur in more serious cases.

Bath products, such as bubbles, bath bombs and special oils, should not be added to the water. These products can increase the risk of vaginal infections. Soothing Epsom salt may be added to the water. Epsom salt can reduce muscle aches, pain and provide stress relief. It is important to maintain proper hygiene of the bathtub by thoroughly cleaning it with a disinfectant (such as bleach) before and after using to prevent infection.


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What are the risks of taking a bath?

While taking a hot bath, a safe temperature to maintain in the tub is around 98.6 to 100 °F to avoid any serious complications. When a pregnant woman’s core body temperature increases by 2 °F or more above 99 °F, there may be an increased risk of neural tube defects (NTDs). This risk also depends on the timing and duration of this temperature increase. Hence, it is important to maintain a safe temperature of the water, as well as identify and address signs of overheating immediately.

If the water breaks (rupture of the amniotic sac), it is advised not to soak in a bathtub without consulting or the presence of a doctor or midwife. Soaking in water with a ruptured amniotic sac can increase the risk of infection in the mother and baby. Though water births are becoming increasingly popular, they should only be conducted by an experienced health care professional.

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American Pregnancy Association. Hot Tubs During Pregnancy. May 01, 2018. https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/is-it-safe/hot-tubs-during-pregnancy-1156/

Herbert C. Is It Safe to Have Hot Baths During Pregnancy? BabyCenter. https://www.babycentre.co.uk/x546741/is-it-safe-to-have-hot-baths-during-pregnancy

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