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Hot Tubs vs. Hot Baths: What’s Safe During Pregnancy?

hot bath and pregnancySitting in a hot tub when pregnant, or taking a long hot bath sounds like a relaxing and wonderful way to get relief from all your pregnancy-related aches and pains. But you might want to resist the temptation. One of these options is safe, and one is not. So what’s safe during pregnancy – a bubbling hot tub, or a hot bath?

If you guessed – hot bath, you’re right. Taking a hot bath, as long as the water is comfortable and not scalding hot, is perfectly safe when you’re pregnant.

On the other hand, hot tubs and pregnancy do not go together. It is a dangerous mix, and you should avoid it when pregnant. Hot tubs, especially in the first trimester, can increase your risk of complications, such as miscarriage and birth defects.

The Danger of Hot Tubs in Pregnancy

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American Pregnancy Association, the March of Dimes, and other health organizations warn pregnant women to stay away from hot tubs in all trimesters of pregnancy. Hot tubs can potentially cause complications for your unborn child.

Hot tubs increase your body temperature and cause you to overheat. When you’re pregnant, a high body temperature can cause your blood pressure to fall – a condition called hyperthermia. Because you have twice the amount of blood in your body during pregnancy, lowered blood pressure can decrease the amount of oxygen and nutrition that your unborn baby receives. Not getting enough oxygen or nutrient can cause problems for the baby in the womb.

Many hot tubs are programmed to automatically set the water temperature to 104 degrees Fahrenheit; so sitting in a hot tub for 10 to 20 minutes can increase your body temperature to 102 degrees easily. Because your body is immersed in the hot water, you don’t release heat by sweating. You overheat easily, and this is dangerous when you’re pregnant.

  • Research studies have shown that there’s a higher risk of birth defects in pregnant women who have an increased body temperature, especially in the first trimester.
  • There is also evidence that hot tubs may also increase a woman’s risk for miscarriage.

For all these pregnancy risks, ACOG recommends that you do not allow your core temperature to get above 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit. To keep your unborn baby safe and healthy, you should stay away from hot tubs, jacuzzis, and saunas while pregnant.

Hot Baths in Pregnancy are a Safer Alternative

If you love soaking in hot water, why not take a hot bath instead? Hot baths in pregnancy are perfectly safe, as long as the water temperature isn’t too hot. Make sure the water is comfortable before you get in.

Hot baths are safer, because water cools down over time. The water doesn’t maintain a constant hot temperature – like in a hot tub. In addition, in a hot bath, your body is not fully submerged, so your body temperature increases more slowly.

Because water cools down in a hot bath, and the fact that you’re not completely submerged in the bathtub, you run little risk of increasing your body temperature to a dangerous level. So, if you are looking for a relaxing soak, choose a hot bath when pregnant.

To keep yourself safe and to avoid overheating in pregnancy, keep the following safety tips in mind:

  • Make sure that you are comfortable at all time in the bathtub.
  • The temperature should never be scalding hot. If you dip your hands or feet in the water, and your skin turns red or you find yourself sweating, the water is probably too hot.
  • If you feel dizzy or nauseous at any point during your hot bath, get out of the bathtub. This may be a sign that your blood pressure is lowering.
  • You should also get out of the bath if you start to feel thirsty or you have chills.

What about Hot Showers During Pregnancy?

Hot showers are like hot baths. They are perfectly safe, as long as the water isn’t scalding hot and you’re not in the hot water for too long. A moderate length of time in a hot shower will not increase your core body temperature to a risky level. Plus, you aren’t submerged in water when you are taking a hot shower. And if your body temperature does increase, it’s for a short amount of time. It does not stay elevated, like if you were in a hot tub. So the risk is minimal.

Hot showers in pregnancy are generally considered safe. Enjoy your showers. Just be careful not to slip in the bathtub, especially in the latter months of pregnancy when your center of gravity shifts and you are more unbalanced.

About the author: DP Nguyen is founder and editor of Hip Chick’s Guide to PMS, Pregnancy and Babies. She’s an expert pregnancy and women’s health blogger. She is NOT a medical doctor and does NOT offer medical advice. Connect with her on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Mandi Shegelski February 26, 2017, 10:30 am

    Hi I’m in my second trimester and just got the flu I’ve been so cold to the point where I’m shaking uncontrollably and the only way I have been able to warm up is with a hot bath. I had a hot bath last night. Added hot water at first then Luke warm and more hot during the end. I didn’t feel like I was sweating but my skin was a bit blotchy. I sat in there for 5 mins then water started cooling off then I got off. I was still pretty warm after my bath through on a t shirt and went to bed had the blankets off me most the time. Now I’m scared I overheated or damaged by baby. Please tell me my baby is going to be okay

  • Sarah April 10, 2016, 5:14 pm

    What about the first few weeks of pregnancy when you didn’t know you were pregnant? Everything I read talks about women getting in when they already knew they were. I can’t stop this constant worrying I have because I went into a hot tub one time for probably an hour or more. (I live in the Rockies and it was a really cold night so we all went into the hot tub). I sat on the higher seat once I felt too hot after 20 minutes or so and only submerged my body from the waist down for the rest of the time. But I can’t stop worrying because my doctor dated my pregnancy a few days ago at the office and I would have been 3 weeks and 2 days along the night I was in the hot tub! I am beside myself because I might have caused my baby some serious harm without having realized it. 🙁

  • Tanya Goodman September 7, 2012, 6:22 pm

    Thank you so much for your article. I have very bad anxiety and since I have been pregnant with my twins I have been such a worry wort. I worry every time I take a shower…but showers are one of the only things that relax me. How do I know if I have overheated? I do not think I have ever overheated in the shower. Thank you. Tanya

    • DP Nguyen September 12, 2012, 12:26 am

      No, you won’t overheat in a shower. The problem with hot tubs is because your entire body is immersed in the hot water, it can raise your entire body temperature, which can be bad for baby. Taking a shower does NOT immerse your entire body in water. The hot water falls from the shower head and into the drain, so it is definitely safe.

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