Pregnancy is an exciting time full of joy, anticipation, and change for expecting mothers. As your body goes through transformations to nurture the developing baby, you may have questions about what activities are safe during pregnancy. One common question many pregnant women have is: can I take baths while pregnant?
The answer is not completely straightforward. While baths can be relaxing and beneficial during pregnancy, there are also some risks to consider. Proper precautions should be taken to ensure baths are safe for both mother and baby.
This detailed guide covers everything expecting mothers need to know about taking baths during pregnancy.
- Baths are generally considered safe in pregnancy if proper precautions are taken, such as regulating water temperature. Very hot baths should be avoided.
- Soaking in a warm (not hot) bath can help relieve common pregnancy discomforts like backaches, swelling, nausea, and muscle cramps.
- There are some risks to avoid, including getting overheated, prolonged exposure to hot tubs/jacuzzis, and risk of infection from unclean tubs.
- Discuss any concerns with your doctor and monitor your body’s reaction to determine if baths aggravate any pregnancy-related conditions.
- Follow all safety precautions such as using non-slip mats, having assistance getting in and out, and avoiding oils/bath products that make tubs slippery.
Is It Safe to Take Baths While Pregnant?
Many pregnant women find taking a warm bath to be a soothing, therapeutic way to relax and relieve common pregnancy aches and pains. As long as proper safety precautions are followed, bathing during pregnancy is generally considered safe by most doctors.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), baths are safe in pregnancy as long as the water is not too hot. They recommend keeping bath water temperature below 100°F.
Soaking in warm water can increase blood flow and help relieve back pain, swelling, muscle cramps, and other discomforts often experienced during pregnancy. The buoyancy of water also reduces pressure on the body, allowing expectant mothers the ability to move more freely.
However, there are some potential risks to be aware of when bathing during pregnancy. These include:
- Overheating – When pregnant, women are more prone to overheating. Very hot baths, especially in early pregnancy, may cause issues.
- Infections – Bacteria like listeria and toxoplasmosis live in some hot tubs and may infect pregnant women and cause pregnancy complications.
- Dehydration – Long hot baths can cause dehydration which is unsafe during pregnancy.
- Falls – Balance and stability changes during pregnancy increase the chances of slipping and falling while getting in and out of the bathtub.
As long as these risks are minimized by following safety precautions, most healthcare providers agree baths are fine during an uncomplicated pregnancy. However, women with high-risk pregnancies should exercise more caution and discuss bathing with their doctor.
When Should Pregnant Women Avoid Baths?
While most pregnant women can safely take a warm bath for 15-20 minutes, there are some instances where bathing would be inadvisable. Women should avoid baths or limit bathing during pregnancy if they have any of the following conditions:
- High blood pressure (hypertension) – For women diagnosed with preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension, warm baths could cause blood pressure levels to rise even higher which can be dangerous.
- Preterm labor – Warm baths can increase risks for preterm labor if taken in early pregnancy.
- Bleeding/spotting – Any vaginal bleeding or spotting during pregnancy warrants caution with bathing and these issues should be discussed with a doctor.
- Leaking amniotic fluid – Leaking fluid from the amniotic sac or broken water must be evaluated before bathing as this increases risks for infection.
- Placenta previa – Women diagnosed with placenta previa (low lying placenta) are at risk for bleeding and complications if the placenta detaches.
Additionally, pregnant women should avoid prolonged exposure to hot tubs, Jacuzzis, and very hot baths exceeding body temperature for more than 10-15 minutes. This can dangerously overheat the body and cause fetal distress.
If pregnant women have any medical issues or pregnancy complications, they should consult their healthcare provider about specific bathing guidelines and recommendations. This will help determine if baths should be avoided altogether, limited to shorter times, or if certain precautions are needed.
How Hot Can Bath Water Be When Pregnant?
A common question expecting mothers have is how hot is too hot when it comes to bathing during pregnancy. Experts caution that very hot baths early in pregnancy may potentially harm a developing baby.
According to March of Dimes, pregnant women should avoid bath water hotter than 100°F, especially in the first trimester. Baths reaching up to 104°F are considered safe for short periods later in pregnancy as long as the mother monitors herself for overheating symptoms.
Bath water hotter than body temperature for prolonged periods can cause hyperthermia, raising the core body temperature excessively high. This can impact the pregnancy by causing fetal distress, birth defects, miscarriage, or preterm labor.
To keep baths pregnancy-safe, experts recommend:
- Keeping bath temperature below 100°F.
- Taking shorter, 10-15 minute baths rather than long hot soaks.
- Avoiding getting overheated in any way (hot tubs, prolonged exposure, etc).
- Carefully monitoring your body’s reaction to baths and water temperature.
The best way to gauge safe bath temperature is to use a bath thermometer. This allows pregnant women to easily monitor the temperature and adjust as needed. If you don’t have a thermometer, use your wrist to test the water – it should feel very warm but not scalding hot to the touch.
What Are the Benefits of Taking Baths While Pregnant?
When taken safely, warm baths can provide several benefits for expecting mothers including:
Relaxation – Warm bathwater has a soothing, calming effect on the body which can reduce stress and anxiety. This is extra beneficial during pregnancy when women experience more emotions and mood changes.
Pain relief – The buoyancy and warmth from baths can help alleviate common pregnancy pains like back aches, swelling, muscle cramps, and joint stiffness.
Better sleep – Relaxing in a warm bath before bedtime can help pregnant women fall asleep more easily. The relaxation provided by bathing before bedtime can aid the transition into quality sleep.
Easier movement – The buoyancy of water makes moving around easier for pregnant women by reducing pressure and strain on the body and joints. This allows for stretching, range of motion, and exercise that may be difficult on land.
Bonding with baby – Feeling close to the developing baby is a special part of pregnancy. Relaxing in a warm bath and focusing on the sensations of the baby moving and kicking can help facilitate that bond.
Emotional release – Hormone changes during pregnancy often amplify emotions. A good cry in a warm private bath can provide emotional release and stress relief.
Precautions for Safe Bathing During Pregnancy
To best ensure safety while bathing during pregnancy, women should follow these general precautions:
- Use a bath thermometer and monitor water temperature to avoid overheating.
- Limit baths to 10-15 minutes at a time.
- Have someone assist you getting in and out of the tub to prevent slips or falls.
- Add a non-slip rubber mat on the tub floor for traction.
- Avoid using oils in bath water that can make surfaces slippery.
- Stay hydrated by drinking water before, during, and after bathing.
- Never bathe while home alone in case an emergency arises.
- Avoid baths if you have any warning signs of preterm labor or issues.
Additionally, only use clean tubs to prevent exposure to bacteria and keep baths relaxing. Some other tips for optimal comfort and safety include playing calming music, using bath pillows for neck support, keeping a phone nearby, and having ventilation to prevent a steamy bathroom.
What About Hot Tubs and Jacuzzis During Pregnancy?
Hot tubs and jacuzzis involve much higher water temperatures than typical baths. The hot, vigorously jetted water can overheat pregnant women’s core body temperature, potentially harming the developing fetus.
According to ACOG, pregnant women should avoid hot tubs and jacuzzi use. The high temperatures coupled with prolonged exposure raise body temperatures to unsafe levels. This can impact the baby’s developing cells and increase the risk for neural tube defects and other complications.
If pregnant women want to use a hot tub or jacuzzi, ACOG recommends limiting time to no more than 10 minutes and keeping the temperature below 100°F. The March of Dimes also cautions against using hot tubs in the first trimester when risks are highest.
Additionally, shared public hot tubs can harbor bacteria dangerous to pregnant women and their unborn babies. Hot tubs and jacuzzis are less risky later in pregnancy but medical guidance is to avoid them. Stick to lukewarm baths for a safer way to soak sore muscles.
Are Bath Oils and Products Safe in Pregnancy?
Many women like to enhance their bathing routine with scented oils, bubbles, bath salts, and other products. When used safely, bath additives can provide benefits like moisturizing skin, soothing sore muscles, and creating a more relaxing experience.
However, some precautions should be taken when using bath oils and products during pregnancy:
- Avoid oils that contain retinols/retinoids, as these may be harmful.
- Use products sparingly to prevent residue buildup in the tub.
- Rinse off any oily residue after bathing to avoid slips.
- Opt for natural oils like coconut, olive, almond, or jojoba oil which moisturize skin safely.
- Check that products don’t list pregnancy as a warning/contraindication.
- Ask your doctor about any ingredients you are uncertain about.
- Prevent UTIs by avoiding bath additives that may irritate sensitive vaginal tissue.
Overall, most bath accessories are safe if used properly in moderation. The slipperiness of oils can be dangerous, so take care walking in tubs and rinse off thoroughly after. Check with your OB-GYN about any specific bath products you use regularly.
When Should You Stop Taking Baths While Pregnant?
Most doctors advise pregnant women to avoid bathing during the last few weeks of pregnancy as a safety precaution. This is because warm baths can potentially stimulate labor contractions.
According to ACOG, baths are safe up until week 37 of pregnancy. During the last 4-6 weeks, women should switch to quick showers instead of long soaks to avoid triggering preterm labor.
Signs that it’s time to stop bathing during pregnancy include:
- Reaching 37 weeks gestation
- Experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions after bathing
- Noticing increased pelvic pressure, discharge, or other labor signs
- Having any complications such as preeclampsia, bleeding, etc.
- Feeling overheated, dizzy, or ill during or after baths
Women with high-risk pregnancies may need to avoid bathing even earlier. Be sure to discuss your due date and any preexisting conditions with your OB-GYN or midwife for personalized guidance on when to stop bathing while pregnant.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pregnancy and Bathing
Is it safe to use bath bombs or other fizzy products during pregnancy?
Bath bombs and other effervescent bath products are generally considered safe if used occasionally. However, these fizzy additives release chemicals and essential oils into the water that can sometimes irritate sensitive vaginal tissue. To be safe, use these products sparingly or avoid them altogether while pregnant.
Can I take a bath if I have an infection like a UTI or yeast infection?
No, baths should be avoided with any vaginal or urinary tract infections during pregnancy until cleared up. The warm water can aggravate symptoms. Showers are better options to keep the vaginal area clean if you have an infection.
Will baths hurt my unborn baby?
Warm baths that follow all safety precautions will not harm your developing baby. The amniotic sac and uterine wall protect babies from any ill effects of water temperature. Very hot baths exceeding body temperature can potentially cause issues and should be avoided.
Can I use bath salts if I’m pregnant?
Most bath salts are safe if used occasionally in pregnancy. Avoid any with added retinol. Rinse off well after use, as residue buildup could lead to slips. Check labels for any warnings against use in pregnancy. Epsom or Himalayan salt baths are great options.