In a November 2003 a study was published in The American Journal of Epidemiology regarding the safety of using saunas and hot tubs during pregnancy. The study found that the use of saunas and hot tubs increased the risk of miscarriage and neural defects (such as spina bifda) due to the rise in body temperature that comes with their use. Following the publication of this study, medical professionals concluded that the same advice should be followed when taking a hot bath and now pregnant women are instructed to avoid hot baths altogether.
This advice should always be followed. Although it is arguable that baths see a drop in temperature, compared to saunas and hot tubs maintaining their temperature, your core body temperature is still raised, which means a risk is there. A further reason for avoiding hot baths is that the heat can make you feel faint and lower your blood pressure. Low blood pressure should be avoided at all costs during pregnancy as this then reduces the amount of blood that reaches your placenta.
The good news is you can continue with warm baths. A warm bath is classed as anything that is 37 degrees celcius (104 farenheit) or below. You can test to see if your bath is warm by dipping your elbow in. Your elbow is the most heat sensitive part of your body, and is a safer gauge than your hands or your feet. Another great way to test if the water is of the correct temperature is to see if you can get in straight away, or if you have to get in ‘bit by bit’. If you have to gradually lower yourself in to the bath in order to get used to the heat, it is probably not of a safe heat.
Although a hot bath is not advisable during pregnancy, a warm one is completely fine and is often recommended as a great way to relax when you are experiencing common pregnancy ailments. Here are some bathing during pregnancy rumours that you may need clearing up:
Taking a bath during pregnancy causes thrush: This rumour stems from the advice that you should not use heavily fragranced bathing products during pregnancy, as the risk of thrush is higher. Taking a bath during pregnancy will not cause thrush if you use a pregnancy friendly bathing product or opt for essential oils (*note* only use essential oils after your first trimester)
A hot bath will ‘cook’ your baby: Although hot baths are not recommended during pregnancy, they do not ‘cook’ your baby. No person could physically withstand submerging themselves in heated water that has the potential to ‘cook’ anything. So if you have taken a hot bath before knowing you were pregnant, don’t worry.
Hot baths will induce labour: This rumour most likely stems from study’s suggesting that hot baths increase the risk of miscarriage. There is no evidence to suggest that a hot bath will spark pre-term labour or induce labour.
It is okay to take a hot bath because studies only cover saunas and hot tubs: This is a very dangerous myth. A hot bath does have the potential to raise your core body temperature in the same way that a sauna or hot tub would. It may not sustain that temperature, but the risk is still there.
So as long as your bath is warm and not hot, you are safe to continue bathing during your pregnancy.