Does a warm soak in the tub sound like paradise to you for your pregnancy aches and pains? Are there any precautions you need to be aware of when you’re pregnant and want to take a bath?
A bath can be an excellent way for you to relax and soothe your aching body when you’re pregnant. Many expectant mothers use bathing as a way to unwind each day.
While it is safe for you to take baths when you are pregnant, there are precautions you need to take to ensure the safety of you and your baby.
Is It Safe To Take A Hot Bath?
It is safe for you to take a bath when you’re pregnant, but you have to make sure the water is at a safe temperature. It cannot be stressed enough that hot baths must be avoided at all costs.
The water should never be hot enough that it can raise your body temperature above 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit after spending 10 minutes in water according to the recommendations of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, while other specialist societies recommend an even lower threshold of 101 degrees (1).
A temperature that high, particularly during the first trimester, can cause numerous complications to occur that will negatively affect you and your unborn baby (2).
If your temperature is above that threshold for more than 10 minutes the following complications can occur:
A drop in blood pressure can deprive your baby of essential nutrients and oxygen, and if the drop in blood pressure is big, sudden or lasting and symptomatic it can lead to complications like stillbirth or low birth weight (3).
If you notice you are getting hot in the bath, your skin is turning red, or you are sweating, the water is too hot. A warning sign would also be if you stop sweating. You should try to limit your baths to shorter amounts of time, preferably to less than 10 minutes, to avoid overheating. Try to avoid submerging your upper chest, arms, shoulders and head, making yourself less likely to overheat.
Even if your bath is extremely relaxing, don’t push your limits. A couple of minutes of relaxation is not worth permanent damage to your baby.
Many mothers purchase water thermometers to use to measure the temperature of their baby’s bath. You can be proactive and buy one specifically for your baby and it will be just as effective.
Why Are Hot Baths Dangerous?
Apart from the above mentioned reasons, it is dangerous for you to take a hot bath because as your temperature increases, so does the temperature of the womb. Your baby depends on you for temperature regulation, because they are not yet able to do this on their own.
The womb is deeper within your body, so it already has a slightly elevated temperature compared to yours.
There is a reason that pregnant women are advised to avoid saunas, jacuzzi and hot tubs — they are just too hot!
Bathing Throughout Pregnancy
You can take a bath throughout your entire pregnancy, unless a doctor has specifically directed you otherwise. Certain precautions and risks can occur within the different trimesters, so it is important you’re aware of these.
1. First Trimester
During the first trimester, it’s okay to take baths, but some doctors advise against it. If you have a high-risk pregnancy, it may be in your best interest to avoid baths during the next few weeks.
The first trimester is vital for your baby because this is when your baby’s organs are developing. Overheating can cause many underlying issues that can lead to birth defects.
Overheating at any time during your pregnancy is dangerous, but especially when organs like the brain and spinal cord are developing (4).
2. Second Trimester
The second trimester is also an okay time for you to take a bath. As long as your doctor has not directly told you to avoid bathing, you are free to do so.
Once again, you need to make sure you are regulating the temperature of your bath water. Hot water can lower your blood pressure, which can decrease the supply of oxygen and nutrients to your baby and lead to dizziness and nausea.
These symptoms can put you at risk of falling, and that will put both you and your baby in danger. You need to use caution at all times, and limit your exposure if you begin to feel even the slightest bit overheated.
You may not realize how hot your water is if you are not fully submerged. Most of the time the upper half of your body is not submerged in the water, so you will not feel as hot. If your belly is submerged, the temperature of your womb will be increased.
Test It Out
3. Third Trimester
The third trimester will be the trimester where you will feel all those aches and pains that this pregnancy journey has created. Your growing baby will be taking a toll on your body, and you are going to need something to help you relax and feel refreshed.
You can take baths in your third trimester, just watch the water temperature as you would with the other trimesters.
Some expectant mothers are concerned the bathtub water during this trimester can enter their uterus. Your baby is well-protected by the amniotic sac, so this is not possible.
If your water has broken, you need to avoid bathing because this means your amniotic sac has ruptured. Your baby is no longer protected from the bath water.
It is probably likely you have reached the point in your pregnancy where your feet have now disappeared. This new belly can make getting in and out of the bathtub difficult.
Make sure that if you are even the slightest bit hesitant about getting in and out that you have someone on hand to help you. There is no shame in not being able to handle this by yourself, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
The extra tiny human and the slippery surfaces can set you up for one mighty downfall.
Bathing With Epsom Salt
Epsom salt is actually not a salt; it is composed of magnesium sulfate. This is a naturally occurring element that has many benefits for the body — even during pregnancy.
How To Use Epsom Salt
You should add approximately 2 cups of Epsom salt to your warm bath. The substance will dissolve rather quickly, and you can soak in it for approximately 10 to 15 minutes (5).
You can add Epsom salt to your bath a couple of times a week to reap the full benefits.
Benefits of Epsom Salt
Many athletes bathe in Epsom salt to help relieve muscular aches. It is safe to say that as an expectant mother, you will have your fair share of these. That back pain you are feeling and those leg cramps? A bath with Epsom salt can help! Other benefits associated with Epsom salts include:
- Soothes your skin: Epsom salt can help soothe stretching skin. It can also possibly help with reducing stretch marks. It is known to increase the rate at which cuts and minor sunburns heal, which can be good to know if you become clumsy as you gain weight during pregnancy. Also, it can provide relief from itching.
- Stress reliever: The magnesium found in Epsom salt is known to be a natural stress reducer and can help you feel calm. Reduced stress levels can greatly benefit you and your baby.
- Reduces swelling: Epsom salt can help reduce fluid levels in your body and decrease the swelling that your pregnancy has caused. It is more effective if you combine massage of the swollen areas with soaking in the salts. You should also elevate your feet once you are done in the bath for the best results (6).
- Hemorrhoid relief: Epsom salts have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce hemorrhoids and ease your pain.
Where Can You Find Epsom Salt?
You can find Epsom salt at most grocery stores or pharmacies. There are many different brands on the market, and most of them are relatively the same, but some have fragrances listed among their ingredients. During pregnancy, for safety reasons, it is in your best interest to stick specifically with the unscented Epsom salt that has no oils or herbs added.
Using Epsom salt in your bath is generally safe, but it never hurts to seek your doctor’s permission before incorporating it into your bath time routine.
Epsom salts may increase the temperature of water, so it is important that you are extremely cautious. It may be beneficial for you to initially lower the temperature of your water when you use the salts and double check by using a baby thermometer.
While taking an Epsom Salt bath is considered safe if the water is warm and not hot and you use plain Epsom salt, you should bare in mind that in rare occasions an allergic reaction can occur. If you are soaking in an Epsom salt bath and you notice your skin becomes itchy, red or notice a rash – get out of the bath immediately and get in touch with your healthcare provider. It’s best to avoid submerging any part of your body with broken skin.
If you are a first-time user, fill the tub and put in the Epsom salt, get some of that water on your skin, wait a few minutes and if there is no skin reaction you can soak in that bathtub.
Editor's Note:Dr. Irena Ilic, MD
Are Bubble Baths Off Limits?
Take a moment and picture the pure bliss you will get from soaking in that warm bathtub. Now imagine how much better that bath will be when you add your favorite bubble bath.
It is okay for you to take bubble baths while you are pregnant, although there are a couple of risks.
Allow yourself some time to fully pamper yourself and make the most of your bath time experience. Your days of peace and quiet and taking a bath whenever you want are now numbered.
A little relaxation can do your body good. Remember not to stay in that bathtub too long, or you can put you and your baby in danger.
During pregnancy, you are also more prone to Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) and yeast infections, however. It is believed that using a bubble bath can significantly increase your chances of contracting one of these infections.
For that reason, try to save bubble baths for when you need an indulgence, not as an everyday way to cope with stress. Also, as prevention of UTIs, you should avoid using scented soaps and bathing cosmetics and make sure you drink enough water.
Another risk associated with using bubble baths is that they can cause the bathtub to become more slick. Your new center of gravity is enough to make you lose balance already, and adding in the slickness of the bubbles can be an accident waiting to happen.
Can A Warm Bath Induce Labor?
Some midwives suggest taking a warm bath can help naturally induce labor. This is true, but it is not the warm water of the bath that induces the labor.
A bath helps you relax and calm your emotional state. It is these two things that can promote the induction of labor.
Some women who are just waiting for their water to break are prolonging the process by being stressed out or scared and not allowing their body to naturally prepare itself (7).
A soothing bath may be all you need to help you move one step closer to meeting your precious little one.
Bathing While Bleeding
At no time during your pregnancy should you bathe if you are experiencing bleeding.
If you are pregnant and experiencing significant bleeding it is vital you seek medical attention immediately because there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
If you are experiencing light bleeding, this can be normal. You should consult with your doctor to make sure your bleeding is not being caused by anything serious.
Don’t worry if you have light bleeding because this happens in 20 percent of pregnancies within the first trimester. Some women even experience light bleeding throughout their pregnancy (8). During this time you can take a bath providing it’s not too hot, and you should avoid using tampons and having sexual intercourse (9).
Apple Cider Vinegar Baths
As mentioned above, pregnancy is a time when your body has an elevated potential to develop a yeast infection.
There are numerous products to help yeast infections, but you should always ask your healthcare provider about the best choice for you (10). If you are wishing for a remedy that will help treat your infection while you sit back and relax, there’s a good chance you’re thinking about adding apple cider vinegar to your bath.
Apple cider vinegar is believed to have antifungal properties, although the scientific evidence behind this is not extensive. Still, it is a relatively safe natural remedy if used properly. By adding just one cup to your bath water, you can be on your way to relief (11).
Using Bath Bombs While Pregnant
It seems as if the new trend is centered around bath bombs and the amazing benefits they have.
The good news is that most bath bombs are actually safe for you to use. Some companies have stated their bath bombs have met many safety standards regarding bath bombs and pregnancy. But, you should always look at the safety of any bath bomb you choose and consult your healthcare provider.
There are some companies who have bath bombs on the market that include ingredients targeted specifically for pregnant women. Still, bare in mind that some bath bombs contain ingredients that are listed as fragrances and can in fact be harmful (12).
Many bath bombs include essential oils. The risks associated with these are typically referring to ingestion or direct skin contact. Soaking in a bathtub with minimal concentrations of these oils should not be harmful. Still, the use of essential oils in pregnancy is controversial, so you should always do research on whatever essential oil is in the product you’re going to use.
There are essential oils which can be harmful during pregnancy, as well as those that might help with certain discomforts (13). In general, you should avoid them during the first trimester. Nevertheless, it is always in your best interest to seek permission from your doctor before choosing to use potentially questionable products during pregnancy.
Bath Salts And Pregnancy
Many bath salts should be avoided, and there are several that are acceptable.
Many doctors advise against using bath salts because many of them do have negative qualities associated with them.
One of the more prominent reasons the use of bath salts has been questioned is because some include dangerous essential oils.
If you are set on using bath salts you should make sure you look over all the ingredients and their possible side effects. You should also seek consent from your doctor.
Due to the known and potential harmful effects, you should make sure you look over all the ingredients and their possible side effects. Before using bath salts you should always seek consent from your doctor.
The best alternative to using bath salts would be to use Epsom salts. As discussed above, they have been proven to be safe and they have many positive benefits.
The Bottom Line
Your pregnancy journey is going to cause you to experience all different kinds of aches and pains you never knew were possible. In the end, they will all be worth it, but in the meantime you deserve relief.
You can safely take baths as long as your doctor has not advised you otherwise and you carefully choose your bath products. Baths can enhance your mood, relieve stress, and soothe your muscles and fatigued body. All of these can promote a happy and healthy pregnancy.
The most important thing to keep in mind is you must be cautious of your water temperature. A hot bath can have detrimental effects on that little baby. Enjoy a warm bath, but make sure you don’t overdo it!