Written by Dr.M.D.Mazumdar, MD
Yes, baths are safe in pregnancy, even hot baths. The idea that baths are bad in pregnancy is a old wive's tale. As long as you take certain precautions and do not allow the temperature of the water to go above 100 degress, you can take a bath throughout your pregnancy.
A very hot bath can raise the core temperature of the body. Overheating, especially in the early months of pregnancy, may cause birth defects in the baby. The main body system which can be affected is the nervous system and the baby can get birth defects like spina bifida and other neural tube defects.
The heat can also cause damage to the umbilical cord and increase the risks of a miscarriage.
Saunas should be avoided during the pregnancy. Risks of overheating is more with saunas since the temperature is kept constantly high. But bath water cools rapidly and cannot increase the core body temprature for a long time.
The bath water should be kept warm, not hot. A temperature of around 98 - 99 degrees is just right since it is not too high and is just slightly higher than the normal body temperature. The temperature should not go above 100 degrees.
You can test the temperature of the water with a child's bath tub toy thermometer. You allow it to float on the bath water and adjust the temperature of the water as needed.
You can also test the water with your elbow or forearm before getting in. This part of the skin is very sensitive to temperature and if it feels comfortable there, it will be comfortable for the rest of the body. You will be able to get in the bath water directly instead of having to lower yourself in bit by bit as you would in a hot water bath.
If you find yourself sweating during a bath, then the water is too hot and not safe for you. Or if you find yourself flushing or the skin starts to redden, then that is too hot too and you need to cool the water before you continue bathing.
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You can take a warm bath as often as you wish. A warm bath relaxes the muscles and helps relieve backpain and other aches and pains of the muscles and ligaments.
The duration of the bath should be kept to about 10 minutes or less. This length of time is not adequate to raise the core body temperature.
The levels of the hormone progesterone rises in pregnancy especially in mid pregnancy to help maintain the pregnancy as well as to support the growth of the baby. Progesterone is a thermogenic hormone, meaning that it increases the temperature of the body.
You will feel more hot as the pregnancy progresses and keeping yourself cool with frequent showers may help.
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