During pregnancy, it is common to feel discomfort and other changes. To ease these discomforts, women often turn to activities like exercise and water exposure. Unfortunately, using a hot tub during pregnancy can be risky because the increased heat can lead to decreased blood flow to the foetus.
Spending time in hot environments such as hot tubs and saunas may place your health at risk due to difficulties in regulating body temperature and hormonal changes during pregnancy. During pregnancy, your body increases blood supply to the skin, making it more difficult to lose heat effectively from your body.
Exposure to heat above your core body temp will make this even more difficult, thus we advise that most women avoid hot tubs, steam rooms, and saunas during early pregnancy to mitigate any greater risk of harm during their baby’s development.
Overheating will draw more blood away from internal organs like the brain which could lead to lightheadedness or fainting when oxygen levels drop too low (NHS, 2022); therefore we recommend that it is best for pregnant women to avoid excessively heated areas while expecting.
Scientific studies have also identified an increased risk for neural tube defects (from 1/1000 to 2/1000) for unborn babies if their mothers experience elevated core temperature up to 7 weeks before pregnancy.
Another potential risk of hot tub use during pregnancy is exposure to chemicals such as chlorine and bromine, which are commonly used to sanitise and maintain the water. These chemicals can be irritating to the skin and eyes, and may also be absorbed into the bloodstream during pregnancy.
Benefits of using a hot tub during pregnancy
Using a hot tub during pregnancy can provide benefits such as easing back pain, reducing swelling, relieving stress, and promoting better sleep. It can also help you relax and connect with your partner, which can be a great way to bond during the time before your due date.
Regular soaking in warm water can improve circulation and reduce swelling, making it easier for expecting mothers to find relief from joint pain, a difficulty that many women face during their pregnancy.
Furthermore, hot tubs provide an excellent opportunity to relax and de-stress, which can help those expecting to better manage their mood throughout their pregnancy.
Additionally, heat therapy can stimulate contractions to progress labour along when the time comes; soaking in a hot tub near the end of one’s pregnancy is often recommended by medical practitioners as a safer alternative and effective way of encouraging labour.
Soaking in a hot tub for long periods or in water temperatures that are too hot can also lead to a significant rise in overheating, dehydration, and low blood pressure, potentially causing dizziness, fainting, or in severe cases, preterm labour or birth defects.
These findings are based on a 2006 research paper published in the National Library of Medicine, which found that exposure to heated water pools greater than 39°C (102.2°F) during pregnancy can have a serious impact on the health of an unborn baby.
In particular, those exposed to mild heat before embryo implantation into the uterus or more severely during the first trimester may be at risk for developing birth defects or potentially even losing their pregnancies altogether.
On average, most hot tubs and portable spas can reach temperatures up to 40.55°C(104°F), however, we highly advise against expectant mothers using hot tubs during pregnancy to heat their tubs to these high temperatures.
To avoid overheating and rises in core temperature, adjust your hot tub to a lower temperature of a maximum of 37°C (100°F) or below. Spending more than 10 minutes in a hot tub with a water temperature of 40°C (104°F) could easily increase core body temperatures above natural and safe levels, thus is highly advised against by many health specialists.
If you’re considering using a hot tub during pregnancy, it’s important to talk with your doctor about any risks associated with your unique health situation. Your doctor should be able to guide you on whether the benefits outweigh any risks when considering using hot tubs at this stage. Remember safety first!
Safer ways to use your hot tub when pregnant:
If you decide to use a hot tub during pregnancy, there are some precautions you should take to ensure your safety and that of your unborn baby. Here are some safe ways to use a hot tub when pregnant:
Use a hot tub with a temperature of 100°F (35C) or below
To avoid overheating and rises in core temperature, use a hot tub with a temperature of 37°C (100°F) or below. Avoid hot tubs and hot baths with temperatures above 40°C (104°F), as they can potentially be very dangerous for pregnant women.
Avoid soaking in a hot tub for more than 10 minutes
Limit your time in the hot tub to no more than 10 minutes at a time. Prolonged exposure to hot water can cause your body temperature to rise, which can be very harmful to your unborn baby.
Avoid using the hot tub in the first trimester when your developing baby is most vulnerable
Pregnant women should take precautions when it comes to using a hot tub during the first trimester. This is because your baby’s development happens extremely quickly during this time, and a hot tub poses a risk of water-borne infections that could harm this developing life.
It is safer to avoid using the hot tub until after the first trimester to ensure their safety and well-being. If you must use a hot tub, ensure that it is properly cleaned with chlorine and that pH levels are tested often to prevent any bacterial growth or potential dangers.
Make sure the hot tub is properly maintained and sanitized to reduce your exposure to harmful bacteria and chemicals
As a general rule, pregnant women should be very aware of the germs and bacteria that surround them, especially when using public hot tubs. It is important to ensure that the hot tub is properly maintained and sanitised to reduce the risk of exposure to harmful bacteria and chemicals.
Properly maintaining the hot tub means regularly changing the water, frequently checking free chlorine levels, thoroughly examining all equipment and accessories, keeping up with chemical treatments and water chemistry, and disinfecting filters at least bi-monthly.
The Centre for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends that free chlorine levels should be between 2 and 4 parts per million (ppm), bromine levels should lie between 4 and 6 ppm, and the pH level should be between 7.2 and 7.8.
Despite these measures, it is always wise for pregnant women to further protect themselves by staying away from heavily populated hot tubs or spas with questionable upkeep. After all, protecting yourself and your baby should be your top priority.
Keep hydrated while using a hot tub
Drink plenty of water before and after using a hot tub to stay hydrated. Avoid alcohol or caffeinated drinks, as they can cause dehydration. Too much heat combined with the natural water retention of pregnancy can leave expecting mothers feeling dehydrated.
This can create many risks for a developing foetus, including pre-term labour or low amniotic fluid levels. Preventing these issues is as simple as drinking plenty of fluids before and especially after the use of the hot tub.
Get out of the hot tub immediately if you feel uncomfortable
If you start to feel uncomfortable or overheated while in the hot tub, get out immediately. Take a break and cool off before getting back in. If an expecting mother starts feeling uncomfortable in any way during their soak, it’s important to be aware of the signs and get out immediately.
Shifting positions frequently or even taking short breaks throughout the session can help make sure that the hot water isn’t posing any risk. Prolonged exposure to extreme heat isn’t recommended for pregnant women; so if you’ve been in longer than 15 minutes, then it may be time to get out.
Being mindful of your body temperature is essential for a safe and comfortable hot tub experience while pregnant, so if something doesn’t feel right e.g., feeling faint, listen to your intuition and get out post-haste.
Monitor your body temperature
Use a thermometer to monitor your body’s temperature while in the hot tub. If your core body temperature rises above 37°C (101°F), get out of the hot tub and cool off immediately.
Monitoring your body’s temperature is an easy and effective way to ensure that you do not accidentally overheat in the hot tub. Also, consider utilising a floating hot tub thermometer which can be placed in the warm water as you soak – this will provide you with an accurate reading of the water temperature, allowing you to regulate your hot tub session and make sure that you don’t get too warm.
Sit on the opposite side to water jets where the water temperature is slightly lower
We recommend that pregnant women sit on the opposite side to where the water jets are located since this area tends to have a slightly lower water temperature.
Use caution when getting in and out of the hot tub
Be careful when getting in and out of the hot tub to avoid slipping or falling. Use the handrails and take your time. It’s also a good idea to have someone help you get in and out of the hot tub.
Additionally, pregnant mothers must always have a clear exit plan out of the hot tub in case something doesn’t feel right or changes occur.
Make a conscious effort to keep your chest above the water
Limiting the amount of time spent submerged and avoiding submerging the chest area is a great way to mitigate any risks of spa use during pregnancy. If possible, just allow your lower half to be submerged in the water and be mindful of exposure time if you do decide to soak above your upper torso and chest level.
Consult your doctor before using a hot tub
Before using a hot tub, it is important to talk to your doctor or midwife about any potential risks or concerns. They may advise against it if you have a high-risk pregnancy, high blood pressure, or other medical conditions.
If you’re uncomfortable with using a hot tub during pregnancy, other alternatives can provide similar benefits. Some of these alternatives include:
Taking a warm bath
Using a foot spa or a handheld showerhead to massage your feet
Doing prenatal yoga or stretching exercises
Getting a prenatal massage
Soaking in a hot tub during pregnancy may be relaxing, but it can also cause elevated temperatures within the body. To prevent any possible complications, many healthcare providers suggest avoiding direct contact with hot tubs and saunas during pregnancy.
However, there are alternative methods to indulge in a warm bath without the same risk. A low-heat warm shower or an aromatherapy bath is an excellent way to soothe aches and pains while supporting overall relaxation.
Homemade spa treatments such as facial steamers and herbal footbaths are also helpful in pampering oneself while still following the guidelines prescribed by their healthcare providers.
Additionally, receiving pedicures or manicures from reputable locations ensures that pregnant women remain safe while feeling indulged and relaxed.
So, can you go in a hot tub when pregnant?
Using a hot tub during pregnancy can be safe as long as you take the necessary precautions and follow the latest hot tub safety advice. Remember to consult with your doctor or midwife before using a hot tub and to use it in moderation. If you’re uncomfortable with using a hot tub during pregnancy, there are plenty of alternative ways to relax and unwind.
At WhatSpa? we are committed to providing you with the most accurate and up-to-date information on pregnancy and women’s health. If you have any questions or concerns about hot tub use during pregnancy, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider for personalised advice and guidance.
Can using a hot tub during pregnancy cause birth defects?
There is no scientific evidence to suggest that using a hot tub during early pregnancy directly causes birth defects, but prolonged exposure to hot water can cause increased risk to your unborn baby and result in unwanted pregnancy complications.
Can I use a hot tub during pregnancy if I have gestational diabetes?
It’s best to talk to your doctor or midwife before using a hot tub if you have gestational diabetes or any other chronic health conditions, as they may have serious concerns and advise against it.
Can I use a hot tub during pregnancy if I have high blood pressure?
It’s best to avoid a hot tub while pregnant if you have high blood pressure, as it may cause your blood pressure to rise even further and pose greater risks for your baby.
What should I do if I start to feel uncomfortable while using a hot tub during pregnancy?
If you start to feel uncomfortable or overheated while in the hot tub, get out immediately and take a break to cool off. If you continue to feel unwell, seek medical attention immediately.
Can you go in a hot tub 4 weeks pregnant?
While some consider it possible to use a hot tub safely late in the first trimester, it is generally recommended that pregnant women wait until at least their second trimester before submerging themselves in any type of warm water.
Ultimately, when considering all factors, many medical and healthcare professionals would strongly advise against entering a hot tub in the early months and early stages of pregnancy.
Can I sit in a hot tub for 10 minutes while pregnant?
While we believe that strict time limits and bathing in low temperatures can help prevent problems related to prolonged exposure to heat, no evidence suggests that these time limits are completely safe or effective. Therefore, it is best practice for pregnant women to abstain from hot tub use altogether and focus on other forms of relaxation and exercise throughout their pregnancy.
Can a pregnant woman swim in a chlorine pool?
Chlorination helps control infectious organisms that form in public water sources, however, the harsh chemicals can cause irritation and harm to sensitive skin types. Pregnant women must be aware that they may be more sensitive to chlorine than usual, so it is best practice to limit hot tub or swimming pool activities throughout pregnancy.
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I am the Content Writer and Marketing Officer at WhatSpa? Magazine. I have worked at WhatSpa? for over 8 years, and I recently graduated with Distinction from Northumbria University with a Master's degree in Occupational and Organizational Psychology.
My role at WhatSpa? is to ensure that all hot tub lovers can easily access the highest quality and most up-to-date content, news and information from within the UK wet leisure industry.