Can I Take a Bath While Pregnant?

Pregnant woman near bathtub

Verywell / Photo Illustration by Ellen Linder / Getty Images

If you're looking for a way to relieve some of the discomforts of pregnancy, you might consider taking a nice, warm bath. Or perhaps you want to take a bath to get in some much-needed relaxation and self-care. Maybe regular baths were always part of your routine, and you’re wondering if this practice is safe to continue now that you’re pregnant.

Thankfully, there’s good news: as long as the water isn’t too hot, there’s virtually no reason why you can’t luxuriate in a bath while you’re pregnant. Read on for what to know about taking a bath while pregnant, including in what circumstances it may be less safe, and what precautions you might need to take.

Taking a Bath During Pregnancy

Experts agree that taking a bath during pregnancy is generally not a problem. “Overall, moms should not be afraid of taking baths in pregnancy,” says Janelle Jackman, MD, an OB/GYN at Kindbody. Dr. Jackman says that baths are usually a safe way for expectant parents to relax and ease the aches and pains that come with pregnancy.

This doesn’t mean there are no potential dangers when it comes to bathing, but the small safety concerns that do exist are variables that can easily be controlled. Dr. Jackman says that the safety concerns that exist for bathing during pregnancy include water temperature being too hot and the potential of catching an infection from the water after one’s membranes have broken during labor.

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about taking a bath while pregnant.

Is It Safe for Baby?

Taking a bath during pregnancy can be quite safe for your baby, so long as the pregnant person themself takes proper precautions. “The main safety concern I’d have with taking a bath is having a temperature that is too hot,” explains Kerry-Ann Kelly, MD, an OB/GYN with Spora Health. “In general, a bath temperature greater than 102 degrees Farenheit can cause your internal temperature to increase, which may be harmful to your unborn child.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a statement warning pregnant individuals not to use hot tubs or saunas, explaining that immersing oneself in elevated temperatures for long periods of time can lead to birth defects in babies.

For example, a study published in Clinical and Molecular Teratology found a connection between multiple hot tub uses in pregnancy and an increased risk for structural birth defects, such as anencephaly or gastroschisis. Another study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that extreme temperature exposure during early pregnancy may be linked to non-critical heart defects.

Dr. Kelly also mentions that any extreme temperature—hot or cold—may cause premature birth. “These temperatures can cause women to have premature contractions, which may lead to preterm labor and early delivery of your unborn child,” she says.

Although these potential harms are concerning, they can easily be avoided by taking common-sense measures when it comes to taking a bath during pregnancy, including keeping the water temperature at moderate levels and never using a hot tub or sauna during pregnancy.

Benefits of Taking a Bath During Pregnancy

Taking a bath during pregnancy is an inexpensive, effective, and natural way to soothe some of the most common pregnancy discomforts, and is a great way to relax, unwind, and get some “me” time in.

There are endless benefits to taking a bath, says Shannon Schellhammer, MD, an OB/GYN at Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies. “A bath can soothe your achy muscles and back by creating a weightless environment,” she explains. “Also, if you are experiencing swelling in your legs a bath can help reduce it.”

Dr. Jackman says that baths during pregnancy can help soothe hemorrhoids, and that water immersion before your water has broken is a great way to manage early labor pains. A warm bath increases blood flow and oxygen to your muscles, explains Dr. Kelly, and can help with the cramping and muscle pain many of us experience.

Finally, Dr. Schellhammer adds that baths are a great stress reliever, which can benefit both you and your unborn baby. “By taking the time to relax, ease your mind, and focus on yourself, this reduces stress, which has been shown to lower your risk of preterm labor and other complications in pregnancy,” Dr. Schellhammer explains.

Safety Precautions

There aren’t too many precautions you need to take to enjoy a bath during pregnancy, and the precautions you need to take are straightforward and easy to follow. Our experts shared their best tips.

Keep Bath Temperature At Moderate Levels

During pregnancy, you shouldn’t immerse in water that is greater than 102 degrees. Using a hot tub or sauna should never be an option during pregnancy. “The main concern about taking a bath while pregnant is to make sure your core internal temperature doesn’t go above 102 degrees,” explains Dr. Schellhammer. “This is easy to control by just making sure your bath is more on the ‘warm’ side rather than ‘steaming.’”

Dr. Kelly advises that most of the time you can tell on your own when your bath is at a safe temperature. “A good rule of thumb is to ensure that you are comfortable in the bath and not feeling any distress or overheating while bathing,” Dr. Kelly says. Dr. Jackman agrees that you can go by how you feel. "If you do start feeling very hot or lightheaded, carefully exit the bath, drink cool water, and shower if needed," she advises.

However, some of us may have trouble being sure whether a bath is too hot, especially if we are accustomed to taking scalding hot baths. Dr. Jackman says that if you are unsure what temperature your bath water is, you can use a thermometer to assist. You shouldn't use just any thermometer, though. There are thermometers designed to be immersed in water, including adorable ones for use in a baby's bath, which will become even more useful down the road.

Avoid Bathing After Your Water Breaks

Experts also caution that after your water has broken during labor, your baby is more susceptible to an infection, so it’s often suggested that you avoid doing things like using tampons, having sexual intercourse, or taking a bath. “This is because the amniotic sac provides a safe barrier to protect the unborn baby from the outside world including bacteria and infectious pathogens in the bathwater,” Dr. Jackman says. “If this membrane ruptures, one should avoid a bath and head to the hospital.”

Use a Non-Slip Mat to Avoid Falls

Another concern is slipping and falling when getting out of the bath, says Dr. Jackman, who notes that serious falls can put both you and your baby at risk. It’s not just baths that can increase your risk of falling: Pregnancy itself may make a fall more likely.

“As the belly grows throughout pregnancy, the center of gravity shifts, and it may become easier to lose balance and fall when lowering into a bath,” Dr. Jackman describes. She recommends getting in and out of your bath slowly and using a non-slip mat in your bathroom to prevent falls.

Stay Away from Harsh Soaps and Fragrances

Using harsh fragrances or bath products with many chemicals or dyes can make you more prone to vaginal irritation during pregnancy, Dr. Jackman notes. She recommends avoiding harsh soaps and heavily fragranced bath products. If you enjoy aromatherapy, you can use scented candles, she suggests.

A Word From Verywell

While there are certain activities that are best avoided during pregnancy, they don't include baths. You should feel free to enjoy a warm, relaxing bath, and baths are a wonderful way to take a load off and get in some R&R. The most important thing to remember is that you should make sure to keep the bath temperature moderate and avoid all hot tubs and saunas. If you have any other questions about bathing during pregnancy, don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider or midwife.

Originally written by
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.
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11 Sources
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