Hot tubs and Pregnancy
Can you safely go in a hot tub when pregnant?
Pregnant women often wonder whether it is safe to go in a hot tub. Using a hot tub may seem like a good idea to alleviate some of the typical discomforts that occur during pregnancy.
In this guide we'll show you the risks of going into a hot tub while pregnant, and what you can do to reduce any potential risk.
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The hot tub pregnancy myth – truth or fiction?
The health risks
The so-called hot tub myth states that you should definitely avoid hot tubs and saunas while pregnant.
As is the case with many myths, this statement is only partially true.
Expecting mothers are easily at risk of overheating, which can lead to miscarriage and birth defects, especially when they go in a hot tub during early pregnancy (first trimester).
Luckily, there are some simple rules to safely use a hot tub.
Hot tubs increase the overall body temperature, and the body reacts by diverting blood to the skin in order to sweat and cool off. The body is however unable to lose the excess heat through sweating. This process is called thermal regulation.
The subsequent lack of blood flow to the internal organs and brain may result in overheating or hyperthermia.
According to OTIS, a core body temperature of 101º F and above should be avoided during pregnancy. The AGOG also warns about the danger of overheating, recommending that pregnant women never let their core body temperature exceed 102.2º F.
Several other studies have also shown that prolonged exposure to temperatures of above 102°F can be harmful to the development of your baby, causing congenital disabilities like neural tube defects (spina bifida or anencephaly) and even pregnancy loss.
Using a hot tub is most dangerous during early pregnancy, more specifically during the first six weeks of the first trimester of pregnancy.
This risk of complications increases even more when a hot tub is used on a regular basis and/or for an extended period of time.
Pregnant women are more prone to fainting while using a hot tub. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause women to feel more faint than usual.
If the body also overheats due to extreme heat, the blood pressure is lowered while there is not enough oxygen reaching the brain, which causes feelings of dizziness or even fainting.
Know when to avoid a hot tub
Refrain from exposure to a hot tub during your first trimester, as a raised core body temperature could negatively affect the formation (“organogenesis”) of the embryo's spine.
You also should avoid soaking in a hot tub when you have any chronic health conditions, pregnancy complications or an already elevated body temperature.
Expecting mothers are more at danger of dehydration in a hot tub, which can lead to many health complications. It is very important to drink enough to replace the fluids that are sweated out.
Place a bottle of water beside you, and drink often to stay hydrated.
Lower the temperature
Most hot tubs are set out of the box between 100°F and 102°F, and have a (legally set) maximum temperature of 104°F.
You should program the hot tub to run at a lower temperature, the optimal temperature being around 97°F to 98°F.
A thermometer could also be put in the water to monitor that this lower temperature is maintained.
Assume a correct position
In order to avoid overheating, you should sit with your arms and chest above the water.
Find a comfortable sitting position, and try not to submerge your head, arms, shoulders or upper chest.
Keep the hot tub clean
Hot tubs, when not properly maintained and sanitized carry the risk of infection like Legionnaires' Disease (Legionella) and other germs.
Be sure to have the hot tub disinfected and in a sanitary condition at all times!
Limit your hot tub session
It takes on average about ten minutes in a hot tub for your body to reach a core temperature of 102°F.
Limit the time you spend in a hot tub to maximum 10 minutes or less, and allow your body to cool down afterwards.
Leave when you feel uncomfortable
Listen to the signals your body is sending you, especially when soaking in a hot tub!
Leave the hot tub immediately when you feel uncomfortable or experience symptoms like faintness, clamminess and dizziness or if you stop sweating.
Only go into a hot tub when supervised
Never use a hot tub alone when you're pregnant, expecting mothers should always ask someone to monitor and supervise them in case any problems occur.
Avoid the hot spots in a hot tub
Some places in a hot tub are considerably warmer than others. Try not to sit near the inlet, jets or other spots that usually provide the influx of newly heated water.
Can you safely go in a hot tub when pregnant?
Women can go in a hot tub during pregnancy, but only if they are fully informed about the potential risks and stick to these important safety rules and precautions.
Pregnant women who have any doubts regarding hot tub safety, who have used a hot tub for extended periods of time or are in their first trimester should consult their physician before proceeding to use a hot tub.