Hot Tubs and Pregnancy: Safety and Risks

Medically reviewed by Michael Weber, MD on August 8, 2016Written by Daniela Ginta on August 8, 2016
pregnant woman in hot tub

Taking a dip in a hot tub might be the ultimate way to relax. Warm water is known to soothe muscles. Hot tubs are also designed for more than one person, so soaking can be a great opportunity to spend some time with your partner or friends.

During pregnancy, on the other hand, hot tubs should be used cautiously or not at all.

Water temperature in the hot tub should never exceed 104°F (40°C). Sitting in hot water can easily raise the body temperature, which can cause health issues for you and your baby-to-be.

Here’s more information about the risks of hot tub use during pregnancy.

Are hot tubs safe to use during pregnancy?

There are serious concerns associated with using hot tubs in pregnancy. The general consensus is that they should only be used carefully and for limited amounts of time, if at all.

Temperature

Sitting in a body of water that is warmer than your body’s temperature will raise your temperature, whether it’s a bath, hot springs, or hot tub.

During pregnancy, your body temperature shouldn’t rise above 102.2°F(39°C). That can easily occur if you spend 10 to 20 minutes in a hot tub with a water temperature of 104°F(40°C).

This precaution is especially important during the first trimester when a rise in temperature can cause birth defects, such as brain and spinal cord defects.

One study published in Birth Defects Research found that mild exposure before the embryo is implanted in the uterus and more severe exposure during the first trimester might result in various birth defects and even pregnancy loss.

Other studies pointed to possible risks associated with using the hot tub, especially during the first trimester. Talk to your doctor about your concerns.

Germs

Germs are another concern related to using a hot tub while pregnant. But proper disinfection and constant monitoring can help eliminate the risks and keep unwanted contaminants at bay.

If you own the hot tub, make sure you use the right disinfectant and test the water using pool water strips. Free chlorine levels should be between 2 and 4 parts per million (ppm), and if using bromine, between 4 and 6 ppm. The pH should be between 7.2 and 7.8.

If you don’t own the hot tub but want some peace of mind, test the water or ask the manager of the place to ensure that the water is tested regularly.

Here are some standard questions you can ask while using a hot tub you’ve not used before:

  • How many people usually use it?
  • How often is the water replaced?
  • Is the water tested twice daily using pool strips?
  • Is the filter replaced regularly?

Using hot tubs safely during pregnancy

If you’re in your first trimester, the general advice is to avoid the hot tub. Even if you keep the time to under 10 minutes, it can be dangerous for your baby-to-be. Everyone’s body is different, so you might find yourself overheating sooner than expected.

For your baby’s sake, skip the dip during the first three months. Instead, grab your water bottle or a tall glass of lemon water and dip your feet. You’ll still need to keep the time you do this limited.

If you’re past the first trimester and want to use the hot tub after getting your doctor’s approval, here’s how to stay safe:

  • Use the tub for no more than 10 minutes at a time and allow for plenty of cooling off in between sessions.
  • If the hot water jets are on, sit on the opposite side where the water temperature is slightly lower.
  • If you feel sweaty, step out of the tub right away and cool yourself down.
  • Try to keep your chest above the water if possible. It’s even better to sit where only your lower half is in the hot water.
  • If you stop sweating or experience any kind of discomfort such as dizziness or nausea, get out immediately and monitor your condition to make sure your body is back to normal.
  • Don’t use the hot tub if you have a fever.

If you’re among friends or with family members and ready to use the hot tub, ask if they’d be willing to lower the temperature. While still nice and warm, a lower temperature considerably reduces your risk of overheating.

Safe alternatives to hot tubs during pregnancy

A safer alternative to a hot tub during pregnancy is a regular warm bath. This can provide the benefits of soothing warm water, but without the risks.

The caution about not bathing in very warm water still applies, so keep the temperature warm but not hot. Just like in the case of hot tubs, keep well-hydrated and get out as soon as you experience any sign of discomfort. Also make sure that you prevent slipping: Your sense of balance will undergo some adjustments during the time you are pregnant, especially in the second and third trimesters.

You can try trading a tub for a foot soak while enjoying a cup of tea. While only part of your body is exposed to warm water, you can still enjoy a relaxing time without all the risks.

Next steps

Avoid using a hot tub during the first trimester or if you have a fever. If you decide to use a hot tub during pregnancy, make sure you do so for a limited amount of time. Keep a close eye on your temperature and general well-being. Always get your doctor’s OK before using the hot tub during pregnancy.

Q:

Are hot tubs dangerous throughout pregnancy, or only in the first trimester?

A:

Hot tubs are probably the most dangerous during the first trimester, as the fetal parts are made (organogenesis) during this period. This is the time the baby is most susceptible to birth defects. Using common sense throughout the pregnancy is still the smart thing. Never get the temperature above 104°F (40°C) and never stay in too long. Keep the tub clean and disinfected. Using these guidelines should maintain a proper level of safety.

Michael Weber, MDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
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