Taking a bath while pregnant can relieve stress and muscle tension, but it’s important to keep an eye on the temperature.

The bathtub is singing your name, crooning such sweet nothings promising relief to every exhausted, sore muscle of your pregnant body. But… is it safe?

Yes! Safely soaking in a bath is entirely acceptable — and enjoyable — as long as you keep in mind a few precautions.

Taking a bath can help your sore muscles relax and has a calming effect on your nerves — it’s like a warm blanket. However, if your body temperature increases too much, you take the phrase “bun in the oven” to an unhealthy extreme, increasing your risk of pregnancy complications and developmental abnormalities in your baby.

Here is what you need to know:

The main key? Keep your core body temperature below 101°F (38.3°C).

A healthy pregnant woman’s internal body temperature is around 99°F (37.2°C) — or about 0.4 to 0.8 Fahrenheit degrees higher than a healthy, non-pregnant woman.

Ideally you’ll take a bath in warm water that’s a safe temperature, about 98.6 to 100°F. If you want to know the exact temperature of the water, go ahead and purchase a thermometer to keep in the water — you’ll continue to use it when your little one arrives.

What if you like your bath on the warm side? A 2019 study reviewed evidence and concluded that water baths up to 104°F (40°C) will not raise core temperature to unsafe levels for up to 20 minutes. However, it’s important that you’re aware of how you react to the temperature.

If you begin to feel overheated, take a cool shower — or one that’s no warmer than 100°F (37.8°C), to lower your core temperature. Signs of overheating include feeling hot, sweating, and red skin. More serious signs of overheating are dizziness, nausea, falling down, or fainting.

Few studies exist on pregnant women and bathing in hot water because of the danger to their babies.

But research on animals determined that when a pregnant woman’s core temperature is 2 Fahrenheit degrees over the baseline of 99°F, or above, there is an increased risk for neural tube defects (NTDs). This risk is also influenced by the timing and duration of this temperature increase.

As mentioned above, always keep the water at a safe temperature and address any signs of overheating immediately.

After your water breaks, don’t soak in a bathtub without your doctor or midwife’s permission. When your water breaks, your amniotic sac has ruptured, and your baby is no longer protected from the bathwater or other outside elements. This increases the risk of infection for you and your baby.

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You should also forget about the bubbles, bath bombs, and special oils for the bath for the time being (with the exception of Epsom salt, which we’ll discuss below).

Soaking with these additions might cause you to get a yeast infection due to the way they can alter the acidic balance of your vagina. In addition to the fact that yeast infections aren’t fun, not all medicines that treat yeast infections are safe during pregnancy.

Don’t despair, you don’t need bubbles and perfumed things to find tranquility. Lighting a candle and playing soft music can bring you just as much peace without irritating your ladybits.

You’ve likely heard already that pregnant people should avoid hot tubs. A warm bath is not the same as a hot tub.

Hot tubs differ from baths in that the water is constantly being recycled to maintain a higher temperature, while bathwater will cool over time. Additionally, hot tubs have a higher risk of germs than bathtubs.

Researchers in a 2011 study found that there is an increased risk of congenital abnormalities, like anencephaly, gastroschisis, and spina bifida if a woman uses a hot tub or whirlpool more than once during early pregnancy and remains in it for long periods of time (longer than 30 minutes).

With the risk factors in mind, your safest course of action is to avoid hot tubs in favor of warm baths during pregnancy.

  • Feeling extra sore and stressed? Taking an Epsom salt bath will ease aches and pains, help with hemorrhoids, and reduce stress. Add two cups of Epsom salt to your warm bathwater and let it dissolve before soaking in it for no more than 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Dip a thermometer into the bathwater, or use a child’s bathtub toy thermometer, to monitor the temperature of the water throughout your bath.
  • Reprogram your water heater to remain at a lower, safer temperature during your pregnancy.
  • Not enjoying baths during pregnancy? Try a warm foot bath for another safe option for relaxation and stress relief.
  • Swimming is another way to take advantage of the weightlessness being submerged in water brings to a pregnant woman. It may also give you the same type of stress reduction and relaxation that come from taking a bath. Make sure to ask your doctor or midwife before beginning any new exercise program.
  • If you love your pregnancy baths, consider talking to your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of a water birth.

Most pregnant women take baths to relieve stress and pain. It’s no wonder why: A few lit candles, soft music playing in the background, soothing Epsom salts, and glass of ice water while you’re in the tub may be exactly what you need to take a breath and mentally prepare for the arrival of your little one.

Just be sure to take every extra precaution necessary to keep you, and your baby, safe and healthy.