For many pregnant women, sitting in a hot tub sounds like a great way to ease muscle aches related to pregnancy. It is important to use caution when choosing a hot tub for relaxation and pain relief. Hot tubs can cause hyperthermia, which is an abnormally high body temperature.
What is the concern with hot tubs during pregnancy?
According to the Organization of Teratology Information Services (OTIS), a body temperature of 101º F and above can raise concerns during pregnancy. Some studies have shown an increased risk of birth defects in babies of women who had an increased body temperature during the first trimester of pregnancy.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states that becoming overheated in a hot tub is not recommended during pregnancy. ACOG also recommends that pregnant women never let their core body temperature rise above 102.2º F.
Although the specific degree differs, both OTIS and ACOG attest to the concern related to hot tub use during pregnancy.
Hot tubs are often factory programmed to maintain a water temperature of approximately 104º F. It takes only 10-20 minutes in a hot tub to raise your body temperature to 102º F or higher. To maintain a steady temperature, water is circulated and re-circulated through the hot tub to pump out cold water and pump in hot water.
So, is a hot bath safer than using a hot tub?
A hot bath, which is not uncomfortable or scalding, is a safer way to relax. In a bath much of your upper body will remain out of the water, making you less likely to overheat. Additionally, the water in a bath begins to cool off, as opposed to a hot tub, further reducing any risk of overheating.
How to reduce the risk if you choose to use a hot tub:
Although the Association does not recommend using hot tubs during pregnancy, here are some steps you can take to reduce any risk:
- Re-program your hot tub to maintain a lower temperature.
- Limit time in a hot tub to 10 minutes or less.
- Monitor the temperature of the water by dipping a thermometer in the hot tub.
- Monitor your body temperature to avoid overheating.
- Pay attention to warning signs such as becoming uncomfortable or if you stop sweating.
Compiled using information from the following sources:
Organization of Teratology Information Services, http://otispregnancy.org/pdf/hyperthermia.pdf
Planning Your Pregnancy and Birth Third Ed. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, CH. 5.
Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn: The Complete Guide. Simkin, Penny P.T., et al, CH. 5.
American Pregnancy Association, http://www.americanpregnancy.org