There are many hot tub health benefits. Spending time in a hot tub helps to relieve strain on your muscles and is a perfect way to chill and relax especially after a long and strenuous day. However, when it comes to pregnant women, caution should be observed, and where possible avoid using the hot tub altogether.
The hot water will raise the body’s core temperature to such dangerous levels that they are likely to cause harm to the unborn child. And if you are pregnant and still want to spend some time in the hot tub, then the temperature of the water should never go beyond 400C.
So, should pregnant women use a hot tub? The answer is NO! To remain safe and to best protect the health of both you and your unborn child, the best thing is to avoid using a hot tube at least until the baby comes.
The link between the hot tub and body temperature
Dipping your body in hot water will obviously raise your core temperature.
What pregnant women should always keep in mind is that during the course of their pregnancy, their body’s temperature should always remain below 390C. And the risks are even higher in the first three months of pregnancy.
During this time, if the body’s temperature rises above 400C there is a high chance of causing harm to the child which may include spine and brain defects. In some instances, a miscarriage may occur.
If you still want to use your hot tub, use caution, and consult your doctor.
Germs found in hot tubs
Another risk factor to using a hot tube when pregnant is exposure to germs. Warm standing water can encourage the growth of bacteria that could seriously affect the health of the pregnant woman and consequently that of the unborn child.
You can however ensure that the water is free of bacteria and other harmful organisms by performing regular monitoring using water strips. Check for chemicals and if you need to lower the chlorine and bromine levels. For the chlorine levels, these should be between 2 to 4 ppm or parts per million, and the bromine should be between 4 to 6 ppm.
Ensure a balanced PH of between 7.2 and 7.8.
Sometimes you may be using a hot tub away from home. To ensure that it is safe to use, talk to the manager or owner, and ask them to test the hot tub water.
How to use the hot tub safely when pregnant
A general rule of thumb is that you should avoid hot tubs during the first trimester as it is during this time that you are exposed to the highest risk to both you and your unborn child. Note that every person’s body reacts differently and even if you spent 10 minutes or less in the hot tub, your core temperature may rise quickly therefore putting you at risk.
But what if you are past the first trimester? Here is what you can do to use the hot tube safely.
The best way to ensure that you are not exposed to any risk factors is to lower the temperature of the water.
Check the duration of time that you spend in the hot tub. Always ensure that you don’t go beyond 10 minutes.
Find the hot water jets and stay on the farthest side away from them as here the water temperature is a bit lower.
If you notice that you are beginning to sweat, get out of the tub and allow your body to cool down.
Even while you are in the hot tub, always try to keep your chest out of the water such that only the lower half of your body is in the water.
Be aware of how your body feels when using the hot tub and if you notice any dizziness or lightheadedness, get out of the hot tub immediately and allow your body to go back to its normal state.
If you are having a fever, it is a good idea to avoid the hot tub altogether.
Hot tub during the first trimester
Some women will continue to use the hot tub before they know that they are actually pregnant. The first trimester is one of the most crucial times in your baby’s development so the doctor’s advice to stay away from the hot tub during this time.
Soaking in Lukewarm water is fine. If you are wondering how hot should a hot tub be, they are set to operate at a specific temperature which is usually 1040F. By simply spending up to 10 minutes in hot water, your internal body temperature may rise to as high as 1020F and this could cause complications to the unborn child as we saw above.
If you are one of those women who continued to use the hot tub before discovering that they were pregnant, do not panic. Consult your doctor for a check-up and some valuable advice.
Hot tub during the second trimester
If you are still using the hot tub during the second trimester, you will need to go for a check-up where the doctor will screen you for any abnormalities. These may include checking for neural tube defects.
Even if the doctor gives you the all-clear, don’t assume that the hot water cannot have any effects on you or your pregnancy later on. Another great alternative to using a hot tub is to soak your feet in warm water as this will not raise your body’s internal temperature too high.
Hot tub during the third trimester
Most pregnant women find it difficult to resist the urge of a hot tub pregnancy dip during their third trimester. It is not only relaxing but helps to take the load off your legs. However, it also poses not only the health risks aforementioned but the possibility of falling and injuring yourself is also quite high.
However as much as there is a consensus within many individuals that hot tubs should be avoided during pregnancy, there are those who think of this as a hot tub pregnancy myth.
According to some studies, pregnant women can still go to saunas and enjoy hot baths without posing any serious health risks to the unborn child.
The idea is that since hot baths and saunas do not cause the woman’s body to go beyond 390C, the health of both her and the pregnancy can remain in check. What’s more, research shows that as long as the woman’s core temperature remains below this 390C, it remains safe to take long hot baths or stay in the sauna for well over 35 minutes.
And the findings from the research don’t end there. Pregnant women can take part in aerobic exercises for periods over 35 minutes as long as it is performed at room temperature of 250C.
Pregnant women can also take part in aqua aerobic exercises. However, the temperature of the water should be between 28.80C and 340C. With the right temperatures, the exercises can go on for 45 minutes.
Other alternatives to using a hot tub
Even while not being pregnant, there are still some negative effects of hot tubs. If you want to enjoy the soothing effects of warm water on your skin but you still want to avoid a hot tub, then a great alternative is to take hot baths. The difference is that with the hot bath, the water will evaporate fast from your skin allowing your body to gradually go back to its normal core temperatures.
However, if the water is still too hot, the hot bath could also pose some health risks. Check the water temperature and ensure that it is not too hot and don’t spend longer than you need to when taking a hot bath.
Benefits of taking a hot water bath during pregnancy
When you take a hot bath when pregnant and the water temperature is closer to the body temperature, numerous health benefits come with it.
The weight of the pregnancy can cause you to have tense muscles. A hot water bath can help soothe the muscles which in turn helps you to relax.
By using oil during your hot bath, you can nurture your skin which further leaves you feeling more relaxed. What’s more, it is an excellent way to relieve cramps.
If you are sufferings from pregnancy-based insomnia, taking hot baths before bed can help you get that much-needed sleep while also providing a higher quality of sleep.
Another great benefit of taking hot baths during pregnancy is that they have been shown to prevent premature contractions. Adding rock salt is another perfect way to soothe muscles and also helps to relieve pain.
Edema which is a swelling around the ankles during pregnancy can be reduced by taking hot baths.
It has also been shown to increase amniotic fluid especially if the body is low in this fluid.
The ideal water temperature for a hot bath
As we’ve noted above that the ideal temperature for taking a hot bath is one that is close to the pregnant woman’s body temperature. When the water temperature is lower than the body temperature or is higher than the core body temperature, the heart rate will begin to rise.
A higher heart rate can cause harm to the baby by interrupting blood flow. The best temperature for a hot bath is at room temperature of 250C or body temperature at 38oC.
Hot tubs and miscarriage
When a pregnant woman has a fever, studies have shown that the resulting temperature rise can cause birth defects to the unborn child. In fact, certain studies done on animals have shown that high temperatures can result in the death of the fetus.
While there was speculation that the same could happen to humans, it wasn’t until 2003 when a study was conducted at John Hopkins. The study involved tracking and regular monitoring of 1000 women who used hot tubs when pregnant.
The results were as predicted and showed that the women who used hot tubs were twice as likely to have a miscarriage than those that did not. The risk of losing the baby was even higher for those who took a hot tub pregnancy dip in the first month of pregnancy.
While the women who were monitored in the study could also have had other factors in their lives that may have elevated their chances of a miscarriage, the correlation between hot tub use and having miscarriages was clear.
Hot tubs and birth defects
Another major concern that has continued to linger in the minds of doctors and women alike for many years is the possibility of birth defects due to using a hot tub.
In fact, the idea was nothing new and there were warnings by various health organizations against the use of hot tubs as far back as 1979. The main defect that was cited was brain damage.
Then a study in 1992 was conducted where over 20,000 women were monitored. The results showed that those women who spent time in hot tubs especially during the first trimester had a higher chance for their babies to develop neural tube defects.
These include issues with the baby’s spinal cord, as well as the brain. A common defect is spinal Bifida. When the fetus is exposed to high temperature in the first trimester, the risk of it developing complications is as high as 2 to 3 times.
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While there are many health benefits of using a hot tub when you are not pregnant, it is not the safest thing to do for pregnant women. The risks to the unborn child are simply too high. You can lower the hot tub temperature or sit away from the jets.
For women who still want to experience the soothing effects of hot water on their skin, it is recommended to find alternative methods such as taking a hot bath as the water doesn’t stay on the skin for extended periods of time and the core body temperature does rise to abnormally high levels.
Always consult your doctor on how you can safely reap the benefits of hot water on your skin especially as soon as you notice that you are pregnant.