Are hot baths safe while pregnant? What about in labour? Can I get in the bath after giving birth?
Safety of hot baths in pregnancy.
Many people have heard that it is dangerous to take a hot bath while you are pregnant. Like many myths, there is a grain of truth to this.
It is not good for you or your baby to dramatically increase your core temperature while pregnant. If you get into a hot tub and stay there for some time then you can increase your core temperature. Most pregnant people won’t stay in a hot tub for a dangerously long time because they begin to feel overheated, light headed or nauseous.
Even if, however, you fill your bathtub with really hot water, the water begins to cool right away without a heater to maintain the temperature. Your core temperature will not have a chance to rise dangerously.
So enjoy hot tubs for only a few minutes at a time but feel free to soak as long as you wish in your own bathtub.
Many people use immersion in water during labour for comfort and pain relief. It can be so effective that water immersion has been dubbed the “midwife’s epidural.” I’m not really sure why water immersion is specifically attributed to midwives given that tubs are often available in standard hospital birthing rooms and supported by obstetricians and nurses – but that is another topic. Suffice it to say that if you have access to warm water during your birth, you should probably explore its wonders.
Are there exceptions? Sure. Of course. There are exceptions to everything. There may be complications of pregnancy or birth that are contraindications to using water for pain relief. If the water is too hot it can raise your core temperature and cause your heart rate and the baby’s to rise. (This can be fixed by getting out of the water for a while or cooling the water temperature). There is no consensus on whether it is a good idea to get into a bath if your water has broken and you are not yet in labour. Ask your care provider for a recommendation. Water Birth International is a great resource for those parents interested in using water for comfort or considering water birth.
In the postpartum.
If you have a vaginal birth your care provider might recommend a sitz bath. A sitz bath is a plastic container that you can put on a toilet seat so that you can soak your bottom. Sometimes Epsom salts or other herbal infusions may be suggested. Instead of an awkward sitz soak on the toilet, feel free to take a couple of short baths a day. The hot water will increase circulation to your bottom which may help you heal. Afterwards, pat dry and give yourself some time to air dry – lie down on a towel without any bottoms on for a few minutes.
If you gave birth by cesarean section, short baths should not harm your incision once the skin has closed. Ask your care provider for their recommendation about timing. And be careful getting in and out of the tub! Even if the water is not a problem, it might be difficult to climb in and out of a bath after your surgery.
Genia Stephen is a registered midwife with Generations Midwifery Care. You can learn more about Genia here.