Can Pregnant Women Take Baths? What You Need To Know

Published July 20th, 2022 by Bridget Reed
Fact Checked by
Camille Freking
Medically Reviewed:
Dr. Angel Rivera

Pregnancy is a beautiful time in a person’s life. However, it also comes with a lot of stress and anxiety.

While there are some great ways to eliminate these feelings, there’s perhaps no better remedy than a nice, hot bath.

But is it safe to take baths during pregnancy? How can you make the most of a self-care day while ensuring a safe and successful delivery once it comes time? Here’s everything you need to know.

Benefits of Bathing While Pregnant

Baths are great for pregnant individuals in all sorts of ways. And their benefits can enhance your comfort both inside and out.

pregnant woman taking a bath

Reduce Joint and Muscle Pain

When pregnant, the body produces more of a hormone called relaxin, which loosens the muscles and ligaments.

This hormone can weaken the support of joints like the knees and the ankles, leading to some heightened discomfort.

Body aches are entirely normal during pregnancy, but taking a nice warm bath can bring you some relief.

Warm temperatures open up the blood vessels, which can assist in the healing process and alleviate the sensations of discomfort. It can also loosen up stiff muscles if you’re feeling a bit achy from a workout or other activity.

Ease Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are two typical feelings when pregnant. Insecurity surrounding labor, cost, and your future is entirely normal.

However, a bath can be helpful to bring you some mental relief in the same way that it brings about physical relief.

The feeling of lying in a hot bath can stimulate relaxation, as it works to alleviate muscle tension.

Not to mention, you can spruce up the qualities of a bath by using some essential oils or lighting a candle for some aromatherapy benefits, too.

With that said, you shouldn’t use certain essential oils during early pregnancy as they might cause uterine contractions or affect the baby in early development. You should avoid birch, basil, camphor, clary sage, hyssop, mugwort, oak moss, and aniseed.

Add Some Epsom Salt

Epsom salt is a naturally occurring mineral salt compound of magnesium and sulfate.

While you shouldn’t put it on your french fries or in your food, you can use it to relieve stress and achy muscles.

Some experts believe that Epsom salt can relax muscles, and some even believe that the magnesium in the salt can reduce inflammation in internal organs.

This can help relieve your muscles and joints if you’re feeling achy from your pregnancy.

Additionally, some experts believe magnesium supplements can increase serotonin levels, the happiness hormone. For that reason, some feel that Epsom salt baths might be able to help alleviate stress.

There is not enough evidence to suggest the overall benefits of an Epsom salt bath are tried and true.

However, it isn’t associated with adverse effects and might be a great way to amp up your next self-care evening. Consult your doctor about any bath products you are considering.

Consider a Cold Bath

While a cold bath might not sound like something you’d want to subject yourself to, they offer benefits that a warm bath does not. 

Cold therapy can be a protective factor for preterm birth. In other words, a study found that pregnant people who took ice baths were less likely to experience premature birth than those who took warm baths.

Cold temperatures can also constrict the blood vessels, reducing inflammation if you’re experiencing joint pain due to loosened ligaments or acute injury.

Cold baths might even be able to help strengthen the immune system over periods of time.

How To Keep Baths Safe

Bathing has loads of different benefits for both the mother and the baby.

However, they do have the potential to pose increased risks if you don’t take certain precautions.

The main thing to keep in mind is water temperature. You’ll want to avoid soaking in water above 100 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid overheating.

High temperatures, especially during early pregnancy (first trimester), have been associated with congenital disabilities like neural tube defects.

That’s why saunas, hot tubs, jacuzzis, and hot water baths are not recommended for pregnant individuals. 

Regulating your core body temperature is crucial during pregnancy. Limiting heat exposure will ensure you do not expose your body or baby to heat stress while pregnant. 

These risks are uncommon and are not studied well. However, it is usually better to be safe than sorry when exposing yourself to hot temperatures.

It’s also unlikely that you’d even feel comfortable in a bath that’s hot enough to cause any damage. However, just test the temperature of the water before going in to ensure it is comfortable.

Some mothers also worry that bath water could enter the uterus and harm the baby’s development.

The good news is that your baby is completely protected. So, unless your water breaks, you do not need to worry about water affecting the baby’s development.

Understanding Water Birth

Water birth is when part of the labor and delivery of a baby takes place in a warm body of water, like a birthing tub or a pool.

Water births have many reported benefits as an alternative to the typical hospital delivery.

Women who have chosen to undergo a water birth tend to enjoy a more relaxing birth experience, which makes sense considering the benefits of a warm bath. Many moms report a calmer experience overall.

Additionally, there is often less need for pain medication when going through with water birth.

The warm water is said to help enhance relaxation and may also trigger the release of more endorphins to improve blood flow to the uterine muscles. This can help individuals better handle labor pains.

With that said, there is little research to denote the actual benefits of water births.

For that reason, individuals with higher-risk pregnancies should consult their doctor. Bacteria can also lurk in the birthing water, which can adversely affect a newborn child.

You can have a water birth at a hospital and don’t typically need to go to a special water birthing center.

If you’re leaning towards a water birth at a hospital, you’ll likely need to choose a midwife to deliver your baby.

Water births are very common in midwifery, and they might be more suitable for this type of delivery than an OB-GYN or other healthcare provider.

In Conclusion

Pregnant people can, and often should, take baths to help relieve some of the aches, pains, and stressors associated with childbearing.

It doesn’t usually harm the fetus and is effective at loosening joints and reducing worry.

Just be sure the bath is not too hot, as raising your body temperature too high can potentially cause complications.

The good news is you probably would never be able to take a bath hot enough to cause any problems.

Enhance your bath by considering a cold bath, or even choose to add some Epsom salts for added pain relief.

You can even choose to give birth in a bath, as many women experience less pain and discomfort.

References, Studies and Sources:

Hot weather and high body temperature during pregnancy | NCT

When to Use Ice and When to Use Heat for Aches and Pains | Beaumont Health

The association between ambient temperature and the risk of preterm birth in China | ScienceDirect

Should You Take an Epsom Salt Bath | Cleveland Clini

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