Can Using a Hot Tub During Pregnancy Cause a Miscarriage?

Why a hot bath is a good alternative

Pregnant woman smiling in hot tub
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If you're pregnant or planning to be you might have heard the advice to avoid hot tubs for fear of inducing a miscarriage. Learn why taking a hot bath might be the better option with this overview.

Why Doctors Warn Pregnant Women to Avoid Hot Tubs

The reason behind the recommendation against hot tubs has to do with body temperature. Researchers have found that having an elevated body temperature in early pregnancy increases the risk of neural tube defects; the same finding applies to fevers during pregnancy.

Neural tube defects are one of the reasons prenatal vitamins contain folic acid, which has been found to lower the incidences of these defects.

There's some evidence that using hot tubs in early pregnancy could increase the risk of miscarriage in addition to neural tube defects, but the evidence of the link isn't conclusive -- the more likely risk is that the baby will have health problems.

Because of the known link with neural tube defects, doctors recommend that women avoid raising their core body temperatures above 101 degrees Fahrenheit during pregnancy, not only avoiding hot tubs but also monitoring any fevers in order to prevent them from reaching that level. Just 10 to 20 minutes in a hot tub can achieve a body temperature of 102 degrees. Thus, the best bet is to not use a hot tub during pregnancy, just to be on the safe side.

Of course, a number of women don't realize they're pregnant early on and might saunter into a hot tub with no idea of the growing life inside of them.

But if you know that you're pregnant, why take the risk? Besides, there are other options if you want a hot tub-like experience.

Alternatives to Hot Tubs

A hot bath might be a safer option if you just can't go without a hot soak. In a bath, the water cools quickly whereas a hot tub maintains a hot temperature.

In addition, your body is not fully submerged in a standard bathtub, thus your temperature would rise more slowly.

But even a hot bath could pose risks if the water is too hot for too long, so if you do take a hot bath, monitor your body temperature and the temperature of the water in order to avoid risk. If you're the worrying kind, avoid hot tubs and hot baths altogether. It's better to be overly cautious than to engage in any activity that you'll beat yourself up for later.

Wrapping Up

If you have questions about hot tubs, hot baths and your pregnancy, speak to your doctor about the possible risks. You may be hesitant to "bother" your doctor, but if you've already gotten into a hot tub without knowing the risks or feel tempted to use one, it's best to speak with your obstetrician about the dangers outlined above.

If you're a regular hot tub user, consider deactivating yours to avoid any inclination to use one. Let your friends and family know about the possible threat to your baby if they try to convince you to get in a hot tub with them.

Sources

American Pregnancy Association, "Hot Tubs during Pregnancy." Mar 2007. Accessed 31 Aug 2008.

Li, De-Kun, Teresa Janevic, Roxana Odouli, and Liyan Liu, "Hot Tube Use during Pregnancy and the Risk of Miscarriage." American Journal of Epidemiology 2003. Accessed 31 Aug 2008.

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