After a long day of carrying around the extra ten pounds of baby weight on your body, you’ll probably yearn for a hot, steamy shower to relax your muscles and sooth your joints. While popping in for a quick warm up isn’t a bad thing, you shouldn’t stick around in the steamy shower for too long. Elevating your baby’s temperature too high can cause seriously negative developmental side effects. While a steamy shower might seem like the best idea in many situations, you should avoid it for a few reasons.

Elevating your body temperature beyond 102 degrees Fahrenheit, especially during the first trimester, has been linked to birth defects. Spina bifida, brain development defects, and preterm birth have all been linked to heat exposure during pregnancy. While women who used hot tubs or saunas too frequently discovered most of these defects, the same does apply for elongated showers or baths. The increased heat can cause neural tube defects (NTD). These defects are caused mainly because the pregnant woman’s body is already working extra hard to accommodate for the growing baby. Many nutrients and bodily processes are devoted to the baby, so a temperature increase proves too much for the body to handle.

Instead of taking a hot shower to relax, you should try other ways to calm yourself and your muscles down during your pregnancy. First, you should try yoga. Yoga naturally releases the endorphins necessary for relaxation, and it’s also a good way to stay fit and flexible in the days leading up to childbirth. You should also try a cool bath or swimming in a pool. While a cool bath might not sound as relaxing as a steaming shower, it will relax you by taking the pressure off of your bones and joints, and the cool temperatures will feel refreshing. If you really feel that you need the heat of a hot tub or steaming shower, make yourself a warm bath. When you first crawl in, the heat will be relieving. Then, let the water cool down as you lay in the bath so that the temperature isn’t high for too long.

Hopping in a hot shower for a few moments while you’re pregnant will be fine, but be careful not to stay in the steamy water for too long. Raising your body temperature too high and for too long could cause serious neurological defects for your baby.

Source: Tanya TIllett: Pregnancy Pause: Extreme Heat Linked to Shortened Gestation. Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 119 Issue 10 October 2011

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