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 or tub to relax your muscles and soothe your joints. Popping in for a quick warm-up, less than 10 minutes, isn’t a bad thing. But you shouldn’t stick around in the steamy shower or tub for too long. Elevating your body'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 be careful for a few reasons.
What is the problem with a hot shower or tub?
Taking a hot shower or going into a hot tub in and by themselves is not the issue. Staying too long and elevating your body temperature is the problem. The problem with taking too long of a shower or staying in a hot tub is that this can elevate your body temperature beyond 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 Celsius), which has been linked to birth defects. Birth defects usually happen during the first 6-8 weeks of the pregnancy, so that is the time period to be especially concerned. Spina bifida, brain development defects, and gastrointestinal anomalies have all been linked to heat exposure and increased body temperatures during pregnancy. In addition, premature labor and delivery have been linked to increased body temperatures. While women who used hot tubs or saunas too frequently were found to have these defects, the same could apply for elongated showers or baths. The increased heat can cause neural tube defects (NTD), but a neural tube defect does not happen after 6-8 weeks of the pregnancy.
Instead of taking a prolonged hot shower
Instead of taking a prolonged 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.
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Source: Tanya Tillett: Pregnancy Pause: Extreme Heat Linked to Shortened Gestation. Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 119 Issue 10 October 2011