Tuesday 16 January 2018

Dear Dr Nina: 'Are baths safe when you are pregnant?'

Dr Nina Byrnes answers your medical queries.

Dr Nina replies: There is an old wives’ tale that states pregnant women should not take baths. Like most old wives’ tales, it isn’t based in evidence but may have a tiny grain of truth.

When you are pregnant, your blood pressure naturally falls. Getting into a hot tub or hot bath can cause dilatation of your blood vessels, further dropping BP and making some people feel dizzy. As the baby gets bigger, he or she may press on the main vein returning blood to your heart, so lying on your back such as you do in a bath may make you feel dizzy. Sitting up or lying on your side relieves this.

Hot tubs and jacuzzis are kept at a high temperature, so sitting in these can raise your core temperature, which is not good for you or the baby. Baths at home are a little safer as the water starts to cool as soon as you turn off the taps, making overheating less likely.

Baths in hotels may not be as clean as you like. Baths make it easy for bacteria to travel into the vagina, so if you are going to have a bath, either have it at home or make sure the bath is really clean. A dirty bath would increase the risk of vaginal infection. The same is true with hot tubs and jacuzzis, which can contain higher levels of bacteria. Vaginal infection causes the highest risk in very early pregnancy or just prior to delivery.

If you have a bath, make sure it isn’t too hot — ideally, no higher than body temperature. Don’t soak for too long and be careful getting in and out. If you have ruptured waters or membranes, there is no barrier between the water and baby and you should not have a bath.

Otherwise, don’t be afraid to enjoy a good soak as it has benefits: it can relax muscles, ease discomfort and improve overall wellbeing.

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