Pregnant women frequently tell me one thing they miss the most is hot soaks in the tub. Most sources, including.WTEWYE, will caution you not to take hot baths or soak in a hot tub. Water temperature is to be kept at under 102º F, the same body temperature that is considered to be potentially harmful to the developing fetus. However, WTEWYE reassures the pregnant mother that if she has unknowingly soaked in a hot tub, she can get ultrasounds and other prenatal tests to reassure herself her baby is OK. Oh, yes, it’s also OK to soak your feet in hot water!
I decided to do a little experiment of my own. Now, I am not pregnant, so am likely able to tolerate very hot water, without feeling faint, for a longer period of time than a pregnant woman could. I began with the hottest water I could comfortably tolerate, which was 110° F, verified by a cooking thermometer.
Next, I took my own temperature, which was normal at 98.6° F, prior to entering the water. I then proceeded to check my temperature every five minutes. In five minutes, my body temperature was unchanged. Ten minutes after getting in the water, my temperature had increased one degree, to 99.6° F. After fifteen minutes of soaking in the hot tub, I was feeling faint and nauseated. My temperature at that time was 100.4° F. It was very difficult for me to remain in the tub, as I truly felt ill. Twenty minutes after getting in the tub, my temperature was 101.4ºF, at which time I got out of the tub.
Within ten minutes of getting out of the water, my body temperature had returned to normal. I found it interesting that, had I not had the ability to monitor my temperature, and simply used common sense, getting out of the tub when I began to feel sick, I would have exited the tub with my core body temperature nearly two degrees below the “danger” mark. It’s also important to remember that temperatures must remain at the danger level for more than a minute or two for damage to occur.
The other question I’m often asked is about sleeping on one’s back. Women are always cautioned about this, and come in to my office, fearful that they’ve caused brain damage in their babies because they accidentally turned on their backs while sleeping. The pregnant body has a built-in safety mechanism to warn an expecting mother when she needs to change positions. If the woman feels short of breath–and her body will sense this even when she is asleep–she will wake up and change positions. She cannot hurt her baby in the time it takes to start feeling short of breath and wake up. Even the most conservative instructions for fetal monitoring state that it takes some time for the fetus to feel the effects of decreased oxygen, and an even longer period of time for damage to occur.
So, ladies–soak more than just your feet! Get out or cool the water down if you begin to feel too hot. If you’re not sure, buy an inexpensive digital thermometer and check your own temperature periodically. Lie on your back if it feels good! After all, if it is truly dangerous to lie on your back, why would obstetricians make women push their babies out while lying on their backs?