Bathing and swimming during pregnancy

41739 Dr Fysh - Sep 10, 2018

Your body is changing rapidly, your back is sore and you are aching all over. There are many times during your pregnancy you will want nothing more than a long soak in the tub. But is that OK? Aren’t baths dangerous when you’re expecting?

Thankfully, no. As long as the water is warm and not hot, then a relaxing bath is not a problem at all and can be a welcome treat for your body.

How do you know what is warm and what is hot? Use your elbow to test the water and make sure it is only luke-warm. The bath should be warm to the point that you can get in straight away rather than bit by bit and your skin should not be turning pink in the hot water.

Hot baths risk raising your body temperature which can be detrimental to your baby as well as increasing the risk of you fainting.

The NHS says:

“During pregnancy you're likely to feel warmer than normal. This is due to hormonal changes and an increase in blood supply to the skin. These hormonal changes can also often make pregnant women feel faint.”

And heat is the reason that pregnant women should be wary of using saunas and jacuzzis. There isn’t much research on the effect of using them when pregnant but there is a risk of dehydration and fainting.

What about swimming? Consultant Paediatrician Dr W John Fysh says:

“It is advisable to remain fit and active which will help you through labour and delivery as well as recovery afterwards. You should try to keep up your normal activities though especially later in pregnancy you may prefer non weight bearing exercises such as swimming.”

Swimming gets a big thumbs up as it’s a great form of cardiovascular exercise and especially good when you’re pregnant as it is low impact and the water will support your increased weight. Some pools even have special aqua natal classes with qualified instructors.

If you swim, you burn calories, feel less fatigued, sleep better, and are better equipped to handle pregnancy's physical and emotional challenges. Swimming also helps you keep your weight within a healthy range, and some women say swimming also makes them feel less bloated.

If you didn’t swim before your pregnancy you should make sure you take it easy and slowly build up your levels of exercise. If you didn’t exercise at all before your pregnancy it is worth talking to your doctor or midwife to see what they recommend. If you do start a new exercise regime, start slowly, stretch well during a gradual warm-up and cool down, and be careful not to overexert yourself.

One other thing to remember – it can be easy to forget about staying hydrated when exercising in water so don’t forget to drink lots of fluids.

Incidentally don't go scuba diving! It may not be top of your to-do list right now anyway but if it is, forget it. Your baby has no protection against decompression sickness and gas bubbles can appear in their bloodstream. Take a leisurely swim instead.


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About Dr Fysh

Dr Fysh

Dr Fysh is one of the country’s leading consultant paediatricians, currently a consultant at The Portland Hospital for Women and Children, and a Fellow of the Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health and the Royal College of Physicians. Having experienced first-hand the suffering caused by serious medical conditions to babies and young children and the emotional and financial strain that this can place on parents on a daily basis. He joined the board of directors as Chief Medical Officer and has been instrumental in the building of the NurtureFirst product. 

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