During my pregnancy with George, there were a few things that I missed being able to do. I not only missed eating deli meats, but I also missed being able to sit in the hot tub. During my medical training I remembered learning that hot tubs should be avoided during pregnancy.  But I didn’t know the rationale why pregnant women should avoid hot tubs and the evidence for this recommendation.  

Upon reviewing the literature, I learned that maternal heat exposure during the first trimester maybe associated with neural tube defects. Neural tube defects are birth defects of the brain, spine or spinal cord that occur early in pregnancy. Another study suggested that there may be an association between use of a hot tub or whirlpool bath during early pregnancy and the risk of miscarriage.

But what about baths or swimming?

Warm baths at home and swimming pools are acceptable and do not pose a risk to the pregnant mother or fetus.  

After reading the evidence, I recommend avoiding hot tubs and saunas, as there is a potential risk of miscarriage and birth defects when our body temperature is raised during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester.

This post was co-authored by Stephanie Liu, MD, MSc, CCFP, BHSc and Erin Manchuk, BScPharm, BCGP.

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