Can I Use a Sauna While Pregnant?
Until recently, the medical recommendation was that women at any stage of pregnancy shouldn’t enter into saunas or hot tubs. However, a recent review by the University of Exeter of 12 studies has found interesting results. Over 300 women across these studies were assessed as they exercised and used saunas, steam rooms, and hot tubs. In each of these studies, not a single woman exceeded the core temperature limit of 102F (39 degrees). This suggests that saunas can be used safely by pregnant women, but women at any stage in her pregnancy must practice caution and listen to her body to ensure risk is minimized as much as possible.
Potential risks of sauna use
While there are many natural benefits to sauna use for pregnant woman, it is important to know the risks before stepping in so that you are best suited to support your baby’s growth.
Firstly, a drastic increase in body temperature in the first 12 weeks could have an impact on the development of a fetus and is shown to have links to such complications as spina bifida, where the child’s backbone does not fully close as it’s growing. For this reason, it’s recommended that you avoid saunas in this initial period.
As your body heats up in a sauna, blood flow to the surface is increased in an attempt to cool down. When this happens, blood flow to your internal organs is reduced. In pregnant women, this can mean that you feel faint quicker.
When using a sauna while pregnant, we would recommend keeping your sessions to about 10-15 minutes and strongly recommend getting out as soon as you start to feel faint.
With increased body temperature comes increased sweating. Although there is a great benefit to this in sauna use, which we’ll come to later, this also must be closely monitored in pregnant women.
High levels of sweating can leave the body dehydrated, meaning the baby’s access to water is also restricted. In more serious cases, this can cause serious problems such as reduced amniotic fluid.
To avoid this, always ensure you are properly hydrated throughout the day before, during and after a sauna session.
Maternal hyperthermia (abnormally raised body temperature) is also a risk to a baby’s development. While sauna use may not bring your core body temperature up above the limit of 102F, excessive sauna use could put an unnecessary strain on you and your baby.
Entering saunas sparingly will help to avoid these troubles while still allowing you to experience the benefits throughout your pregnancy.
Your health is of the utmost importance when you’re pregnant, which is why you should take care when using saunas to ensure you get the most from them without putting yourself in danger.
Blood flow to the surface of the skin helps to oxygenate tissues in skin and muscles. Infrared saunas, in particular, improve oxygen flow because they penetrate the skin directly and warm the body from the inside. Infrared light only penetrates a few millimeters, so there’s no need to worry about the rays directly affecting the baby.
Drawing more oxygen through the muscles helps to naturally speed up the body’s healing process due to oxygen’s capacity to produce energy. 10 minutes in a sauna can help to relax your muscles and speed up their recovery.
There have been a number of studies around the effects of sauna use on mental health. This study found that one session of induced hyperthermia resulted in patients with major depression reporting a 50% reduction in symptoms after 6 days. While this was only one study and the results shouldn’t be taken as conclusive, this does suggest that saunas can be a powerful mood regulator.
Saunas promote sweating which has been studied rigorously for its ability to detoxify the body. Toxic metals like arsenic, cadmium, and lead can be absorbed into the human body through the air we breathe our water and food. In a 2012 study, scientists found that dermal excretion of toxins could surpass urinary daily excretion. While the best effects of a sauna will be experienced in a session of around 30 minutes, shorter sessions during pregnancy can still help to cleanse the body of these toxins.
Every woman’s pregnancy is different, so before using a sauna consult your doctor and exercise caution at all times so that you safely experience the natural benefits of sauna use.