Study suggests pregnant woman need not fear saunas, hot baths after all

File this under research we wish had been conducted before we got pregnant:

A new review study suggests that pregnant women can enjoy hot baths and saunas without worrying that the rise in temperature could harm the unborn child (via the Telegraph).

Current health advice states that pregnant women should avoid exposure to intense heat such as  from saunas, hot baths, and exercise in hot weather, because it risks taking their core temperature beyond 102F/39C.*

Every woman who has ever known the unfulfilled longing for a hot bath while with child knows this all too well.

This new study, however, suggests that this advice is overcautious.

The research was led by Ollie Jay, Associate Professor and Director of the Thermal Ergonomics Laboratory in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Sydney, and the results published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Jay expressed concern that few expectant mothers meet recommended activity levels, particularly in hot weather.

According to the Telegraph, the researchers compiled the results of 12 studies involving 347 women and found across all studies that sitting in a sauna, taking a hot bath, or exercising did not elevate any woman’s core temperature above 102F/39C.

Jay reportedly wrote in the Journal, “Health guidelines for pregnant women unanimously state that hot water immersion or sauna use should be restricted due to the elevated risk of maternal hyperthermia and the consequent potential impact on fetal development.

“However, our results suggest that heat stress risk is low.”

The researchers say the findings suggest that, irrespective of pregnancy stage women can safely engage in:

— up to 35 minutes of high intensity aerobic exercise (at 80-90 percent of their maximum heart rate) at air temperature up to 77F/25C with 45 percent relative humidity.

— water immersion (including aqua-aerobic exercise) in less than 92.12/33.4C for up to 45 minutes.

— sitting in hot baths (104f/40C) or hot/dry saunas (158F/70C; 15 percent relative humidity) for up to 20 minutes.

The researchers note however, that there are limitations to the review, and state the requirement for further research before changing recommendations.

Saunas have been making the news lately as research has shown major benefits from their use by men. We await similar research on women.

Saunas will save your life, basically, says science

*In the Western World, that is. We’re not clear on whether these guidelines apply everywhere.

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