Asked by Sheila, Raleigh, North Carolina
I just found out that I'm pregnant. I've heard that hot tubs aren't good during pregnancy, but what about steam rooms and saunas? I also like to do hot yoga.
Living Well Expert
Dr. Jennifer Shu
Children's Medical Group
Congratulations on your pregnancy! These are excellent questions since anything you do now has the potential to affect your pregnancy -- from making you sick to causing a miscarriage or creating birth defects. It's most important to be careful during the first trimester (the first 12 weeks of pregnancy), when the baby is developing especially rapidly. Fortunately you can probably continue most of your usual activities as long as they do not cause injury to you or the growing baby. In fact, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that women with uncomplicated pregnancies exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week.
While high-impact activities (such as some contact sports, downhill skiing and horseback riding) can be dangerous due to the potential for physical injuries, the concern about activities that involve heat, such as hot tubs, is that your core body temperature can become elevated. The March of Dimes recommends avoiding a core (inner) body temperature of about 102.2 degrees F (39 degrees C), as this elevation may lead to birth defects or decreased oxygen and nutrition to the baby. ACOG states that women might "reasonably be advised to remain in saunas for no more than 15 minutes and in hot tubs for no more than 10 minutes" to avoid increasing one's core temperature. Also, it may help to avoid submerging one's head, arms, shoulders and upper chest in a hot tub.
Regarding hot (also called Bikram) yoga, it is best to talk with your obstetrician first. If you get the green light to continue, be sure to watch for signs of overheating and avoid poses that place too much pressure on the uterus.
In general, exercising during pregnancy is very dependent on each individual. Some people are able to continue their usual level of activity throughout most if not all of their pregnancy, while others are sensitive to any exertion that raises their heart rate. Keep in mind that if you experience symptoms such as lightheadedness, fainting, a rapid heart rate that doesn't slow back down or dehydration -- no matter how gentle your activities may be or how great shape you are in -- it's important to rest and contact your doctor or midwife if needed. Above all else, listen to your body while exercising both during your pregnancy and beyond. Good luck!
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