Ahhhh! That feeling of lowering into a warm bath, letting your cares soak away and your whole body relax into the water. But you’re pregnant! Is a bath safe? Will it benefit me and my baby? The short answer is yes- but read on!
Many of us take baths to relax our muscles and relieve aches and pains, whether or not we’re growing a baby. The changes to our bodies when we’re pregnant can lead to pain and discomfort in our back, hips, shoulders and neck, as well as giving us sore feet from the extra weight we’re carrying. Some of this pain comes from the weight of the baby (and placenta and waters) which our body has to adjust to very fast over the course of pregnancy. Sometimes it can be an effect of pregnancy hormones which soften and relax our ligaments. Specialist physiotherapy or osteopathy can be really helpful if you’re struggling with the pain, but for most people taking a relaxing bath can make a huge difference.
The water in a bath supports the weight of the baby, which takes some of the pressure off our internal organs, spine and pelvis. This can feel divinely relaxing and comforting. The weight-bearing effect of the water, and the relaxation it brings, can have a similar effect to a massage, easing away tension and soothing away pain but available at the turn of a tap in our own home!
Throw in a generous handful of Epsom salts for an even deeper muscle relaxant, as well as an effective treatment for leg cramps which is something that many women and people experience when they are growing a baby.
Swollen feet and legs are a common issue during pregnancy. It’s worth checking any swelling (sometimes called oedema) with your midwife, but if it’s considered to be normal then you may find that lying back and relaxing in a bath can help the swelling to reduce. Again, Epsom salts in the bath may help to reduce oedema. Lifting your feet and propping them onto the edge of the bath can help this process further as it means that gravity will help to ease the excess fluids back up your body and away from your feet and legs. Having your partner rub your feet at the same time may feel wonderful!
One of the less discussed discomforts of pregnancy – haemorrhoids, otherwise known as piles – can be caused by pregnancy hormones relaxing our veins and allowing them to swell. This can lead to bleeding, pain, swelling and itchiness on and around the anus. If you have been diagnosed with haemorrhoids, soaking in a warm bath can help to relieve the symptoms, and yet again those miraculous Epsom salts can help here too! If possible, you can do this several times throughout the day, although this won’t be practical for everyone!
Many pregnant women and people suffer with itchy skin. This common affliction can be anything from mild to severe, and it’s another symptom to check with your midwife as in rare cases it can be caused by a liver disorder related to pregnancy called obstetric cholestasis. Usually, though, it’s simply due to the skin stretching as your beautiful bump grows and a warm oat bath can be a lovely way to ease the irritating itch. Simply wrap a good handful or two of porridge oats in a muslin cloth (or tea towel), tie it up firmly with string or yarn to keep the oats inside and pop the bundle in the bath as you run the water. Once you’re soaking away you can squeeze the oat bundle to release more of the milky substance which you can gently rub on your skin for effective itch relief. Also, don’t forget to use a good moisturiser once you have finished in the bath to keep your skin soft and hydrated.
Pregnancy and insomnia often go hand in hand, yet getting a good night’s sleep is so important for your own wellbeing and that of your growing child. And let’s face it, we all know that once they arrive, sleep is going to be something you’ll only be able to do when the baby’s not looking, so anything you can do while pregnant to get in as much sleep as possible is a good thing all round! The good news is that taking a bath when pregnant can help you transition from the day to the night. As well as relaxing your body, a lovely, warm bath will also help to relax your mind. Taking a bath before bedtime means that your body is warm and cosy, and ready to slow down and sleep. It can also be easier to find a comfortable position on the bed if your pregnancy aches are released which can make heading to dreamland, and staying asleep, less of an ordeal.
As you can see, there are many practical reasons why baths can help us when we’re pregnant. However, most importantly, baths are there to be enjoyed. Maybe you’ll light some candles, perhaps you’ll take the chance to read a book. Whether it’s a quick dip or a long soak, what really matters is that if we enjoy taking a bath while pregnant then we should carve out the time to take one and enjoy every moment.