Are Foot Soaks Safe While Pregnant?

A foot soak becomes especially soothing in pregnancy, when excess fluid collects in your tissues and causes the feet to ache and swell. Because so many treatments are off-limits in pregnancy, many mothers-to-be wonder if foot soaking is one of them. Depending on the temperature of your water, a foot soak can be a beneficial therapy, and one that feels fantastic to boot.

A woman has her feet on a foot bath.
Credit: ColorBlind Images/Blend Images/Getty Images

Soaking Salts

Although most bath salts are safe to sprinkle in your footbath, Epsom salt is especially useful for pregnant women. Made up of magnesium sulfate, these diamond-like minerals contain essential compounds that your feet absorb as you soak. Magnesium is significant to the body because it regulates more than 300 biochemical reactions, aides muscle and nerve function, keeps the bones strong and supports the immune system.

Benefits

A pregnant woman's body produces approximately 50 percent more blood and body fluids than it did prior to pregnancy, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Some of this fluid collects in the feet and ankles, a common condition called edema. More than a pampering treatment, foot soaks help mothers-to-be manage swelling and decrease tension in the feet. Since heat and a long day on your feet contribute to edema, foot soaks are especially helpful on hot, busy days.

Risks

Because hot water can increase your body temperature and damage your baby's developing cells, hot baths pose risks when water is too hot. Additionally, too hot water can increase your heart rate and reduce blood flow to your baby. Water that is close to your own body temperature, or under 100 degrees F, is safe, says Catherine Lynch, OB-GYN in an article for Baby Center. Although these risks generally apply when bathing, it is possible to increase your body temperature by soaking your feet in steamy water. A shallow basin of water, however, is likely to cool off quickly and therefore is the safest option.

Diabetes Risks

Footbaths can be risky for pregnant women with diabetes because foot infections are common due to decreased circulation in the feet. A break in the skin allows bacteria to enter, potentially leading to infection or life-threatening complications. Because the pipes that carry your water could introduce bacteria, diabetic women should perform regular foot checks to be certain no ulcers or cuts are present before soaking feet at home or in a salon.

Considerations

Although foot soaks generally are safe, you should never use them to treat edema without consulting your doctor. Most swelling in the feet is common in pregnancy, particularly in the third trimester, but for some women it signals a problem. If swelling suddenly extends to your hands and face, consult your doctor to rule out preeclampsia, a potentially dangerous condition that can develop late in pregnancy.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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