Will a warm bath help get contractions going? Let an experienced labor nurse help you know how a warm bath will help or not help when you’re ready to get your labor started!
But first, how do I know all of this?
Hi, I’m Hilary — The Pregnancy Nurse 👩⚕️. I have been a nurse since 1997 and I have 20 years of OB nursing experience, I am also the curly head behind Pulling Curls and The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. 🩺 I have helped thousands of expecting families have their baby, as well as what they can do to be more comfortable at home before being in active labor. Plus, I’ve had three of my own. SO, let’s talk baths.
And, if you’re looking to understand more about labor (and possibly let it come on faster by you not being anxious about it) — your first step is right here.
Can a hot bath bring on labor at 39 weeks?
No, not really. First off, a hot bath isn’t ever a great thing when you’re pregnant. Both you and baby could overheat (and feel miserable) but it’s likely not going to get your uterus contracting.
It’s a good question, but I bet you don’t love the answer. After a hot bath and it helping your muscles relax sounds pretty great right now.
BUT, as far as inducing labor (meaning, going from no labor, to starting labor and progressing to active labor) the answer is no. All of that is done with hormones and your body.
But the answer also has some nuance.
Before we get started, please only consider a WARM bath. Pregnant women (or birthers) should not have HOT baths. It really just warms your baby (and you) up too much. This is from the minute of conception through delivery — so just something to remember and tell your friends.
If you want to use a hot tub talk with your healthcare provider about what water temp is safe you for you and your baby. I’ve seen some say they’re fine, and other say no way. So I’m not sure what’s best.
What Does a Warm Bath Do?
It helps you relax. That’s really what baths do. If you hate baths, I probably wouldn’t take one — because it may not help you relax.
I do think it’s a great thing to do the day before your induction though.
When you relax, muscles may loosen up and baby may find their position better, or they can drop further into the birth canal. That’s the good news.
If you’re in early labor, a bath may help baby find their right position and help labor happen at a quicker pace, possibly. It may also do nothing, but if you enjoy it that’s a big win either way.
But, a bath alone will not start contractions.
Honestly, one other thing that really helps people relax is taking a prenatal class. Getting confident about the labor room can help your brain relax into labor as well!
What Else Can a Bath Do?
One thing I want to mention is that baths can be tricky when you’re 9 months pregnant.
Beyond the temperature possibly being an issue baths are hard. They’re slippery, and it can be REALLY hard to get out. I would definitely not take a bath unless your partner is there to help you get out (or at least stand by).
I know it sounds crazy, but it’s just super easy to slip and hurt yourself — so be careful. Even as you get closer to your due date.
They do NOT recommend getting into the tub after your water breaks for the most part — but ask your provider about that too. It could increase chances of infection.
Can a warm bath help you dilate?
Now, this one does seem possible — but why?
- Relaxing helps your entire body relax, including your cervix.
- Getting in/out of the bath and just normal floaty-movements might help baby engage next to the cervix heading into the birth canal.
Honestly, if a bath helps you relax and you feel safe doing it with your set-up do it! You deserve it during those last weeks!
What if I Don’t Like Baths?
I like baths, but I don’t love them that far into pregnancy. It’s just HARD To hoist myself out of the bathtub.
I mostly actually recommend warm showers. Just letting the water hit your back in early labor can be a NICE distraction and can also help all those muscles relax. Bonus if you have a massaging shower head.
I recommend letting the warm water hit your back and shift your hips side to side (hopefully letting those hips relax at the same time).
In fact, that’s one of the things I go over in my natural pain management bonus video in The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. We go through lots of household things you can use (like racquetballs) to help your body relax during early labor and labor longer at home.
What are some natural ways to induce labor?
Once again — that is tricky. The main things that we know to induce labor safely, are the things done at the hospital. If you’re super miserable you could always ask your provider about an induction of labor.
BUT I have written about quite a few things and if they will put you into labor:
- Will Eggplant Parm put you into labor— In that post it turns out that if enough people do ANYTHINg around 39 weeks pregnancy, some will just go into labor naturally).
- Will a prenatal massage put you into labor? As one who loves a good massage, I sure hoped so!
- How do you increase oxytocin to put you into labor?
- Can coughing induce labor — I’d guess the people googling this aren’t feeling all that great.
- Can jumping jacks induce labor — this article reminds us that pain is different than labor
- I really need an article on spicy food and if it will induce labor — but no, not normally.
- And finally, midwives brew (contains castor oil) — is it safe (spoiler alert: not really)
The main thing that most people think will work is nipple stimulation, but it only works while you’re doing it and it will likely not put you into active labor (unless you were going that way to start with). Bummer, right?
If you’re desperate to get that baby out I do have a whole guide on how to go into labor that might interest you. It’s also part of The Online Prenatal Class for Couples — and frankly, being less afraid of labor is a BIG step into going into labor.
If you’re not sure you’re quite ready, check out my free beginning prenatal class.
I hope this post helped answer any questions you had about taking a warm bath during pregnancy and if it can help induce labor. For more natural pain management options check out The Online Prenatal Class for Couples at the link above.
If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments!
- About the Author
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A nurse since 1997, she has worked in various fields including pediatrics, geriatrics & hospice. She has 20 years of labor and delivery experience in the San Jose, CA and Phoenix, AZ areas.
As an evidence-based prenatal educator Hilary has delivered thousands of babies and has educated hundreds of thousands of parents from a diverse patient population to help them have a confident birth.