Pregnancy and Cold Plunges: Do They Go Together?

Joey Randazzo

Published: Oct 20, 2023

Last Updated:

At the time of writing this article, my wife is 31 weeks and 2 days pregnant. This is our first kiddo. We’re having a boy!

We’re near the finish line. Her coworker told her the other day that she looks like a “cute beach ball” - I think I definitely agree with this.

So the topic of cold plunges and pregnancy has personally been on my mind.

In this article, we share what all the most up-to-date research shares about cold plunging and pregnancy. Can you do it? Should you do it? I’ll walk through it all.

Can you do cold plunges while pregnant? We know you’re impatient

Before we get into all the scientific evidence, we’ll just give you the answer.

Question: Can you do cold plunges while pregnant?

Answer: If your pregnancy is healthy, then it’s likely okay to do minimal cold exposure in a regulated environment (consult your medical professional before doing anything!). 

However, it is not recommended to do extended, physically taxing cold plunges while pregnant.

The big caveat! There’s limited scientific research on this topic. In the future, there’s a chance that new research will come out that suggests otherwise. 

The scientific, medical evidence showing if you can do cold plunges while pregnant

“Pregnancy, cold water swimming and cortisol: The effect of cold water swimming on obstetric outcomes” - Published in Medical Hypotheses in 2020

Here are a couple of quotes from that publication:

1. “The act of swimming in cold water may have meaningful and measurable effects on an individual’s stress threshold; swimmers may experience an attenuation of the sympathetic-adrenal system, thus better controlling their physiological stress response.”

2. “Women who are long term pre-pregnancy cold water swimmers may expect to experience improved obstetric outcomes over those who are not.”

Dr. Josephine Worseck says that if the pregnancy is healthy, go for it.

From Dr. Josephine Worseck:

Ice bathing: Ice bathing during an established pregnancy is not a problem (my little sister and many friends did it - you too?).

The NEXT BIG QUESTION is if the implantation might be effected by ice baths? Ice baths activate the immune system and lead, among other things, to an increase in Natural Killer cells. Implantation requires a complicated and not fully understood interplay with the maternal immune system and requires not too many and not too few NK cells. Consequently, immune modulating activities like ice bathing and endurance sports intervene with the process (positively or negatively - in a manner that might depend from woman to woman).

A country study on cold plunging while pregnant

“Maternal exposure to cold spells during pregnancy is associated with higher blood pressure and hypertension in offspring later in life”, published in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension in 2020

They found that:

“In conclusion, maternal exposure to cold spells during pregnancy may be associated with the increased risk of hypertension in offspring later in life, particularly among males, suggesting the involvement of maternal cold exposure during pregnancy in offspring hypertension development.”

However, it’s important to note that this is prolonged cold exposure due to living in a very cold environment. 

Therefore, this study isn’t directly related to healthy women who live in healthy environments where they, even in the winter, have access to warmth. And therefore, can’t be used to make any sort of observations about deliberate and controlled cold exposure.

Case studies of a pregnant woman benefiting from cold plunges:

Influencer Sophie Hellyer says cold-water swimming has been vital during her pregnancy

Here’s an article sharing Sophie’s story and why she says that cold-water swimming has been so important for her.

Here’s a list of potential risks of doing cold plunges while pregnant:

  1. Risk of uterine contractions: Cold exposure can stimulate uterine contractions, which may pose a risk during pregnancy. Premature contractions could potentially lead to preterm labor or other complications.
  2. Impaired blood circulation: Cold water immersion can cause vasoconstriction, where blood vessels narrow and reduce blood flow to certain areas of the body. In pregnancy, adequate blood circulation is crucial for the fetus's growth and development. Restricting blood flow through cold plunges may affect the oxygen and nutrient supply to the fetus.
  3. Increased risk of infection: Cold water may contain bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens that can cause infections. During pregnancy, the immune system undergoes changes, making pregnant women more susceptible to infections. Exposure to pathogens during a cold plunge could potentially increase the risk of infection, which may harm the mother and the developing baby.
  4. Stress on the cardiovascular system: Cold plunges can lead to a temporary increase in blood pressure and heart rate as the body reacts to the sudden cold stimulus.

    Pregnant women already experience changes in their cardiovascular system due to the increased demands of pregnancy. Additional stress on the cardiovascular system through cold exposure could potentially exacerbate these changes and pose risks.
  5. Risk of falls or injury: Cold water immersion can cause a temporary decrease in coordination and motor skills, increasing the risk of slips, falls, or other injuries. Given the physical changes and increased instability during pregnancy, the likelihood of accidents or falls may be higher, especially when attempting a cold plunge.

    Especially if you’re doing a natural cold plunge where there may be slippery rocks, sudden drop in water depth, and more.
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