If you’re pregnant and you’ve been feeling the heat, there are some good reasons why. Read on for the science behind your high temp experience and some ideas for coping.
Increased Blood Volume: Did you know that by the second trimester of your pregnancy the volume of blood in your body will increase by half? That’s nearly a liter and a half more blood that you’re toting around and that your heart is working hard to pump throughout your body. The blood volume increases to support the development of the baby through the placenta, which is great. But as the blood increases and blood vessels dilate or expand, blood comes closer to the skin’s surface, which can make you feel toasty.
Hot Flashes: The hormones of pregnancy are many, and they work in concert with each other to help your body take good care of your baby as it grows. Another thing these hormones can cause: hot flashes. While typically associated with menopause, they’re also common during pregnancy—about one in three pregnant people experience them. They’re thought to be caused by high levels of estrogen during pregnancy. During a hot flash, you might suddenly start sweating, or feel heat in just a few body parts, such as your head, neck, and chest. Weirdly, hot flashes can leave just as quickly as they arrived.
Weight Gain: Most people gain weight during pregnancy, generally between 20 and 40 pounds. This extra weight is often necessary for baby’s growth and for feeding baby after they’re born, but it can also act as an extra layer of insulation that keeps your body heat in.
Baby Cuddles: Being pregnant is like constantly cuddling your baby, which is sweet, but if you’re already feeling hot for any of the above reasons, baby churning out the body heat doesn’t help. As baby gets bigger, they put on layers of fat and become more competent at regulating their own body temperature—a skill that will benefit them once they’re born—but it often makes the feeling of being hot at the end of pregnancy worse.
Weather: It’s been said that it’s better to be pregnant in the winter, when you might not be as hot; however, it’s just as likely that you’ll be hot inside with the heat running. In the summer, the heat outside might be unbearable, but if the people you live with don’t mind freezing, you can always turn down the air conditioning.
Coping with the heat
If you’re miserable, there are some things you can try that might help. If you have access to a swimming pool, this is one of the best options. Not only will you get cooler by submerging your body in water, swimming is great exercise and floating helps take the pressure off your joints. If you don’t have access to a pool, you can still access the power of water. Try turning the hot water in your shower or bath down. Lukewarm bathing may not sound that great, but it will help you feel cooler. It’s also important to remember to drink enough water during pregnancy. Regularly hydrating yourself will help you feel cooler, and, if you’re sweaty, it’s essential to make sure you don’t get dehydrated.
Another thing you can try to help beat the pregnancy heat is dressing in ways that will make you most comfortable. You could choose cotton, as it’s one of the most breathable fabrics, and wear layers so that you can adjust your clothing to your needs. You can also eat foods that help you feel cooler. Salads, fruit, and sushi (though it’s better if it’s cooked to avoid the risk of food poisoning) are great, healthy options. It’s also can’t hurt to treat yourself to a popsicle or ice cream—yummy treats are a delicious way to keep cool.
Finally, do your best to take care of yourself. That might look like talking with your care provider if you have concerns about how you’ve been feeling. Or if the temperature at your workplace is adjustable, request that it be kept a little lower. Perhaps you can treat yourself to your own personal fan to help keep cool. Remember, pregnancy is temporary, so you won’t feel hot forever.