Global Warming and Pregnancy: No Hoax

Global Warming PregnancyAre you one of those people who still think global warming is a liberal media hoax? If you are pregnant or going to be pregnant, you need to listen up. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (which is not a liberal think tank), the summer of 2016 was the hottest summer ever recorded. July of 2016 was the 15th consecutive month of record setting heat. It was the 379th consecutive month of heat above average when compared to the last century. This will be the hottest year ever recorded. I rest my case.

Extreme heat is bad for everybody. It is worse for pregnant women and for babies in the womb. That’s why doctors worry about fevers during pregnancy and tell you stay out of hot tubs. If you get overheated, your body needs to work harder to cool both you and your baby down. You and your baby are at higher risk for heat exhaustion, dehydration, and heat stroke.

How Dangerous Is It?

High body temperature – hyperthermia – has been linked to birth defects, preterm birth, miscarriage, and low birth weight. Dehydration in pregnancy has been linked to pre-term birth, poor growth, and kidney failure. The biggest worry is a birth defect called a neural tube defect. This can occur if you are exposed to high heat early in pregnancy. Neural tube defects can affect the development of your baby’s brain and spinal cord.

Heat, Heat Exhaustion, and Heat Stroke

When it gets hot outside, your body tries to reduce the heat through sweating. Evaporation of sweat cools your body temperature. If you get dehydrated or the heat is too much for your body to compensate for, your temperature starts to go up. At 102º F, you are at risk for heat exhaustion. At 104º F, you are at risk for heat stroke. Heat stroke can be deadly.

Signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dark urine

Signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • Hot, flushed, and dry skin
  • Severe headache
  • Nausea, vomiting, and cramps
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures

How to Protect Yourself and Your Baby From the Heat

Check the Heat Index. Think of the Heat Index as the feeling of heat in the shade. Anything near 90 or higher means don’t go out there. Turn on the AC if you have it. If you go out in any heat:

  • Drink enough fluid to keep your urine clear or pale yellow.
  • Don’t exercise outside.
  • Rest in the shade.
  • Avoid alcohol (should go without saying) and caffeine, including caffeinated soda
  • Wear light and loose clothing
  • Take a cool bath, shower, or swim.

If you have symptoms of heat exhaustion get cool and call your doctor. Heat stroke is a medical emergency. If someone has signs of heat stroke, they need to be cooled down very quickly. Clothing should be removed. Ice packs should be used if available until emergency services get on the scene.

It’s getting hot out there. Keeping cool should be part of your prenatal care planning.

Christopher Iliades
Dr. Chris Iliades is a medical doctor with 20 years of experience in clinical medicine and clinical research. Chris has been a full time medical writer and journalist since 2004. His byline appears in over 1,000 articles online including EverydayHealth, The Clinical Advisor, and Healthgrades. He has also written for print media including Cruising World Magazine, MD News, and The Johns Hopkins Children's Center Magazine. Chris lives with his wife and close to his three children and four grandchildren in the Boston area.

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