Being pregnant during the summer is definitely difficult. The heat gets to you in a way it has never tortured you before and you’re always sweating. Dr. Adelaide Nardone, an ob-gyn in Providence (RI), explains that when you’re pregnant your body temperature is already a bit higher than normal, so added heat from the outside temperature is bound to make you feel uncomfortable. Moms-to-be also tend to have higher basal body temperatures and elevated heart rates making them more sensitive to temperature. Which in laymen’s terms means that when you’re pregnant you’ll always be hot!
In fact, it is normal to feel a bit hotter than usual when you’re pregnant. However, getting too hot isn’t good for you or your baby because getting too hot or dehydrated can pose a risk of pregnancy complications. Dehydration can create a lot of potential problems for pregnant women (see my previous article Why Drinking Plenty Of Water Is So Important During Pregnancy). As a general rule, doctors caution pregnant women to avoid being in “any situation where they get too hot”.
One worry is that hyperthermia, or abnormally high body temperature, in early pregnancy may increase the risk of birth defects. In particular, there’s evidence that women who experience hyperthermia in the first six to eight weeks of pregnancy are at higher risk of having babies with defects of the brain or spinal cord (known as neural tube defects), such as spina bifida. Women may develop hyperthermia from a fever, exposure to excessively hot temperatures outside or even a dip in a hot tub. In fact, the Mayo Clinic advises women to spend no more than 10 minutes in a hot tub due to the risk of hyperthermia.
Pertaining to the outdoors and summertime, if the heat index (meaning how hot the temperature feels because of the combination of heat and humidity) is in the 90s, that’s a good day to be indoors as much as possible with the air conditioning turned on. It is always better to err on the side of caution when pregnant.
A quick fix for brief overheating can be the application of a cool, damp washcloth applied to the back of your neck, your forehead, or the top of your head. If you find yourself sweating heavily because of the heat, it is imperative to make sure you drink plenty of fluids. Water is always a good option, but orange juice, milk, and sports drinks replace electrolytes which are depleted after excessive sweating and are therefore better options.
But too much of anything isn’t good either!! In unique circumstances, too much water can be as much of a problem as too little, leading to a condition called water intoxication. Over-hydration with water can dilute your electrolytes even more and can cause fatigued muscles, cramps, and in severe cases, unconsciousness.
It is important to note that a lukewarm shower or bath to give you some immediate relief from the heat. Don’t have the water too cold though. A cold shower may sound appealing, but can actually make you hotter as your body generates heat to make up for the sudden chill.
Have no fear, Pregistry is here! There are several super easy and low-cost ways to effectively keep cool in the summer without risking, you, your baby, or your budget in the process.
A way to cool off is simply swimming (read Swimming Is Safe In Pregnancy). Hanging out in the pool with LOADS of sunscreen is a great way to cool down while enjoying the sun. Not only does swimming cool you off, it helps to take some of the weight off your sciatic nerve. (Even ocean swimming is fine; just make sure the waves don’t knock you down.)
Use a fan at night. Choose one with variable speeds, so you can cool your room down quickly when you go to bed, but leave it on a quiet setting through the night. Stand a two-liter bottle of frozen water in front of it for instant air-conditioning.
When you feel yourself overheating, the quickest way to refresh yourself is to hold both wrists, with your palms uppermost, under tepid running water for a few minutes. This gently cools your pulse points, where your blood is close to the surface, so decreasing your core temperature.