While having a summer baby is great — you don’t have to spend a fortune on clothes and blankets and night feeds are a lot more bearable in the warmer months —surviving a summer pregnancy is not.
When you’re pregnant your body temperature is already a few degrees higher than normal. In temperate months, this wouldn’t normally be a problem but when the thermometer starts heading north you might find those few degrees make an awful lot of difference.
Added to that, you have about 50 per cent more blood circulating around your body, opening up more veins and blood vessels. You’ll sweat more as your body tries to cool down and you’ll swell up thanks to all the added fluid.
But there are ways you can minimise summer’s effect on both you and your bump.
It may be obvious but keeping cool in the warmer months is even more important when you’re pregnant.
"Pregnant women may find staying comfortable during summer particularly challenging," says obstetrician Dr Gino Pecoraro. "A pregnant woman generally feels hotter than someone who is not pregnant because she needs to dissipate heat created from the growing baby and this is added to the discomfort that can arise with being bigger generally than what you're used to."
Air-conditioning is a great way to keep cool because it makes the body’s normal evaporation of sweat mechanism work more efficiently, says Dr Pecoraro. But if you’re sitting in an air-conditioned office or house all day you’ll lose more water that will need to be replaced.
Because the baby transfers its heat to the mother who then has to get rid of that heat through the normal mechanisms of sweating and radiation, it’s especially important that pregnant women have adequate water intake.
"It is generally recommended that a pregnant woman drink around three litres of water per day," says Dr Pecoraro. "But, if she is out in the open or it’s a particularly hot and humid day where sweat doesn’t evaporate as easily then she’ll need to drink even more," he says.
A summer pregnancy is no time for tight fashion. If you can even be bothered to squeeze yourself into a pair of skinny pants, don’t. Not only will you be feel uncomfortable but your body — and your baby — just doesn’t need the extra heat.
"Wear loose fitting light-coloured clothing that will help radiate the sun’s rays away," suggests Dr Pecoraro. "Make use of things like fans and hats and keep out of the sun during the hottest part of the day," he says.
Keeping your weight gain in check will also help reduce the effects of a hot summer. While you are going to feel the heat more due to being larger than you generally are, if you keep your weight gain within the recommended range you’ll probably feel a bit more comfortable than if you totally let loose.
"Swimming pools and baths are an excellent way to lose heat and have fun as well," suggests Dr Pecoraro. Not only will you cool down in the pool, but you’ll get some relief from the weight of the baby as well.
But summer isn’t a time to overdo it. Try to exercise in the early hours of the day, always make sure you have a bottle of water with you and the minute you start to feel any strain it’s time to cool down.
Heat stroke is of real concern to a pregnant woman and her baby.
"If a body’s core temperature gets too high, enzymes which are proteins important for various chemical reactions in the body cannot work and this can cause very severe problems in all the body’s systems," explains Dr Pecoraro. "In the case of a pregnant woman there is more heat to get rid of so the potential for normal physiological responses to get swamped increases," he says.
Watch out for headaches, nausea, lethargy and skin that feels hot and dry to the touch, suggests Dr Pecoraro. Generally not feeling well can be a sign of significant heat stress to a pregnant woman so if you feel you may be suffering from overheating, cool your body down immediately and if any symptoms persist, contact your doctor.
Summer is fun for everyone — pregnant women included — and with a few simple measures, overheating can be avoided.
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