As if carrying another life wasn’t difficult enough, Valley temperatures complicate matters during hot summer months. Summer heat can be especially difficult for expectant mothers due to their extra blood flow, which causes higher than normal body temperatures in addition to the added weight. Pregnant women are at a higher risk of suffering from dehydration, heat stroke and heat-related illness, which can be dangerous for both mother and baby. Here are a few tips on how moms-to-be can beat the summer heat:
Avoid direct sunlight.
Stay out of the sun, especially mid-day. Apply sunscreen 20 minutes prior to going outside. Pregnant skin tends to be more prone to sunburn and blotching with exposure to the sun due to hormonal influences. If at all possible, stay indoors as much as possible. If you get bored staying at home, visit a friend, or go to a mall or movie theater where there is plenty of cool air.
Drink plenty of fluids.
It’s important to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water each day — even more if you are active or sweat a lot. It’s also important to drink enough juice, milk and sports drinks to help replace electrolytes lost when sweating in the summer heat. Avoid soft drinks since they work like diuretics — stealing more water from the body than they provide.
Eat lighter meals more frequently.
Eating lighter meals more frequently can also help you stay cool by stabilizing your metabolism. Large, heavy meals with a few hours in between can speed and slow your metabolism, which can make you feel hotter. Make healthy popsicles by freezing fruit juice, or eat out at an air-conditioned restaurant to avoid using the stove or oven.
Be active at cooler times of the day.
Exercise or run errands in the early morning or late afternoon when temperatures aren’t as high. Always go indoors at the first sign of dizziness or weakness. When outside, carry a spray bottle of water to spritz yourself when you feel uncomfortably hot.
Minimizing salt intake can help reduce swelling caused by water retention. Don’t eliminate salt from your diet completely as it contains iodide, which is essential to the health of the baby. Also elevating your feet often can help reduce swelling and improve circulation.
Swim to cool off.
In addition to being refreshing and cool, swimming can help reduce discomfort due to swelling and back pain. Hop into the pool and swim or simply “water jog.” Not only will you cool off, but you’ll also experience the added bliss of weightlessness. No access to a pool? Take a cool shower or bath.
Wear breathable fabrics.
One of the best ways to avoid over-heating is to wear lightweight breathable fabrics, such as 100 percent cotton, in light or bright colors. Dark colors may make you feel hotter. Also consider your footwear. You might be tempted to wear flip-flops as your footwear of choice, but pregnant feet need extra support and stability to prevent eventual back pain and possible falls. Wear supportive sandals with secure straps.
By paying attention to your body’s warning signs and following these simple tips, you can stay cool and healthy during the hot days of your summer pregnancy.
Board certified and a Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Namita Kothari, M.D., FACOG, is an obstetrician and gynecologist at East Valley Women’s Medical Group, a Physician Group of Arizona, Inc. practice, and provides a wide range of health care services for women of all ages.