In Parenting Now’s August Register-Guard column, Board Member Dr. Sarah Schram offers tips for staying cool in summer sun.
The summer’s heat can be a challenge for all of us, but add being pregnant on top of that and many women will describe a new level of discomfort. The added weight and demands of pregnancy cause pregnant women to produce more body heat, which makes it harder to cool themselves down.
During pregnancy, if a woman’s body temperature becomes higher than 102.2 degrees, she may suffer from heat exhaustion, heat stroke or dehydration, which can be dangerous for both mother and fetus. A mother’s circulation helps protect the developing baby, but in very hot environments, a pregnant woman’s core (internal body) temperature may rise. In some cases, this has been linked to birth defects and other reproductive problems.
Pregnant women are more likely to get heat exhaustion or heat stroke than nonpregnant women. This is because their bodies must work harder to cool down both themselves and their fetus.
It also can be easier to become dehydrated, which can decrease the body’s ability to cool itself down by sweating.
Ways to stay cool
Some ways to avoid excess heat in pregnancy are logical, but nonetheless important to keep in mind:
- Avoid excessive time outside or in the sun on particularly hot days or during heat advisories. Rest in the shade whenever possible.
- Seek out buildings with air conditioning, such as a local community center or library.
- Find cool or cold water (while there are concerns about submerging in hot water during pregnancy, there are no concerns about cold water, lakes, and streams, which can be great.)
- Stay hydrated! During pregnancy, women need an additional one cup to three cups of water each day (The average water intake recommended for people in general is eight cups per day). Water is the best source of hydration for pregnant women. All fluids count toward hydration, but water will help avoid the extra calories and caffeine that often are found in other beverages.
- Visit the local pool, or, if you have other children, join in on the fun in the splash and play areas at the playground.
- Soak your feet in a tub or kiddie pool of cold water.
- Make your own popsicles using yogurt and fruit.
- Do outdoor tasks in the earlier part of the day.
- Carry a spray bottle with you to mist yourself as needed.
- Minimize your salt intake, which can increase water retention.
- Use a cold compress, such as a frozen washcloth, to drape over your shoulders.
One of the more obvious tips, although probably one of the hardest to actually do, is to get extra rest. Your body is working overtime to grow that little bundle of joy. If possible, take a nap during the day or rest for 20 minutes when you get home from work.
Sarah Schram, M.D., is an obstetrician/gynecologist, as well as a Parenting Now Board Member since 2014.