We welcome many things in the summer.
Sunny days. Pool floats. Icy drinks.
Oh, and a lot of new babies.
In the United States, more babies are born in July, August and September (with August topping the list) than any other time of year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you are one of these moms-to-be, you are undoubtedly eager to welcome your new bundle of joy to the family. But as you know all too well, being pregnant in the summer is no walk in the park. In fact, you may be thinking that the delivery date cannot come soon enough.
In most cases, and especially in the hotter states like Arizona, Texas and Florida, the culprits for zapping your energy are the heat and humidity.
It’s not just that it’s hotter outside, but pregnant women are hotter too: In the first trimester, the progesterone hormone increases body temperature.
Scorching summers can also cause pregnant women to overheat more easily. Dehydration is common in the summer months, and we often see patients in triage with preterm contractions due to spending time outside.
Not only do heat and humidity take their toll on women physically, being in a constant state of discomfort can contribute to mood swings.
The good news is that there are things you can do to minimize your discomfort and anxiety.
Tips for expectant moms in summer:
1. Avoid direct sunlight.
Do outside activity early in the morning or after the sun sets.
2. Stay hydrated.
Water intake should be 80 to 100 ounces (about eight to 10 glasses per day) and should be more if you are exercising. Drink low-sugar electrolyte fluids, especially if you’re going to spend time outside.
3. Dress for the heat.
Wear loose, breathable clothing and a hat to reduce sun exposure.
4. Spritz water often.
Carry a spray bottle with you and spritz yourself with water to cool down your body temperature.
5. Be smart about exercise.
Swimming is a terrific way to exercise and keep your body cool. Or stay inside and work out at the gym or walk laps at the mall.
6. Wear sunscreen.
Be sure to reapply after sweating or swimming. Choose a brand with at least SPF30 and make sure your face is protected.
7. Make healthy food choices.
Appetites commonly decrease in the summer, but protein intake is still important with pregnancies. Try making a protein smoothie with a vegetable-based protein powder, berries and coconut water. Add avocados to your meal. Cook with coconut oil. Popsicles and yogurt make healthy, cool snacks.
8. Avoid foods that can spoil.
Things like potato salad, coleslaw and other food items made with mayonnaise can spoil easily in the heat, so it’s best to avoid them.
9. Elevate your feet.
Because swelling is a common problem, elevate your feet above heart level as much as possible. You can also try hydrotherapy in a bathtub or a pool where you submerge your entire abdomen in the water for 20 to 30 minutes daily.
Too much heat is dangerous for everyone, but pregnant women are at higher risk for health complications.
It’s important to recognize signs of heat exhaustion and other issues that could be a hazard to you and your baby.
Conditions to watch for:
1. Swelling of hands or feet. Also headaches, visual changes or pain in the right upper quadrant of your abdomen.
This could be preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to other organ systems, most often the liver and kidneys. If left untreated, it could lead to blood clotting, fluid on the lungs, seizures and other life-threatening conditions.
2. Decreased urine, sweating, sluggishness, nausea, dizziness or headaches.
These are signs of dehydration. When your temperature reaches above 102 degrees for more than 10 minutes, your baby can experience overheating as well.
3. Constipation and stomach cramps.
The hormone progesterone often contributes to these normal issues. But if the problem persists, it could be a sign of dehydration.
4. Chills, clamminess, dryness of the mouth or extreme thirst.
While not as common, these can also be signs that your body is overheated.
Your emotions can get heated, too
Nearly all women experience mood swings during pregnancy, but the heat can contribute to irritability, weepiness and other frustrating emotions.
Be smart about asking for help, whether it’s something as simple as having the grocery clerk assist you in bringing your bags to the car or asking a trusted friend or a family member to babysit your children so you can take a nap.
If you find yourself having an emotional meltdown, go inside, crank up the air conditioner, drink something cold and then sit quietly and try to visualize yourself in a cooler environment, such as the beach or at a lake. Calming your mind will help cool you down, both physically and mentally.
Pregnancy should be a happy time for you and your family. Be realistic about experiencing fatigue and other heat-related problems, but don’t ignore signs of a bigger issue that could harm you and your baby. If you have any doubt, call your physician or have someone drive you to the hospital.
Melissa Gioia Austin, MD, is an obstetrician/gynecologist at Abrazo Arrowhead Campus in Glendale.
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