Ask any mom who was pregnant in the summer time, and she’ll tell you horror stories about her summer pregnancy and how difficult it was. In addition to the major discomforts associated with being pregnant in the heat, there are some additional health risks that pregnant women need to consider during the summer time. And with a full-term pregnancy lasting nine months, there’s a good chance that at least part of your pregnancy will be during the summer.
Your first trimester is a time of rapid fetal growth and development, and for you to adjust to the idea of pregnancy and parenthood. For most women, unfortunately, this is not a symptom-free time. Symptoms can range from mild fatigue and nausea to full-blow severe vomiting and an inability to get off the couch.
- Fatigue: Fatigue and tiredness can be particularly bad throughout your entire first trimester as the placenta is being formed. That tired feeling tends to let up a bit once the placenta is completed and fully functional, but comes back with a vengeance in the third trimester. Heat can make fatigue worse, especially if you don’t have air conditioning in your home or need to spend a lot of time outside for your job.
It is important for you to get some rest! Don’t hesitate to lie on the couch and take a nap when you get home from work if you need to. And this is the time to skip some of your chores, or delegate them to other family members. You’ll have plenty of time to catch up once you are feeling better.
- Morning Sickness: Most women report feeling at least a little “yucky” some of the time, with a range from occasional and mild nausea to vomiting multiple times a day. Like fatigue, morning sickness can get much worse in the summer. If you find yourself vomiting a lot and unable to keep any food or water down, please speak with your physician immediately – dehydration can occur very rapidly in the summer, especially when vomiting frequently.
The good thing though, is that the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables offers you a ton of healthy options that might sit well with your sensitive palate. In addition, meals tend to be lighter during the summer months (think salads and fresh grilled meats and vegetables), which are usually tolerated a little bit better, and are a very healthy part of your pregnancy diet.
- Smell Sensitivity: If you haven’t noticed yet, pregnant women have a heightened sense of smell, often able to smell odors that their non-pregnant counterparts can’t. This can be particularly problematic for pregnant women in the summer as the heat can intensify odors, making them unpleasant or even nauseating. Think a pile of garbage sitting in the sun and you’ll understand what I mean.
Unfortunately, there’s not much that you can do for this one, except to anticipate when odors might be an issue. Sometimes sucking on a hard candy or lollipop can distract you from smells, and you can enlist friends or family members to help with cooking and taking the garbage out if those chores cause a problem.
Your second trimester, from weeks 14 to 28, is often a time of renewed energy, increased appetite and just feeling better. But even women lucky enough to be in this phase of their pregnancy during the summer also face certain health risks that they must watch out for.
- Exercise: Many regular exercisers tend to get back into their pre-pregnancy routine during this trimester, especially if they took some time off during the first trimester. Pregnant women are at a significantly higher risk for dehydration and heat-related complications, so outdoor exercise must be undertaken carefully.
If your doctor says it’s okay, plan to exercise first thing in the morning or later in the day when the sun and heat aren’t as intense, and make sure to drink lots of extra water. Most importantly, stop to rest frequently, or as your body needs. You can also try swimming, or moving your workout to an indoor, air-conditioned gym to stay cool.
- Food Safety: As your appetite increases during the second trimester and your morning sickness fades (don’t worry – it does for a majority of pregnant women), you’ll want to consider food safety now more than ever. Chances are that your physician gave you a list of foods to avoid. If not, don’t hesitate to ask!
You’ll want to make sure that your food has been handled properly and refrigerated immediately after your meal. Don’t eat foods that have been sitting out for an extended period of time or that haven’t been cooked thoroughly. While no one wants to get food poisoning, the infection can be particularly dangerous for your developing fetus, with some bacteria potentially causing miscarriage. If you have any signs of food poisoning (vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramping), consult with your physician immediately.
- Melasma: Also known as Chloasma or the mask of pregnancy, melasma is the darkening of skin pigmentation that occurs during pregnancy. This most often occurs because of the rapid rise of estrogen and other hormones during pregnancy and is worsened with sun exposure. This skin discoloration tends to show up on the face and arms.
Make sure to wear sunscreen every day, even on days when you don’t plan to be outside. If it’s particularly bad, speak with your doctor about possible remedies, but it most cases, this skin discoloration fades after delivery.
Your third trimester may be the worst time in your pregnancy to be dealing with the summer heat. Between the big belly, growing impatience with end of pregnancy aches and pains, and the fact that you are probably feeling a little hotter than usual, the end of pregnancy can be just plain miserable.
- Dehydration: Dehydration is one of the most common and important summer pregnancy complications. In fact, every pregnant woman in every stage of her pregnancy is at an increased risk for dehydration. Your water requirements are already higher than normal, at about 64 to 80 ounces of water day, or as your doctor recommends.
If you exercise, live in a particularly hot climate, or are very active on a daily basis, your water needs will be even higher. Chronic dehydration can lead to premature labor, birth defects and low amniotic fluid.
If you’re not a fan of plain water, you can try adding fruit or herbs to your glass – berries and citrus are particularly tasty – or try plain or flavored carbonated water. Just make sure that it is free of both sodium and artificial sugars. You can also check out this awesome Fruit Water Bottle Infuser to easily flavor your water.
- Heat Rash: Babies and young children are not the only ones who suffer from prickly heat or a heat rash. This rash shows up as a red, prickly and pimply rash and can be incredibly itchy. It’s caused by being overheated, and by your sweaty skin rubbing against itself or your clothing.
Try using baby powder, or calamine lotion when the itch strikes and avoid using any scented or perfumed products. You can also jump in the shower to cool off or use cool compresses for the same effect. Make sure to wear light, loose fitting clothing, and contact your physician if the rash doesn’t go away within a few days.
- Edema: While sudden and severe swelling of the upper extremities or face can be a sign of severe complications like preeclampsia, mild swelling of the feet or ankles is extremely common in the end of pregnancy. This swelling is due to the extra blood volume that a woman has during pregnancy and is made worse by the summer heat.
Stay off your feet as much as possible and keep them elevated when sitting down. You can also use supportive socks or hose to minimize swelling if it’s especially bad, and make sure to wear comfortable shoes. Drink extra water and minimize salt to also reduce swelling.
- Heat Stroke: Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are extremely dangerous and much more common in pregnant women because of their susceptibility to overheating. Signs of heat exhaustion include confusion, dizziness, fainting, headache, muscle cramps and profuse sweating.
Anyone experiencing these symptoms should go inside to an air-conditioned area and get out of the heat. She should drink lots of water and use cool compresses to cool off immediately.
If symptoms do not resolve within a short amount of time, she should seek emergency medical care, as heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke very quickly.
Heat stroke is a more serious form of heat exhaustion, and occurs when the body’s internal temperature reaches 105 degrees Fahrenheit. This causes damage to the brain and other internal organs, and can result in seizures, loss of consciousness, or even death.
Staying Cool During a Summer Pregnancy
Thankfully, there are a lot of ways to stay cool during a summer pregnancy:
- Stay indoors and in the air-conditioning as much as possible
- Wear loose fitting and light clothing
- Rest at much as possible – naps are a great way to pass the heat in the middle of the day
- Drink extra fluids, especially water
- Use cold compresses or take cool baths to cool off
- Exercise early in the morning or late at night
- Invest in fans for your home or work if you do not have air-conditioning
- Try a personal cooling system, like this one, when outside for a prolonged period of time
- Plan visits to air conditioned locations, like a mall or library, during the peak heat of the day if you don’t have A.C. at home
- Go swimming – hanging out in the water can be both cooling and good exercise
- Eat fruits, vegetables and other light fare
- Throw your personal care products, like lotion, in the fridge to stay cool when you’re not using them.
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