Summer pregnancy can pack a beach tote of uncomfortable symptoms. From hot and humid temperatures, swollen feet and uber sweatiness, it can be tough to be pregnant in the summer. Elizabeth Boggs, MD, runs through some of the not so fun parts of summer fun when growing a human between June and August.
1. You’re Hot All. The. Time.
Pregnant women have an increased amount of blood in their body, causing them to feel hotter during pregnancy. To handle the extra blood, the blood vessels dilate slightly, bringing blood closer to the surface of the skin. This causes you to feel warmer. When you toss in summer heat, being pregnant in the summer can be downright toasty and create heat intolerance.
A good rule for knowing when to stay inside is to check out the heat index that day. If it’s in the 90s, it’s best to swap the outdoor air for indoor air conditioning and just consider it too warm for you to be out in the sun.
2. Getting Too Hot is Risky.
Becoming overheated when pregnant can be seriously harmful for mom and baby. If a pregnant woman’s body temperature gets higher than 102 degrees for a period longer than 10 minutes, she’s susceptible to heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
Staying in air conditioning to prevent overheating is a good idea. Avoid going outside during the hottest part of the day, usually around 3 p.m. You can also beat the heat by going swimming or taking frequent cool showers. Placing a cool washcloth on your forehead to cool down helps, too.
3. You Don’t Recognize Your Feet and Ankles.
Swelling is normal for women who are expecting, although super uncomfortable. Women have a lot of extra fluid in their bodies during pregnancy and the pressure from the growing uterus causes swelling in the ankles and feet. Unfortunately, swelling tends to get worse during hotter weather, which could make those cute sandals you’ve been saving more difficult to slide into. To prevent swelling during pregnancy, try these tips:
- Stretch often
- Drink lots of water
- Avoid standing for long periods of time
- Elevate the feet
- Cool off when temps are high
- Avoid high sodium foods
4. You’re Sweating So Much, it’s Confused with Showering.
We all get sweatier in the summer, but it can feel excessive for pregnant women. From the armpits, belly, face, neck and thighs — sweat is an unavoidable part of being pregnant when it’s hot outside.
With blood volume increasing between 40 and 50 percent during pregnancy, your metabolism is working for two, so the body sweats more as a way to cool off.
Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and to keep you feeling comfortable, especially if the temperature is high. Avoid dressing in clothes that trap heat and use an underarm antiperspirant.
5. Cool Clothes are a Must.
It’s easy to layer a baby belly in the winter, but since pregnant women tend to feel hotter all around (see #1), it’s a good idea to choose outfits with light, breathable fabrics. They help keep you cooler and can prevent heat rash from forming under the breasts and abdomen — a common problem for pregnant women. Layering clothing also allows you to easily add or remove a cardigan or jacket as it heats up throughout the day.
Luckily, maternity clothing has come a long way over the years, but you don’t need a big budget to stay comfortable and cool. Maternity maxi dresses are easy and versatile along with tank tops that support a growing belly.
6. Cocktails are Off the Menu.
Saying goodbye to the summer cocktails can be hard when patio season is in session. However, drinking alcohol while pregnant isn’t safe for baby. It can result in lifelong health problems, including being born prematurely, low birth weight, learning and behavioral problems and birth defects. Avoiding alcohol altogether is the safest, healthiest route. The good news is, with the growing popularity of mocktails, non-alcoholic versions of your favorite summertime cocktails are easier to come by at restaurants or DIY at home.
7. Water is Your Beverage of Choice.
A pregnant woman needs to drink more water to help support the development of the baby and prevent dehydration. Since blood volume increases during pregnancy, women need to drink at least 8 glasses of water every day, which can also help prevent other common pregnancy side effects like constipation. Water is essential in heat regulation, too.
8. Stay Inside for Exercise.
While summer is associated with outdoor activities, like riding bikes and going for walks, the heat and humidity from exercising outdoors can be dangerous for pregnant women. Moving exercise indoors is a good option to stay cool and keep baby safe. If you have access, jogging on an indoor track, swimming laps or doing strength-training are all good ideas.
If possible, you can also reserve your outdoor exercise time for cooler parts of the day, such as first thing in the morning or when the sun starts to set and temperatures begin to drop. Use your best judgement. If you’re worried about it being too hot, stay inside.
9. Sunscreen is Your BFF.
The skin goes through a lot of changes and is much more sensitive during pregnancy. This is because melanocytes, cells that produce pigment, are in overdrive. They can cause the skin to be more susceptible to discoloration, leading to things like hyperpigmentation. To keep your skin safe, and baby, during the summer, follow these safe sunscreen guidelines:
- Use a sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher
- Use a formula that protects against both UVA and UVB rays
- Look for zinc oxide or titanium oxide, these are considered safe by the Food and Drug Administration
- Avoid ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate and Vitamin A as studies have shown they can have harmful side effects
10. Summer Heat Makes You Sleepy.
Have you ever spent a relaxing day in the sun only to find you’re exhausted at the end of the day? Your body worked hard to control its internal temperature and, during pregnancy, the body is working for two. It’s not surprising to want an afternoon snooze after a day in the sun.
Pregnant women may become tired after spending time in the sun due to dehydration as well. Sweating to keep the body cool can make you lose quite a bit of fluid, so keep filling up the H2O.
If you have questions about being pregnant during the summer, reach out to your doctor through our patient app, MyUnityPoint, or schedule an appointment.