It can be difficult to stay comfortable in the later stages of pregnancy in the fall or winter; the summer months can be even a greater challenge. Here are a few tips to help you stay safe, comfortable, cool and hydrated through the warm summer months.
Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. At least 8-10 glasses (64-80 ounces) of water per day are recommended or more if you are sweating or active. Dehydration can be dangerous in pregnancy. It can cause preterm contractions and/or cause the baby’s heart to beat too fast (fetal tachycardia). The baby depends on you for heat regulation and hydration. The baby’s temperature is 2 degrees Fahrenheit greater than yours and has no mechanism to lower his or her body temperature. Signs that you are dehydrated may include thirst, dry or cracked lips, fatigue, decrease in the baby’s movements, lightheadedness, dizziness and/or an increase in Braxton Hicks contractions. If you experience any of these symptoms find a cool place to sit down. If you feel lightheaded or are experiencing contractions, you should lie down on your left side and drink cool water or a sports drink and rest. If the lightheadedness or dizziness does not resolve you should call you doctor or midwife.
Call your doctor or midwife immediately if you experience any of the following:
- More than 5 contractions or menstrual like cramping in 1 hour
- Pelvic pressure
- Change in vaginal discharge
- Bright red vaginal bleeding
- Change in the baby’s movement
Keep cool by spending as much time in air conditioning as possible. Pregnant women have less tolerance for heat, so be sure to check the local forecast for heat advisories. If the heat index is in the 90’s it is best to stay indoors with air conditioning. If you do not have access to air conditioning, a fan in a shaded room can help but may not be enough if temperatures are in the high 90’s or above. Try eating in an air conditioned restaurant, visiting the mall, taking a cool shower or bath, or a swim in the pool. A cool damp cloth on your forehead and the back of your neck can also help you keep cool.
Wear loose comfortable clothing made of natural fibers such as cotton or linen in light colors. Breathable loose clothing allows air flow and decreases sweating. Wearing a wide brimmed hat will help keep you cool and protect your face from the sun.
Limit the time you spend in the direct sun between 10am and 4pm. Take walks, exercise, or run errands in the morning or evening when it is cooler. It’s a good idea to drink 8 ounces of water or sports drink every hour that you are out in the sun. A spritz of cool water from a spray bottle feels great and helps keep you cool.
Take care of your feet and legs. Keep your feet elevated whenever possible to reduce swelling and increase circulation. Wear flat, comfortable supportive shoes or sandals. Lie on your left side for 30 minutes at lunch time and again at the end of the day to further help reduce swelling. Avoid salty foods and soak in a kiddie pool or a cool tub. Use a cooling foot gel to ease swelling in your feet and legs. Exercise is also important for maintaining good circulation. Going for a walk or swimming most mornings or evenings will help.
Protect your skin by wearing SPF 15 sunscreen, or 30 if you have fair skin. Pregnant women are more likely to get sunburned. It is best to apply sunscreen 20 minutes prior to going out in the sun and to reapply it throughout the day. Hormonal changes in pregnancy can increase the pigment production of your skin and cause cholasma, or “pregnancy mask”. Exposure to the sun can make this discoloration more pronounced. Prevent dry, itchy skin by applying a fragrance free moisturizing lotion as you get out of the shower or bath. Oatmeal baths can be very soothing for dry, itchy skin. Staying well hydrated also helps prevent dry skin.