Women who have been pregnant during a summer heat wave know it can be an uncomfortable experience.
The effects of sun, heat and humidity on expectant mothers range from discomfort to danger. One of the most significant risks is dehydration.
Misti Lavin, a Marshfield Clinic women’s health nurse practitioner, offered tips to help pregnant women stay safe and comfortable when the temperature rises.
“Don’t overdo it,” Lavin said. “You have a good reason not to keep up with everyone else. Take frequent breaks indoors or in the shade, rest and drink plenty of water.”
Take dehydration risk seriously
Dehydration is a major risk when spending time in hot, humid weather. Symptoms include:
- Extreme thirst
- Infrequent and/or dark-colored urine
Dehydration can lead to serious health complications for the general population, but the stakes are even higher for pregnant women.
“A lot of pregnant women complain of cramping when they get overheated,” Lavin said. “Dehydration can cause uterine contractions that lead to pre-term labor.”
She recommends drinking 10 8-ounce glasses of water per day. You may need more if you’re doing physical activity or spending a lot of time in the sun and humidity.
Contact your health care provider if you have symptoms of dehydration. Your provider may want to examine you for other medical conditions that are serious during pregnancy, like high blood pressure.
Heat your meat
Summer cookouts present another pitfall for expectant mothers. Toxoplasmosis and listeriosis are bacterial illnesses caused by eating undercooked meat, cold cuts or fruits and veggies that weren’t properly washed.
These illnesses usually aren’t harmful but increase the chance of serious complications you won’t want to risk, like miscarriage, stillbirth, organ development issues and developmental problems for the baby.
“Use a meat thermometer to make sure meat is cooked to the proper temperature or reheat it to steaming,” Lavin said.
Bring your own fruits and veggies in a cooler to steer clear of cross contamination, or stick to hot side dishes kept at a proper temperature.
Keep skin comfortable
Skin issues are common in pregnancy. Sun and heat can add to the problem.
“Some women experience serious sunburns because their skin is more sensitive to the sun,” Lavin said. “Wear sunscreen and reapply it often when you’re outside. Use aloe to soothe skin if you get burned.”
Wear loose, light clothing to protect yourself from the sun and avoid overheating. Avoid tight clothing, which can rub against the skin and cause heat rash. Use cool compresses, talc-free powder and hydrocortisone cream to soothe irritated skin.
Swollen feet and ankles can make skin feel warm and tight. Reduce swelling by elevating your feet, wearing support hose when you’re in a cool environment or taking a dip in a pool or lake.