It’s tough enough to make it through a long, hot summer in the Valley. But if you’re pregnant, it can be downright miserable.
Summer heat can be especially difficult for expectant mothers, says OB/GYN Giuseppe Ramunno, M.D. That’s because the extra blood flow that results from pregnancy can cause higher-than-normal body temperatures.
Plus, there are those extra pounds to carry. “Dehydration, heat stroke and other heat-related conditions can be dangerous for mothers and their babies,” says Ramunno, who practices with Arizona Associates for Women’s Health, which recently opened in Mesa.
The practice offers these eight tips for staying cool during pregnancy:
Avoid direct sunlight. Try to stay out of the sun, especially mid-day. Apply sunscreen 20 minutes prior to going outside. Pregnant skin tends to be more prone to burning and blotching in the sun due to hormonal influences.
Drink plenty of fluids. Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water a day, more if you are active or sweating a lot, says Charles Boag, D.O., FACOG, also with AZ Associates. “Some of the hormones responsible for fighting dehydration can mimic oxytocin, the hormone responsible for labor. This may cause painful contractions and signs of false labor.” It’s also important to drink enough juice, milk and sports drinks to help replace electrolytes lost when sweating in the summer sun. Avoid soft drinks since they work like diuretics — stealing more water from the body than they provide.
Eat lighter meals. Eating lighter meals can also help keep the body cool since large meals increase the metabolism, which can make the body feel hotter. Try making healthy popsicles by freezing fruit juice, or eat out at an air-conditioned restaurant to avoid using the stove or oven to cook lunch or dinner.
Be active at cooler times of the day. Try to exercise or run errands in the early morning or late afternoon when temperatures aren’t as high and go indoors at the first sign of dizziness or weakness. When outside, carry a spray bottle of water to spritz the face when it becomes uncomfortably hot.
Decrease swelling. Minimizing salt intake can help reduce swelling due to water retention. Don’t eliminate salt completely as it contains iodide, which is essential to the health of the baby. Also putting feet up often can help reduce swelling as well as improve circulation. Elevate feet whenever possible — at home, at the office and at the pool, for example.
Swim to cool off. In addition to being refreshing and cool, swimming can help reduce discomfort due to swelling and back pain. Hop into the pool and swim or simply “water jog” around. Not only will swimming cool the body off, it also enables expectant women to feel weightless despite the extra pounds added by pregnancy. No access to a pool? Take a cool shower or bath instead.
Wear breathable fabrics. One of the best ways to avoid over-heating is by wearing lightweight breathable fabrics, like 100 percent cotton. Dark colors may make the body feel hotter. Also consider footwear. Although flip-flops may be tempting, pregnant women need extra support and stability to prevent eventual back pain and possible falls. Stick with supportive sandals with secure straps.
Try to stay indoors. Growing weary of being cooped up at home? Go to a mall or movie theatre where there is plenty of cool air. Turn down the a/c at home if you can.
Arizona Associates for Women’s Health, a part of Physician’s Group of Arizona (PGA) will hold a free clinic on Saturday, July 21 from 8 am to 5 pm for women of all ages. Well woman exams, family planning services, STD information and other health services will be offered. PGA physicians practice at Mountain Vista Medical Center in Mesa, St. Luke’s Medical Center in Phoenix, and at Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital.
Reservations for the clinic are required; find out more by calling 480-257-2700.