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.
How to stay 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 eight to 10 glasses of water a day — more if you are active or sweating a lot, says Charles Boag, D.O., FACOG. “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 because 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 because large meals increase the metabolism, which can make the body feel hotter. Try making healthy popsicles by freezing fruit juice. Plan meals that don’t require using the stove or oven.
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. Carry a spray bottle of water to spritz your face when you become uncomfortably hot. Go indoors at the first sign of dizziness or weakness.
Decrease swelling. Minimizing salt intake can help reduce swelling from water retention. (Don’t eliminate salt completely because it contains iodide, which is essential to the health of the baby.) Putting your feet up frequently can help reduce swelling and improve circulation. Elevate feet whenever possible — at home, at the office and at the pool.
Swim to cool off. In addition to cooling and refreshing, swimming can help reduce discomfort from swelling and back pain. Swim or simply “water jog” around the pool. The added benefit: temporary weightless brings relief from 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. Choose light colors; dark colors can make you feel hotter. And reconsider your footwear. Flip-flops may be tempting, but 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 theater where there is plenty of cool air. If you can afford it, set your home air conditioning down a degree.
Editor’s note: This article first ran in July 2012. Because summer pregnancy remains a challenge, we are republishing it — with our heartfelt sympathy — for today’s expectant moms. Physician links have been updated and we added the links to recipes for cool, healthy summer treats. Enjoy!