You probably already know that you shouldn’t sit in a hot sauna or spend too much time in a hot tub when you’re pregnant. However, you may not realize that simply taking a walk on a warm day or wearing the wrong clothing could also endanger you and your baby. Knowing the causes and complications of overheating during pregnancy will motivate you to keep cool.
Pregnancy Is a Risk Factor
Your core body temperature is already higher than normal when you’re pregnant. As your baby grows, your body uses more energy to carry him around, which can boost your chances of getting overheated. When your temperature starts to creep up, your body uses much more energy to cool itself down and cool down your baby’s body. If your body overheats, you may develop cramps, nausea, faintness, or even life-threatening organ damage. Also, your baby may be at risk of birth defects if your body temperature is too high during the first trimester, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Additionally, you may be at a greater overall risk of miscarriage if your body temperature gets too high at any point during pregnancy.
When you don’t drink enough water, you don’t perspire as much. Not perspiring enough could cause your body to become too warm too quickly. Getting dehydrated during pregnancy can also lead to loss of blood volume and more concentrated levels of the contractions-inducing hormone oxytocin. Because of this, drinking enough water can help reduce your risk of preterm labor. Reach for the water bottle regularly all summer to get at least eight to 10 glasses of it per day. Be especially prudent about drinking water when you exercise. If the idea of drinking 10 plain glasses of water in a day seems boring and impractical to you, reach for some seltzer water and squeeze some fresh fruit juice into it.
Wear Light and Loose Clothing
Keep two main “Ls” in mind when choosing your warm weather attire: light and loose. While dark clothing absorbs sunlight and makes you feel warmer outdoors, light-colored clothing bounces off that sunlight. In order to stay cool, also keep your fabrics light in thickness. To prevent sweating and rashes, stick to natural, breathable fabrics such as linen and cotton rather than synthetic fabrics such as nylon and polyester. You may also find that loose and flowing outfits are more comfortable than form-fitting outfits, especially in warm weather and during exercise. Although your fabrics should be loose and light, keep in mind that loosely woven fabrics won’t block all of your skin from the sun. The amount of sun that shines through the fabric is the amount of sun you will expose your skin to.
Consider Long Clothing
A third “L” — long — is optional, and it may seem impractical in hot weather. However, long clothing will help protect you, especially if you intend to spend a lot of your free time outdoors. Pregnancy hormones make your skin more susceptible to burning with sun exposure, so at least wear plenty of sunscreen and stick to shaded areas as much as possible. If you do plan to wear long clothing, just be sure it is also light and breathable. Consider wearing a longer top layer and remove it if you start to feel too warm.
If you hate the idea of staying indoors all day, the weather in the morning and evening hours may be cooler. Regardless of what the thermometer says, though, it’s crucial that you feel cool and comfortable. Get into a cool, shaded area and drink some water as soon as possible if you start to feel tired, dizzy, lightheaded, or thirsty. Call your doctor if your condition doesn’t improve quickly or else you and your baby may both be in grave danger.
Know When to Stay Inside
Your body’s ability to tolerate heat will likely diminish when you’re pregnant. To lower your risk of heat illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke, it’s important to know when to stay indoors, crank up the AC, raise your feet up on your recliner, and pop in your favorite movie. If you live in a particularly warm climate but you want to go outside, take a look at your local forecast to be sure the temperature isn’t above 90 degrees. If it is, limit outdoor activity as much as possible. The heat index, which factors in humidity as well as temperature, also shouldn’t be any higher than about 90 degrees. Even on a temperate summer day, consider staying inside between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., which is when the sun is at its highest, its light is the most direct, and it feels the warmest.