What should you know about pregnancy and hot weather? What are the possible complications, and what can you do to keep safe and stay cool?
Summer pregnancy challenges and solutions
Being pregnant during the summer can sure bring some challenges, particularly if you live in a hot climate. My kids were born in the middle of the summer and in the middle of the winter. That means I have experienced both early pregnancy in the burning summer heat, and the third trimester as well as labor and delivery. Medical complications of being pregnant in very hot weather are quite possible, but I know that your immediate concern is that you feel uncomfortable, and may have difficulty getting through the day if you need to be out and about. Dehydration, sunburn, heat stroke, and edema are some of the most common problems of a hot-weather pregnancy. We'll look at those in more detail in a minute. First off, here are some tips that may help you be more comfortable as well as safer whether you are at the very beginning of your pregnancy or are about to give birth:
- Staying hydrated is the single most important precaution you can take. When you are thirsty, you are already on your way to dehydration. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and remember that experts recommend drinking a large glass of water for each hour spent outdoors in hot weather. Never go out without your water bottle.
- Stay out of the sun whenever you can. The hottest hours will vary according to your location, but listen to news warnings to avoid direct sun exposure during those hours. Generally, that will be from 10am - 5pm, or 11am - 6pm.
- If you must go out in the hot sun, definitely use a high sun protection factor (SPF). This will reduce your risk of sunburn and the associated complications.
- Do you feel dizzy, light-headed, or weak? Head these warning signs, and get out of the heat. Get inside and have a nice glass of water or one of those electrolyte replacement drinks. Lying down until you feel better is a good idea.
- Pregnancy exercise in hot, humid weather is generally discouraged. Try working out in the early morning or late evening, or in a gym with airco.
Thirst is the very earliest warning sign of dehydration; your body is letting you know that it is time to boost your fluid intake so you can stay safe. Most of us get thirsty quite often, but you can attempt to avoid that by drinking water throughout the day. Dry skin and lips, weakness and fatigue are the next signs of dehydration. You may also have a headache and a reduced blood pressure. Anyone who notices the first signs of dehydration should take action water and electrolyte replacement drinks will help you, as well as rest. Nausea, numb and tingly hands and feet, irritability, vomiting, very dry skin, and lack of urination and sweating are already much more severe signs. Pregnant women may also notice decreased fetal activity. At this point, your best bet is to head for a doctor and start drinking water. Thankfully, dehydration is quite easily prevented if you are aware that it can set in easily in hot weather, if you have ready access to safe drinking water (which would apply to most people in developed countries!). As long as you are diligent about drinking water, you shouldn't worry about dehydration.
"Sunburn only goes skin deep, so pregnant women don't need to be worried that it's bad for the baby," it says somewhere on the internet. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. A bad sunburn can have a wide range of symptoms that are risky for you, as well as your unborn baby:
- Fever, which can be especially risky during the first trimester of pregnancy.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Severe burns, with the associated stress to the whole body.
See your doctor if you have a sunburn and notice any of the symptoms mentioned. A mild sunburn is not dangerous, but severe sunburns can even be fatal in some cases.
Prolonged exposure to sun and high temperatures with inadequate fluid intake puts you at risk of heat exposure followed by heat stroke. If you live in a location with high temperatures that's also very humid, you may be at risk of a heat stroke (also called a sun stroke) especially if you haven't adjusted well to the heat. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include muscle cramps, pale and wet skin, headaches, faintness, and confusion. Breathing difficulties, fever, and eventually unconsciousness are symptoms of heat stroke, which is a more advance stadium. Heat stroke is life-threatening. Call an ambulance for anyone with these symptoms. Pregnant women may be at a higher risk of developing heat stroke, but they should take steps to avoid it by staying well-hydrated and out of the sun. Air conditioning will keep you cool in really hot climates.