If you've stepped even one foot outside this summer then you know what I'm about to say is the God's honest truth: It is hotter than hell out there. Honestly, I live in Southern California where it's supposed to be 72 degrees all year long, and even I am sweating in all the places. All joking aside though, the heat waves we are experiencing can be dangerous for many people, and pregnant women are no exception. Knowing how to navigate extreme heat when you're pregnant in the summer is key when it comes to keeping you and your growing belly healthy and safe.
If you feel as if this summer is hotter than ever, you're absolutely right. This year, June and July were the warmest summer months ever recorded as reported by the Copernicus Climate Change Service. This isn't just for the United States, but around the globe.
And with those higher temperatures comes an increased risk in health issues for pregnant women, such as dehydration and heat stroke, according to Dr. Melissa R. Peskin-Stoize, OB-GYN and assistant professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women's Health at Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She said in email to Romper, "Pregnant women are more at risk for heat stroke and dehydration just by virtue of the sheer amount of water they need to drink (in order to stay hydrated)." She also notes for women experiencing nausea and vomiting, they're already being further dehydrated, and are thus even more susceptible to the heat.
Heat stroke and dehydration aren't just dangerous for pregnant women, but can also negatively impact the fetus in extreme situations. Peskin-Stoize explains, "The fluid around the baby can sometimes drop during severe or prolonged dehydration. This could lead to induction of labor or be mistaken for having broken the water bag... Also, dehydration can lead to contractions which can be painful, or in rare cases, cause the cervix to dilate."
In short, if you're expecting during these summer months with temperatures that don't seem to be dropping anytime soon, take note of Peskin-Stoize's advice for how best to protect yourself, and your baby, from the health risks associated with extreme heat.
1. Stay Hydrated
Most people know the importance of staying hydrated when pregnant, especially when it's brutally hot outside. But how much water do you actually need in order to be safe from dehydration? Peskin-Stoize says the general rule is between 8 - 10 eight ounce glasses of water per day, consumed evenly throughout the day. She notes, "You can tell if you are well hydrated if you urinate regularly and your urine remains pale or colorless." She recommends investing in a huge water bottles, filling it with ice, and sipping on it throughout the day.
2. Avoid Midday Heat
Though you may be tempted to slather on some sunscreen and hit the pool or soak up some rays, Peskin-Stoize cautions pregnant women from prolonged exposure to the sun, particularly during the midday when the sun's rays are at their most damaging.
If you are outdoors and notice your skin is pale and/or cool to the touch, you're dizzy, or have a weak pulse, you need to seek medical attention immediately, as these could be signs of a heat stroke, according to Peskin-Stoize.
3. Wear Lightweight Clothing
Not that anyone who's pregnant in the summer is looking to add on layers, but it's worth a reminder that loose, lightweight clothing during a summer pregnancy is going to keep you more comfortable (and cooler) when the temperatures rise.
If your job requires that you wear clothing that is not lightweight and you have to be outdoors, Peskin-Stolze advises pregnant women should, "frequent air conditioned environments as often as possible." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) echoes this and advises talking to your workplace safety officer on ways to reduce your heat exposure.
4. Be Mindful Of What You Eat/Drink
We've already covered the importance of drinking water, but Peskin-Stolze says it's also important to be mindful of what not to eat and drink. She notes that caffeinated beverages and diuretics such as green tea can actually lead to more dehydration, as can foods with a high salt content. This is a real bummer for people like me who craved all the salt during my pregnancies.
Much of staying safe in hot temperatures falls into the "common sense" category. But the most important takeaway for mamas-to-be out there should be to pay attention to any signs of dehydration or heat stroke, as they require immediate medical attention. So stay cool, mama. And let's all hope for Fall's arrival ASAP.