UAB Medicine

May 1, 2011

Pregnant this summer? Beating the heat means safety and comfort

Hot, humid and pregnant. Many women would call that a recipe for misery.

But UAB obstetrician Kim Hoover, M.D., says there are real medical conditions that pregnant women should guard against to stay safe and healthy as the temperature rises.

“Dehydration and overheating can happen anytime during the summer, but especially when you are pregnant,” she says. Dizziness, nausea and fatigue can signal those, Hoover says.

Blood flow increases during pregnancy and can make women feel hotter, as can the hormone changes that occur during pregnancy, even though a woman’s core body temperature and metabolism don’t change. Slight increases in blood pressure from edema and swelling can occur and that can make women warmer as well, Hoover says.

Pregnant women are more likely in the summer heat to become dehydrated because more of the fluid in their body goes to the fetus and the amniotic fluid, which is why you are supposed to drink more water when you are pregnant no matter what time of year it is. Add sweating from the heat and the risk of dehydration rises.

Women at risk for high blood pressure also need to monitor their actions.

“You definitely want to watch your salt intake, particularly if you are borderline for high blood pressure,” Hoover says. “Your doctor will know if it is summer swelling or something much more serious, like preeclampsia, starting to develop,” Hoover says.

And what about taking that that beach vacation? If your doctor says it’s OK to go, Hoover offers these tips to make the trip as pleasant as possible:

Go to the beach earlier in the summer when it is less hot.
Avoid sun time, as you would to avoid a sunburn, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Drink about 8 ounces of water for every hour you are in the sun
Use at least 30 SPF sunscreen — higher is even better — to prevent burning and pregnancy-induced melasma from getting worse.
Especially in summertime, comfort during pregnancy is key, and Hoover recommends several things women can do to survive the rising mercury.

“For clothing, think linen, think cotton, nothing constricting,” she says. “Little personal fans with misters are great, too. Some of my patients make their own popsicles using fruit or yogurt. These are nice options to go along with drinking water.”

If you experience nausea, dizziness or fatigue, be on the safe side, she says, and contact your physician.
 

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