Don’t sweat it: tips for enjoying summer more safely while pregnant

Happy pregnant woman enjoying the outdoors

Summertime sunshine in the South increases the risk for heat-related illnesses and death, as the extreme temperatures can damage the brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles in almost anyone. For pregnant women and their babies, however, it’s even more important to be protected against the summer sun.

“Two main concerns with excessive heat and pregnant patients are overheating and dehydration,” said UAB Medicine OB/GYN physician Sima Baalbaki, M.D. “They can negatively impact both the pregnant mom and the baby relying on her for nutrients.”

Pregnant women tend to naturally feel hotter due to the increase in blood flow and hormonal changes. They are more likely to become dehydrated in the summer heat , as more of the fluid in their bodies goes to the fetus and the amniotic fluid, Dr. Baalbaki said.

In turn, overheating and dehydration can cause dizziness and/or lightheadedness. These symptoms increase the risk of falling, which can be dangerous during pregnancy because it may force a woman into early labor or even cause placental abruption (when the placenta separates from the inner wall of the womb). In the first trimester, overheating also can cause issues with fetal development. 

Braxton Hicks contractions are another concern, as they can occur when pregnant women become overheated and dehydrated. These contractions are not dangerous for the mom or baby, but they can increase the woman’s anxiety and concerns about preterm labor.

Staying cool

Despite these concerns, Dr. Baalbaki says it’s ok to be outside while pregnant if you take steps to stay cool and monitor your body temperature.

“You definitely want to watch your salt intake, particularly if you are borderline for high blood pressure,” Dr. Baalbaki said. “Your doctor will know if it is summer swelling or something much more serious starting to develop, like preeclampsia.” Preeclampsia is a type of high blood pressure that develops in some women during pregnancy.

Dr. Baalbaki also suggests these additional tips for staying cooler, safer, and more comfortable in the summer heat:

  • Drink eight ounces of water for every hour in the sun.
  • Wear light, non-constricting clothing made of breathable fabrics such as linen and cotton.
  • Invest in small, personal fans.
  • Avoid the peak sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Use a sunscreen with an SPF of least 30 to help avoid burning and prevent any pregnancy-induced skin discoloration patches from getting worse.

“We want our patients to enjoy the summer fun,” Dr. Baalbaki said. “However, if you experience nausea, dizziness, or fatigue, be on the safe side and contact your physician.”

Learn about the full range of services available at UAB Medicine for women and infants.

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