Pregnancy isn’t easy, especially during steamy summer weather. The heat seems to make everything just that much more difficult — walking, talking, breathing—you get the idea.
So what’s a pregnant woman to do? We spoke with Dr. Mary Rosser, OB/GYN at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center for her expert advice.
Staying hydrated in warmer temps is essential, but especially for pregnant women. As heat is harder to manage when you’re growing another human, Rosser says to, "Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!” She warns to not wait until you feel thirst, because that means you are already dehydrated. Instead, drink throughout the day, routinely carry a water bottle, and mist frequently if outside.
Protect Your Skin
Did you know pregnant skin burns faster? Yep, add it to the list of lovely pregnancy side effects. So, it makes it all the more important to properly protect yourself from the sun’s rays. Even if it’s overcast, ensure you are utilizing proper and pregnancy-safe sunscreen (SPF 30-40) to prevent harmful sunburns, which can be even more uncomfortable than usual while pregnant.
If you aren’t already, keep up to date with the forecast! It can help to provide you with essential information to keep yourself comfy and safe. Rosser warns, “If the Heat Index (temperature plus humidity) is 90 or greater, stay inside with as much AC as possible.”
She also says to avoid the outdoors for long periods of time during the hottest period of the day, as UV rays are typically the strongest between 10am and 3pm.
If you do head outside, stay in the shade and avoid midday sun. A cool damp cloth to your neck and head will decrease body temperature.
If you typically exercise, Rosser also says to do it early in the morning or late in the day to avoid overheating.
Mind Your Body’s Signals
Keep an eye out for any potentially dangerous symptoms while out in the heat. “If you are dizzy, lightheaded or weak,” Rosser says, “go inside and lay down. Consume water or a drink with electrolytes and apply a cool damp cloth to your neck and head.” If your symptoms do not improve, Rosser recommends going to the emergency room.
If at any point you have difficulty breathing, it’s imperative to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Pregnant women with a history of asthma might have difficulty in extreme heat, Rosser warns.
It’s incredibly important to avoid overheating. Rosser explains that in the first trimester, fetal development is occurring, so you do not want your core temperature to be too high.
You won’t be fully dressed without SPF, but what you wear is also important. Rosser suggests wearing breathable fabrics which will decrease sweating and help to heel you cool, adding that swelling of extremities may increase in the heat.
What you wear on your feet matters, too. Wear comfortable shoes about half a size larger than normal and elevate your feet intermittently throughout the day, and while sleeping at night.
Swimming is an excellent way to cool off, and a great (and generally safe) form of exercise for pregnant women, too. "It's not only cool and relaxing, but the weightlessness relieves stress and strains on your back, reduces sciatic pain, and swelling of ankles and feet,” says Rosser.