Summer is usually most people’s favorite season of the year. However, if you’re pregnant, this might not be true for you. Pregnancy can already make you feel uncomfortable, and intense summer heat doesn’t help the situation. What you might not know, though, is how summer can affect pregnancy. Summer brings a heat risk for women that can cause various pregnancy issues. We discuss what those issues are and tips on how to stay cool.
How Summer Heat Can Affect Pregnancy
There are multiple heat risks for pregnant women during summer, including:
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body overheats and has difficulties regulating its temperature. Common symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, a rapid pulse, feeling tired, dizziness, cramps, and nausea. Many pregnant women who experience heat exhaustion may confuse their symptoms for typical pregnancy symptoms.
Heat exhaustion should be treated with:
- Drinking plenty of fluids especially sports drinks that can replace lost salt.
- Changing into loose clothing
- Taking a cool bath
- Placing a damp cloth on your forehead
If left untreated, heat exhaustion can progress into heatstroke or dehydration, both of which are potentially dangerous for the baby.
If left untreated, heat exhaustion can progress into heatstroke. Heatstroke is a much more serious condition that can potentially damage the heart, kidneys, and brain. If a pregnant woman’s body temperature exceeds 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit, she is at risk for heatstroke. At this temperature, there are risks to normal fetal growth.
Additionally, as pregnant women get dizzy and faint from dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke, they increase the risk of falling and causing complications such as early labor or placental disruption.
Warning signs of heatstroke are:
- Moist skin with goosebumps
- Muscle cramps
- Excessive sweating
- Feeling faint
- Weak pulse
- Swelling legs
If you suspect you have heatstroke, immediately move out of the sun, drink fluids, and consider taking a cold shower. Pregnant women may want to contact their doctor to make sure they’re safe.
Dehydration & Increased Body Temperature
One of the most significant issues around heat risk for pregnant women is dehydration and increased body temperature. As mentioned before, a body temperature above 102 degrees starts to become dangerous for both the mom and the baby. Amniotic fluid in the amniotic sac is what enables a baby to move around comfortably in the womb. When a mother’s body temperature rises and she gets dehydrated, the amniotic fluid decreases. If this happens in early pregnancy, it can cause congenital disabilities (such as a cleft palate), miscarriage, or preterm labor. Additionally, these birth defects can play a role in triggering liver and kidney problems.
Another problem dehydration can cause is a condition called Braxton Hicks, which is false labor pains. False labor pains can be stressful and painful for the mom to go through.
How to Cool Off in the Summer
Now that you understand how summer can affect pregnancy, your natural next thought is probably how to reduce heat risk for pregnant women. It’s essential that pregnant women avoid too much direct sunlight, drink plenty of water, avoid caffeine, and wear loose clothing. Most importantly, pregnant women should listen to their bodies and not confuse heat exhaustion symptoms with normal pregnancy symptoms.
This isn’t to say that pregnant women need to avoid the outdoors all summer long. Instead, they should enjoy the sun responsibly and in controlled amounts.
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