When you’re pregnant, your body works harder to cool down both you and the baby. That’s why you need to take extra precautions in the summer heat. You don’t want your core body temp higher than 102 degrees, which can lead to heat stroke or heat exhaustion.
But being careful doesn’t mean you should be afraid to go outside. Instead, just remember that part of being a mom is taking care for yourself. This can be a challenge when you have other kids, so think of the baby as if it were already outside your body. You would not let a newborn get hot and sweaty. Likewise, you don’t want to allow yourself and your belly to get overheated and risk issues from the heat.
The biggest precaution you can take is to stay well-hydrated. Keep in mind that hydration doesn’t mean just drinking more liquid. Coffee, soda and caffeinated teas dehydrate you, making you more susceptible to heat. Gatorade and other sports or similarly sugary drinks should not be consumed in place of water. Water is the best and healthiest option.
If you are concerned about electrolytes, it’s OK to consume the occasional Gatorade or Powerade. For every caffeinated drink you have, you need one glass of water. During a typical day, you should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water. But if you’re active or in the sun, you need to drink even more.
Don’t Focus Too Much on Salt and Electrolytes
You might think that because sweat is salty that you need to replace all those salts. That’s not the case. Focus instead on replacing volume — in other words, if you sweat a lot, drink a lot of water to replace that lost volume.
Have a Plan for Outdoors
If you’re going somewhere like an amusement or theme park for the day, have a plan. You will not want to spend the entire day outside in the full sun, especially during the peak of the afternoon. Instead, take breaks inside in the AC, whether that’s lunch or a snack inside or, if you’re at a theme park, enjoying indoor attractions. Just as you plan for diaper breaks for any kids you may already have, you should plan for cooling breaks for you.
Dress for the Heat
Wear loose, breathable fabrics such as cotton or moisture-wicking clothes to stay cool, and avoid tight items, such as polyester yoga capri pants.
Use the Environment to Your Advantage
Find shade when outside. If you like to exercise outside, work out in the earlier part of the day. Swimming is a great, low-impact choice and also a great way to cool down.
Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
If you are spending time outside in the heat, be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion, which include:
- Dizziness and confusion
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling sick
- Being thirsty
- Cramps in arms, legs, stomach
If you recognize any of these signs, move to a cool area in the AC or shade. Place cool washcloths or towels on your head, neck, armpits or groin. Most of all, hydrate, and you should start feeling better within 30 minutes. If you don’t it’s a good idea to see a doctor.
Heat stroke is more dangerous. The signs for heat stroke include:
- Not sweating while feeling hot
- High body temperature
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling confused
- Breathing rapidly
Heat stroke is an emergency, especially if you’re pregnant. And any heat complications that become serious enough to warrant a hospital visit should also include an evaluation to see if your baby has been affected.