By the time summer rolls around, everyone’s so tired of being cold that they can’t wait to get outside and garden, barbecue, head to the beach. But basking in the heat and sun can be hazardous for pregnant women, according to Navid Mootabar, MD, Co-Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northern Westchester Hospital . “A pregnant woman’s body temperature is already a bit higher than normal,” says Dr. Mootabar, who is also the hospital’s Director of Gynecologic Surgery. But by taking a few precautions, even expecting mothers can embrace the joys of summer.
Keep Cool Most pregnant moms will already be wearing loose clothing—something Dr. Mootabar strongly recommends. “Lightweight cotton or linen fabrics are best,” he says. They breathe and the loose fit will allow air to circulate. Dr. Mootabar also likes the personal fans and misters that you can find at convenience stores. Take a dip in the pool if there’s one handy; not only will you cool down, but the feeling of weightlessness will be welcome. No pool? Try a damp washcloth or an icepack on your forehead for relief.
Fluids are Crucial “Dehydration is a concern for everyone this time of year,” says Dr. Mootabar. But for a pregnant mother, the loss of fluids through perspiration can compromise the amniotic fluid in which the baby is suspended, he says. “A good rule of thumb is to drink a glass of water for every hour of the day.” About eight to 10 glasses a day will keep mom well-hydrated , says Dr. Mootabar. You can mix in some juice or sports drinks to help replace the salts and sugars your muscles need, but just be aware of the calorie content. Anything with caffeine in it will cause fluid loss, so don’t count coffee, soda, or tea among your eight to 10 glasses. “You can have them occasionally,” says Dr. Mootabar, “but in moderation.”
Sun Sensitivity Due to hormonal changes in the body, “a pregnant woman’s skin will be more sensitive to the sun,” says Dr. Mootabar. “She’ll be more prone to sunburn and skin discoloration,” which is why he recommends covering up with clothing as much as possible, and being sure to slather SPF 15 or higher sunscreen on any exposed skin.
Exercise Advice If you have a regular exercise program, there’s no need to stop just because it’s summer and you’re pregnant, says Dr. Mootabar. However, schedule your workouts for early in the morning or late in the evening (or in the air-conditioned indoors, if possible). “I generally tell mothers if they’re used to working out, they should be fine.”
How do you know when you’re overdoing it or getting too dehydrated? The signs of low fluids include lightheadedness, heart palpitations or racing, muscle cramps, and contractions, says Dr. Mootabar. The baby may not be moving as much if amniotic fluid levels fall. If you reach this stage, contact your doctor. But you can easily avoid these problems by listening to your body. “If you’re feeling tired, weak, or thirsty, that’s your body telling you to rest and drink water.”
Should I worry about my legs swelling? Dr. Mootabar says that leg swelling can be more common during summer months because your body will carry extra fluid to help preserve amniotic fluid. This can lead to swelling in not only the legs, but the hands and face.
Part of the reason it’s more common in the legs is that as the uterus grows, it puts more pressure on the veins carrying blood back up to the heart. For obvious reasons, this is more common in the second half of the pregnancy.
You may need to call your doctor about swelling if the condition comes on suddenly, doesn’t improve with rest, or is on only one side of the body. This could indicate a possible clot.
Otherwise, you should be able to manage the swelling on your own. The best way to minimize the discomfort is to avoid prolonged standing or sitting. When you have to sit, keep your legs elevated and try to take a five-minute walk every hour to keep your blood circulating. When you lie down, stay on your side rather than your back to help improve blood flow back to the heart. And be sure to wear comfortable, open-toe shoes and loose skirts or pants. Watch your salt intake (which can cause you to retain fluids), and remove rings from your hands (and toes, if necessary!).
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