For most of us, RVA in the summer is uncomfortable due to the high heat and humidity. But if you’re pregnant, the mere thought of venturing out may make you wilt! There are countless stories about pregnant women who are hot no matter how high the air conditioning is turned up. And tales of pregnant women who sleep on top of the covers with the ceiling fan on high while their husbands wear sweatshirts and sweatpants shivering under piles of covers. Hearing these stories along with weather forecasts for heat indices of 100+ can make you afraid to leave your house.
Pregnancy raises your body temperature. In fact, it’s one of the first hints that you’re pregnant. Combine an already elevated core temp with hot, muggy weather and the effect is intensified. Heat stress can cause hyperthermia and can – in extreme cases – harm your baby’s development. And, dehydration can decrease the amount of blood available to your baby and cause preterm contractions. But with a little planning and a few extra precautions, you can survive – and thrive – being pregnant in the summer in central Virginia.
Tips to help you stay safe and beat the heat this summer.
- Wear light-colored, loose, comfortable clothing that breathes—cotton, linen or man-made wicking materials.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Keep water with you at all times and drink throughout the day. If you start to feel faint, dizzy or fatigued, you probably aren’t drinking enough. Your urine should be the color of pale straw or light yellow.
- Try to stay indoors whenever the heat index—combination of heat and humidity—is over 90.
- Avoid the hottest part of the day – 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.
- Stay cool in the water. There’s nothing like a dip in a swimming pool to cool you off. If you don’t have access to a swimming pool, put a cool, wet washcloth on your neck and run cold water over your wrists, or take a lukewarm or cool shower. But be careful, cold showers can actually overchill your body and cause it to generate more heat.
Swelling of the legs, feet, and hands is another common pregnancy side effect. And, summer temps can exacerbate your puffy extremities. If you notice that swelling doesn’t go away with rest, or it’s associated with a severe headache or pain on your right side, call your provider, immediately. But most of the time following these simple guidelines will help reduce water retention and manage the swelling:
- Lie down and put your feet up for at least thirty minutes during the day.
- When you sleep at night, prop up your feet with a pillow.
- Wear comfortable shoes, or go barefoot. If none of your shoes fit and barefooting isn’t an option, try shoes that are one-half to a whole size larger.
- Pay attention to your fingers. If your rings are getting snug, take them off. Putting them on a necklace in the final months of pregnancy is much better—and less expensive—than having to cut them off and get them repaired.
When pregnant, your hormones change drastically. Increased estrogen stimulates a temporary increase in your body’s production of melanin, and increased melanin means heightened sun sensitivity. Even short periods in the sun will cause existing freckles and moles to darken, and new spots to pop up. Roughly 50 to 75 percent of pregnant women develop blotchy areas of darkened skin call the “mask of pregnancy,” or melasma. These splotches can show up on your forehead, nose, cheeks, upper lip and arms. Pregnancy mask typically lingers past birth and fades over time – although in some cases the changes never completely disappear. To reduce pregnancy-related skin darkening:
- Wear a hat with a wide brim.
- Apply sunscreen of SPF 30+ at least 15 minutes before heading outdoors. To adequately protect against the sun’s ultraviolet rays, use 1.5 fluid ounces (roughly the size of a shot glass) or more of sunscreen lotion to cover your body. Reapply sunscreen throughout the day.
- Take your prenatal vitamins and eat dark, leafy greens, broccoli, citrus fruits, beans, peas, lentils, avocados, whole-wheat bread and cereal. Hyperpigmentation (dark patches of skin) can be related to a folic acid deficiency.
RVA summers are tough. By taking a few of these simple actions you’ll feel better, have more energy, keep your cool, and enjoy your summer pregnancy.