- Laura Fitzsimmons, Pharmacist Manager, Collector's Hill Apothecary
SUMMER PREGNANCY & YOUR HEALTH
Are you pregnant and feeling hot this summer? The hot summer days and humid climates can be challenging for many pregnant women. However, heat is a common symptom of pregnancy as your core body temperature is already a few degrees higher than average when pregnant. Most women know they shouldn’t sit in a hot sauna or spend a long time in a hot tub. However, what many women don’t realise is that just taking a long walk on a hot day or wearing incorrect clothing can potentially put you and your baby at risk.
While pregnant, your body goes through a considerable number of changes. Not only do you have an ever growing bump which makes everything a little more difficult, but you are also likely to be:
- Carrying an extra 25-35lb in body weight
- Have around 30-50% more blood pumping through your body
- Have a raised core body temperature
All of these factors are likely to cause you to sweat more and increase the likelihood of you becoming overheated. According to the American Pregnancy Association, overheating while pregnant doesn’t just cause you to feel uncomfortable, it can be potentially damaging to the baby’s development, especially during the first trimester. Becoming overheated is increasingly common in hot climates, and it is therefore essential that you look out for potential symptoms of overheating and know how to manage them.
SIGNS YOU MAY BE OVERHEATING
Dehydration - This is a result of your body losing water faster than you are taking it in and means that your body does not have enough water to carry out its standard daily functions. When pregnant, water plays a huge role in your baby’s development through its role in the placenta which provides the baby with nutrients. It is therefore particularly important to avoid dehydration in pregnancy to prevent severe complications such as neural tube defects, premature labour and birth defects. Dehydration can present itself in many ways depending on its severity, and so it is essential to be aware of the symptoms.
Symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration may include:
- Dry or sticky mouth
- Feeling thirsty
- Dark urine or the decreased need to urinate
- A headache
In some severe cases, dehydration can also trigger Braxton-hicks contractions or more severe symptoms such as rapid heartbeat and low blood pressure.
Feeling Weak, Dizzy & Lightheaded - During pregnancy, your cardiovascular system undergoes dramatic changes. Your heart rate goes up; your heart pumps more per minute and the amount of blood in your body increases between 30-50%. While in most cases your blood vessels dilate, and blood pressure will return to normal there may be occasions your body doesn’t adapt as quickly as it should leaving you feeling dizzy and lightheaded. Numerous factors can cause this to happen such as low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), vasovagal syncope (the feeling of dizziness when you strain to cough, pass urine or have a bowel movement) dehydration or anaemia but can also be caused by overheating. When you are too hot, your blood vessels will dilate causing a sudden drop in blood pressure and can often lead to fainting. Other symptoms of overheating can include heat rashes, tiredness, feeling lethargic, breathlessness and also nausea and vomiting. Should you experience any of the symptoms, be sure to speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
SUMMER PREGNANCY SURVIVAL GUIDE
Keep Hydrated - Drinking at least 8-12 glasses of water is ideal in preventing dehydration however you may need to increase this to 12-13 glasses per day if it is unusually hot or you are working out. You may also want to reduce your caffeine intake as this can act as a diuretic thus increasing urine output causing further dehydration.
Wear Loose & Comfortable Clothing - When you are battling the heat it is important to dress smartly. Avoid wearing warm or tight-fitting clothing as it is likely to make you feel overheated. Instead, wear light-coloured, loose-fitting apparel made of natural fibres. And, layer your clothes so you can remove something to help you feel cooler if needed.
Exercise - Exercise is healthy for expectant mothers however strenuous activity in the heat with insufficient rehydration can be dangerous. It is vital you stay well hydrated while exercising and avoid the hottest times of the day to do so. Swimming is a particularly useful exercise in pregnancy as it not only keeps you cool unlike other forms of aerobic exercise, but the water helps to support your extra weight.
Keep Cool At Work – Given the short maternity leave period in Bermuda, the majority of women will try to work as late in their pregnancy as possible which often means you are working long hours when you are heavily into your third trimester. Be sure to take regular breaks to hydrate and walk around as well as making sure your offices are well ventilated.
Travel Light - Summer is one of the most popular times for travel, and so while light exercise is encouraged during pregnancy, heavy lifting is not. Avoid packing oversized bags that need to be lifted into the overhead bins or get help lifting if needed.
Stay Out Of The Sun - A pregnant woman’s skin is much more sensitive to sun exposure, so it is recommended you take extra precaution when in direct sunlight. There are also a few studies out there linking UV rays to folic acid deficiency, and your skin is much more susceptible to UV induced discolouration. Some recommendations suggest you:
- Stay out of the sun altogether or avoid peak times for sun exposure
- Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated
- Ensure that you continue to take your prenatal vitamins regularly
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing as well as a hat
- Use a sunscreen of SPF 30 or more and re-apply at least every two hours (more often if you are in and out the water).
- Pick the right sunscreen. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen which will offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays and use a cream sunscreen rather than a spray. The International Agency for research on carcinogens have classified the ingredient titanium dioxide as a carcinogen when inhaled, and so this is much less likely with a cream formulation. It is also important to try to avoid sunscreens containing the ingredient oxybenzone which links to low birth weights according to some studies.
The Phoenix Stores stocks a broad range of sun care items. Feel free to pop by and chat with your pharmacist about your pregnancy concerns.