The heat and humidity of summer can make the normal discomforts of pregnancy even more unpleasant. We sat down with Suzanne Bovone, M.D., an obstetrician-gynecologist with Obstetrics and Gynecology of San Jose, part of Pediatrix® Medical Group, to discuss how expectant moms can stay safe and comfortable during the dog days of summer.
Here are her tips:
- Stay hydrated. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends drinking 8 to 12 cups (64 to 96 ounces) of water daily during pregnancy. This is even more important during the summer months, when your body's natural cooling system produces sweat to reduce the temperature of your skin and help circulate cooler blood through your body. Because of this, you'll need to replenish your body's fluids frequently throughout the day. Drinking water is the simplest way to do this. However, if you don't like water, there still are ways to up your fluid intake.
"Add cucumbers, lemons, limes or a splash of fruit juice to flavor plain water without adding extra calories," said Dr. Bovone. "Other options include sparkling water or water infused with electrolytes. Only drink commercial sports drinks if you are severely dehydrated."
Eating water-rich fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe and cucumber, can help, too.
- Stay cool. If you need to go to an outdoor event or run errands on a hot day, Dr. Bovone says to plan those activities during the coolest time of day, such as in the morning or evening. Minimize your time outdoors, and stay in air conditioning or near a fan as much as possible. She also suggests using ice packs, cool cloth, chilled pillows or personal misters or putting your feet in cool water to beat the heat.
- Dress for the season. Temperatures during the summer can vary widely, depending on where you live. In addition, you may need an outfit that can transition from steamy outdoor temperatures to cooler, air-conditioned interiors. By dressing in layers, you can take off — or put on — clothing as needed. Choose light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable garments.
- Protect your skin. Even if the sky looks cloudy, don't forget to protect your skin while outside. Apply sunscreen (look for a waterproof option that is at least SPF 50) at least 20 minutes before going outside. Ask a friend or your partner to help cover hard-to-reach places. Also, consider wearing a large hat or sitting under an umbrella to thwart the sun's rays.
- Head for the water. Pools, ponds, lakes and other slow-moving bodies of water can help relieve any swelling you're experiencing and reduce the pressure of your baby's weight on your internal organs.
"As long as your water hasn't broken, it's safe to go swimming," Dr. Bovone explained. "Doing a few laps can help keep up your stamina and cool you off. No diving, however."
- Stave off swelling. Bovone recommends taking short, frequent breaks from sitting for long periods to prevent swelling. If you notice swelling in your feet, lay down and elevate them above your heart. Go to the emergency department if you notice one leg swelling more than the other; it may signify a blood clot.
"Change positions to keep your blood moving and prevent it from pooling in any one area," Dr. Bovone said. "And be sure to look for swelling in your fingers, which may cause your rings to get stuck or pinch your skin."
- Listen to your body. Dizziness can be a sign of low blood sugar, while shortness of breath may indicate a blood clot in the lung, according to Dr. Bovone. If summer activities have changed your eating schedule, Dr. Bovone suggests keeping a bottle of water and a small snack, such as almonds, in your purse to prevent blood sugar from dipping too low.
"If you're feeling lightheaded, dizzy or short of breath, sit down and take slow, deep breaths," she said. "Don't feel embarrassed to sit down at the grocery store or the park. You don't want to risk falling and injuring yourself or your baby."
If you fall, faint or can’t catch your breath, immediately go to the nearest emergency room.
Pediatrix® Medical Group has cared for pregnant women for more than 40 years. Find a practice.