The normal gestation period of a pregnancy is 40 weeks, and chances are that a woman will experience part of her pregnancy during the summer. While all pregnant women should drink plenty of water, get adequate rest and avoid unnecessary exertion, these caveats become even more important in the hotter months. Pregnant women need to be vigilant about spending too much time in the heat and sun or face serious and often sudden consequences. As always, a pregnant woman should discuss any concerns she may have with her doctor or midwife.
According to pediatrician Dr. William Sears, babies are not the only ones prone to heat rash. A pregnant woman’s elevated basal temperature combined with the added friction of a larger body is a recipe for heat rash. Pregnant women who suffer from heat rash may want to avoid clothing on affected areas whenever possible. Oatmeal baths and a light dusting of baking soda over the rash are natural remedies that also bring relief.
Dehydration occurs when the body does not have enough water. Symptoms include thirst, dry mouth, loss of appetite, skin flushing, chills and fatigue. In serious cases, the body goes into shock. Dehydration is more likely to occur in the summer months as the body sweats more. Pregnant women are more susceptible because their bodies have more of a demand for water. BabyCenter advises pregnant women to drink 48 to 64 ounces of water daily, and more if they are active or in the heat for any period of time.
Heat cramps are a relatively minor side effect of excessive heat that should nonetheless be taken seriously, as they may lead to a more serious condition. As the body loses electrolytes from perspiration, muscles begin to cramp. Pregnant woman should take the cramps as a sign to cool down, drink water and possibly eat a banana to replace lost magnesium and potassium.
If heat cramps go ignored, they may lead to heat exhaustion, a potentially life-threatening condition for both mother and baby. Symptoms are similar to heat stroke: headache, dizziness, and a fast and weak pulse. The skin many times becomes pale and feels cool to the touch. Pregnant women should contact their doctor or midwife if contractions, serious cramps or vomiting are also present.
A high core body temperature of a mother can result in an increased risk for birth defects, particularly during the first trimester. Pregnant women should avoid hot tubs, steaming hot baths, saunas, heating pads and computers on their lap. Maximum intensity workouts may also raise the body temperature to dangerous levels. Pregnant woman should opt for walking, swimming or yoga over marathons.
Jordan Bucher is a journalist in Austin, Texas who has been writing professionally since 1998. She is also an AFAA-trained group exercise instructor and a DONA-trained postpartum doula. She holds a BA in English from Carleton College and a certificate from The University of Denver Publishing Institute.