Summer is here and in our part of the world, that means humidity, discomfort and sweat. As we all know, it’s easy enough to lose patience with the heat, but add in a pregnancy, particularly an advanced one, and things get a lot more complicated. There are however, some clever tricks (hacks even) to help you deal with the summer heat, whether you’re an expectant mother or a parent with a newborn.
Stay comfortable whilst pregnant
This is the most important thing you can do for yourself and your baby. Obviously, drinking enough water is essential all year round, but it’s particularly vital during those summer months. Limit foods and liquids that act as diuretics, which include caffeine and salt, as they will decrease your hydration levels by increasing the frequency of urination.
Dehydration while pregnant can worsen discomfort, lead to swelling and even trigger contractions. It’s also important not to drink two litres in one go. Doctors recommend getting your H2O gradually throughout the day. And since you’ll be sipping all day long, you might be interested in checking out Pinterest for all the ways you can keep water interesting (and up your Vitamin C intake), with citrus, mint and crushed berries.
Keep your cool
You know that feeling on a hot day when you stick your face in the fridge? Make that cooling sensation last longer (especially if you don’t have air conditioning), by keeping a spray bottle of water in the fridge and spritzing it regularly over your face and body. You can even pick up spray bottles that come with small fans attached at K-Mart and carry it around with you (add some ice), spritzing yourself whenever the urge strikes. While you’re at it, stock the fridge and freezer with frozen yogurt, ice blocks and plenty of other refreshing treats.
A cool facecloth or a padded icepack over your face, pulse points, or the nape of your neck can also provide relief, and if you can, enjoy a cooling dip in the pool. If you don’t have access to a pool, opt for a gentle lukewarm shower, rather than a hot steamy one. Deep breathing exercises (in a cool an environment if possible) can also help during those times when you feel yourself becoming overly-stressed by the heat.
Make time for rest and relaxation
We know that many pregnant women suffer from swollen ankles and other extremities. This swelling is exacerbated by the summer heat and can be helped by putting your feet up. If ever there was a time to accept that the vacuuming can wait, it’s now. Physical exertion can be more strenuous for women while pregnant, due to higher internal temperatures and weight gain. So elevate those tootsies and make the most of the opportunity to guilt trip whoever is around at the time (preferably your partner, family member or friend!) into a foot and leg massage. For the times when chores can’t be avoided (and there’s no-one else to do them), leave them for the cooler times of the day (early morning or late evening). If you have air conditioning, don’t refrain from blasting it.
An additional tip while you’re sleeping is to sleep on your left side, as that will assist blood and nutrients in reaching the placenta and the baby.
Keep your clothing light and loose
There’s a reason why pregnant women don’t usually like lycra. Breathable, lightweight maternity wear will allow sweat to evaporate from your body and lessen the chances of overheating. Also, the last thing you want right now is chafing, so clothing that allows easy movement is important.
Road and air travel
If you can’t avoid making long trips in the car over summer, make sure you take frequent breaks (every hour or two) to increase circulation and stretch your legs. If you have to fly, decrease the risk of blood clots by taking regular strolls up and down the aisle. Also consider wearing support socks and stockings, which will help with swelling. When the glass is feeling half empty, remember that at least airplanes are air-conditioned!
Slip, slop, slap
The sun is extra fierce in summer as we all well know, and pregnancy makes women more susceptible to melasma (caused by hormone changes) and sun damage. Do your best to avoid the afternoon sun and embrace sunscreen (make sure you use enough and reapply frequently) and wide-brimmed hats.
Help your newborn stay cool and comfortable
Babies are very susceptible to hot summer conditions and can quickly overheat, as they can’t regulate their temperature as well as adults can. To avoid this, make sure your baby is well hydrated, dressed in light, comfortable clothes (on a hot day, keep them in a nappy and not much else, when they’re inside).
Chill out your nursery
During the hottest parts of the day; keep the blinds or curtains closed (this can help throughout the house). Keep the ceiling fan on if you have one (or a pedestal or box fan) that can circulate the air throughout the room (rather than blowing directly on your baby).
Embrace minimalist clothing and bedding
A nappy and singlet, possibly a summer weight blanket is all your baby needs to sleep comfortably. A cool bath before bedtime can also help them cool down and ready themselves for sleep.
When you need to take your newborn out in the car, try to go during the cooler part of the day (early morning). Crank the air conditioning up or open the window. If your car windows aren’t tinted, think about ways to keep your baby shaded from the sun. And most importantly, never leave your baby in the car alone.
Keep their hydration levels up
Babies need plenty of fluids to stay hydrated in hotter weather, just as adults do. If you’re breastfeeding, your baby may want to be fed more than usual, but there is no need to give them water on top of that. If you’re bottle-feeding, keep bottles of cooled boiled water in the fridge to give them throughout the day, on top of their normal formula.
Shield them from the sun
Babies, particularly newborns can easily overheat and become ill when left in the sun. Always provide plenty of shade for your baby, in the form of wide-brimmed hats, and a shade shield on your pram. Keep them inside during the hottest part of the day, and for when they’re outside playing, sit with them holding a large umbrella. Baby sunglasses are not only cute, but work well to protect their eyes, and don’t forget to protect their sensitive skin with plenty of baby sunscreen.
What to look out for
Babies do not have fully developed sweat glands, and as such, are more at risk of developing a prickly heat rash. This is characterised by small, raised and itchy red spots that commonly affect areas of the skin that stay moist such as in the nappy area or under the chin. To combat prickly heat, try using zinc or barrier cream to protect their skin. Frequent nappy and clothing changes, as well as tepid baths can also help prevent prickly heat.
Heatstroke is a very dangerous condition that occurs when the core body temperature rises above 40 degrees. It can lead to parts of the body not working, and can cause organ failure, brain damage, and even death. Needless to say, it’s vital to be on the lookout for warning signs, including the following:
- Temperature of 40 degrees or higher
- Extreme sweating that suddenly stops (the body is unable to produce more sweat and is dehydrated)
- Increased thirst, but as baby gets weaker they may drink less
- Pale, clammy skin
- Rapid heartbeat
- Sunken fontanelle
- Fewer wet nappies and/or dark coloured urine
- Dry mouth and eyes
- Headache and muscle cramps
- Baby becomes floppy and/or sleepy
- Confusion, shortness of breath and vomiting
If your baby is showing any of these signs, they need urgent treatment. Call an ambulance or take your baby to the emergency room. In the meantime, keep your baby as cool as possible. Do this by removing excess clothing and placing them on a damp facecloth while fanning them. If your baby is conscious, try to give them cool water to drink
Otherwise, during the summer months, if you’re feeling unwell or uncomfortable, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Hunter Women’s Health.