When you're pregnant, staying cool in the summer isn't just a matter of comfort - it's a matter of health. Heat stroke can affect anyone, and it's especially dangerous in pregnant women. If symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, a bad headache, fever and confusion refuse to subside, seek medical attention immediately.
In the mean time, though, you can minimize the effects of the sun by doing your best to avoid it. If you are outside, try not to get sunburned. "You have more surface area, so you really have to apply more [sun]block," says O'Brien. She suggests SPF 30 or higher; now is not the time to worry about getting a deep, dark tan.
Sun exposure can also increase the look of melasma, or the "mask of pregnancy". "Estrogen combined with the sun brings out more pigmentation," says O'Brien. While many women experience the dark spots of melasma throughout their pregnancy, they can be especially pronounced in the summer time. Try wearing a wide brimmed hat to shield your face and apply sunscreen liberally.
Many women also experience heat rash during the summer months. More commonly known as prickly heat, this rash can develop anywhere on your body that experiences friction, such as your arms, neck or between your breasts. To minimize your risk, O'Brien suggests wearing breathable fabrics and keeping your skin as dry as possible. If the rash gets severe, talk with your doctor or dermatologist; they may be able to prescribe a hydrocortisone cream to minimize the discomfort.
Most importantly, drink lots of fluids! Many heat related ailments are tied to dehydration, so drink plenty of water. Carbonated beverages are okay, too, but avoid sugary things like soda. Try seltzer water instead. Also, avoid caffeine. Caffeine actually acts as a diuretic which can lead to dehydration.
However, many women often experience fluid retention in the summer months as well. This is usually characterized by bloating and swollen ankles or calf muscles. "Your body isn't as efficient at moving those fluids around," says O'Brien. Try elevating your legs or submerging yourself in a pool or cool bath to help ease pressure. If your shoes seem tight, try buying a pair of two in a slightly larger size to accommodate your swollen feet. Think of it as an excuse to go shoe shopping!
If swelling becomes a major problem, though, be sure to meet with your doctor. While some swelling is normal, excessive swelling can indicate preeclampsia, a blood pressure condition found in pregnant women. Only your doctor can diagnose it, though, so if you have any concerns, but sure to schedule an appointment.
For more information on staying cool, as well as additional parenting advice, click here to visit www.AmericanBaby.com.
By Erin Petrun