Ideas to Have a Safe Pregnancy
During the Summer Months -Hello, Mr. Sun!
My friend and colleague Tina Lebedies suggested this topic. As it turns out, there is a lot to write about when it comes to coping with the heat while you are pregnant! So this is how I am going to organize this topic: I am going to split in two parts. Today I am going to share why it is so important that you take extra care – be a Drama Queen when it comes to taking care of yourself if you are pregnant in the summer. Then I am going to list the concerns with their symptoms and suggestions to ease the symptoms.
Check back on Friday for Part 2 of this post. I am going to share some ideas and give you some tips to stay cool and live smart through the summer months.
We are lucky in Arizona – to stay cool we head indoors or get wet and then let our skin air dry. In humid climates, the added moisture makes it harder to stay cool – I am glad we live in a dry heat! I had three summer pregnancies that lasted through July, and two went through September!! We are not good planners in that department - LOL. At least, now I am well-versed in finding to cool off and stay cool – for that I will count my blessings. It comes in handy now that I am toting four Sweet Peas through the hot summer months :)
The first thing I am going to point out as a Bradley Method® instructor is that keeping track of your diet and fluid intake is of utmost importance, even more so in the summer. Eat between 80 – 100 grams of protein per day, and include salt in that equation to keep a balanced diet. I cringe when I read pregnancy articles that suggest a pregnant woman should reduce her salt intake if she is swelling.
Cutting back on salt can cause a decrease in the amount of blood circulating through your body and placenta (a condition called “hypovolemia”), thus reducing the supply of nutrients passing to your baby. How will you know if you are not getting enough salt? Too little salt in the diet leads to leg cramps and fatigue, so if you are experiencing these symptoms exclusive of the heat factors I am going to write about below, try salting your food to taste and see if those symptoms are minimized or go away altogether.
BE A DRAMA QUEEN
I assure you that you are not the only pregnant person who is feeling just a tad hotter than usual this summer. It doesn’t matter if you are still in your first trimester – you will be a little hotter even though your body doesn’t show your pregnancy yet. In some ways it’s even more important that you protect yourself because it is a time of crucial development where overheating can have devastating effects on the baby. If you have already been making your coach take care of you and he or she thinks you are being over-dramatic, then have them read this post, or any of the “official” articles I reference at the end of the post.
Why You Feel Hotter
There are several reasons why your core body temperature is elevated:
1. Your body is undergoing hormonal fluctuations.
2. You are carrying the extra weight of your baby, and if you are like me, you have extra padding your body insists on adding on, no matter how well you eat and how often you exercise.
3. Your body is working to cool your body, plus the body of your growing baby.
4. Your increased metabolism also increases your body temperature, and it works harder as your baby demands more from your body.
Why You Need To Insulate Baby
Your baby’s body temperature is 1°C (almost 2°F) warmer than your body temperature, and they cannot sweat to cool themselves down. The only thing cooling your baby is your body’s knowledge of how to grow your baby. If your body starts to heat up and it can no longer work to keep your baby’s temperature down, there are many things that could happen.
Whatever the trimester, your baby’s heart rate could start to go up. In regards to the first trimester specifically, studies have shown that babies are especially susceptible to heat stress in the first trimester of pregnancy when the major body systems are developing. An elevation in the pregnant mothers body temperature above a safe range has been associated with birth defects such as heart problems, abdominal wall defects, nervous system malformation and neural tube defects. Exposure to extreme heat could also increase the risk factor for experiencing a miscarriage or pre-term labor.
CONCERNS DURING PREGNANCY
Dehydration – a condition in which your body does not have the fluid it needs to maintain healthy body function. When you are living for two, staying hydrated is even more important. If you are dehydrated, it could cause the baby’s heart to beat too quickly. It can also increase your risk of pre-term labor. The decrease in blood volume causes an increase in the concentration of oxytocin. Oxytocin the hormone that causes contractions to begin and intensify, and an excess of oxytocin is not a good thing unless you are supposed to be in labor.
One of the first signs that you are dehydrated is feeling thirsty. If you are feeling like you really could use a drink, then you are already dehydrated – find a non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverage ASAP and drink it!
Other signs of dehydration are dry or chapped lips, dry skin, fatigue, constipation or decreased movement from your baby. If you are experiencing these symptoms, get yourself to a place with cooler temperature, have a seat and drink some water or fruit juice. If your symptoms don’t improve, or your baby doesn’t start increasing their movements within the next hour, call your care provider and ask for further instructions and/or head to a hospital emergency room.
Fluid Retention and Dehydration
A pregnant woman carries an average of 15 pounds of extra fluid to support the physiological changes during pregnancy. This is considered to be a normal amount of fluid increase, sometimes called physiological edema. A little more than half of that fluid is used to replace the amniotic fluid (it is replaced every hour by using about a cup of water that is stored in the body), it helps to hydrate and nurture the cells of the baby and the placenta. The rest of it is used in the bloodstream to carry more oxygen and nutrients to the mom and the baby, and to remove waste products from the mom and the baby.
Interestingly, fluid retention, as opposed to the fluid increase I described above, may contribute to dehydration. If you are retaining fluids, the fluid is absent within the cells where it is needed. Instead, the fluid is retained in the space around the cells, causing the pregnant mom to look puffy and swollen.
Whether it’s normal physiological edema or fluid retention, you may notice that your feet and ankles are uncomfortably swollen. This happens since your legs are lower than the level of your heart. It’s harder for blood to work against gravity even when you are not pregnant, so add pregnancy on top of that and you start to swell. Add in the fact that your growing uterus puts pressure on the veins traveling up towards the heart, and voila, you have swollen feet and ankles.
You can relieve this swelling by making sure you are drinking enough water. Believe it or not, drinking water can reduce your swelling! While it doesn't seem like it makes sense to get rid of fluids by taking in more, the extra fluids will help flush out your system of waste products which may have increased the swelling in the first place.
On the flip side, I should also tell you that it’s possible to get too much water, also known as water intoxication. In this case, the extreme saturation of water in your body dilutes the necessary electrolytes too much. This can cause fatigued muscles, muscle cramps and even unconsciousness in the extreme cases.
Use good judgment when it comes to your fluid intake – at least 8 – 10 glasses of water a day if you are moderately active, and more if you are more active. As I mentioned above, if you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Have that drink of water even if it means it’s the 12th or 13th drink you have had that day. If your thirst persists, it may be time to call your care provider.
Here are some other things to do to decrease swelling and its discomforts: take rings off swollen fingers, use flat and/or open toed shoes, and avoid prolonged sitting or standing positions that allow your blood to pool. If your activity or job requires you to stay in a standing position for an extended period of time, you can get up and take a five-minute walk or march in place to encourage circulation. If you must sit, do it in such a way that shortens the distance between your heart and your feet, such as propping your feet up on a bench or footstool. The best sitting position for circulation is tailor sitting, so sit on the floor when possible, or armless chair if you are at a desk or table. No matter what the activity, you can also try a maternity belt to lift your uterus up and allow for better circulation.
My favorite way to reduce pregnancy swelling is resting in a side-lying position for 20 – 30 minutes at a time, at least twice a day. When you lay down, elevate your feet. You can do this by putting a rolled up blanket or towel underneath your mattress, or propping your feet up on pillows. It is easier to find time for this if you are expecting your first child – use the time to meditate about the upcoming birth and fill your mind with positive thoughts and affirmations.
Even if you are mom of other children, find the time to lie down twice a day and invite them to join you. You can use this time to tell older siblings their birth stories, look at pictures of their birth and talk about who came to visit them when they were born. This can serve to open the lines of communication and talk about their feelings about the new baby, whatever they may be. Finding time to talk to your children is something you will always treasure.
Hyperthermia, or over-heating, is one of the most dangerous conditions of pregnancy. It can start with something as seemingly benign as heat cramps; proceed to heat exhaustion, and quickly progress to the life-threatening condition of heat stroke. May I remind you again? It’s okay to be a Drama Queen when it comes to staying cool and comfortable during the summer months.
These are the warning signs of hyperthermia. As with any sign that your pregnancy is moving outside of normal, it is important to get rest and replenish your fluids. It is imperative that you call your care provider if you experience any of these symptoms and it’s not close to your due date, and you know you been exposed to intense sun and/or heat. If these symptoms persist after rest and fluid intake, ask yourself if you should be heading to the nearest hospital:
1. More than five contractions or cramps per hour
2. Bright red vaginal bleeding
3. Acute or continuous vomiting
4. Low, dull backache
5. Intense pelvic pressure
6. Swelling or puffiness of the face or hands – this could be a sign of preeclampsia
Heat cramps are the earliest warning sign of hyperthermia. This typically follows after heavy perspiration. The loss of electrolytes leads to muscle spasms. If and when you experience any cramping after a lot of perspiration, listen to your body. Take steps to reduce your body temperature immediately and replenish the electrolytes in your body. If you can recognize and ward off a dangerous rise in body temperature at the beginning, you may be able avoid the other dangers and complications of hyperthermia.
Heat exhaustion is caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures, a restricted fluid intake or the failure of the body’s mechanism to regulate your temperature. Signs that you might be experiencing heat exhaustion are:
- Skin that may feel cool and moist and appear pale
- Headache, nausea, weakness, dizziness, faintness, light-headedness, fatigue, exhaustion, mental confusion, anxiety, muscle cramps
- Rapid, weak pulse
- Breathing may be fast and shallow or it may feel like you have shortness of breath
- Blood pressure may drop
I will repeat, the best thing to do if you experience any of these symptoms or warning signs is to take steps to reduce your body temperature immediately and replenish the electrolytes in your body. These are more serious signs, so please don’t hesitate to enlist the help of strangers to assist you to a cooler place and to bring you water or other fluids, such as juice or an electrolyte drink.
Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. When you experience any of these symptoms due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures, a restricted fluid intake or the failure of the body’s mechanism to regulate your temperature, the impact on the body is much greater. As a Bradley Method® instructor we cannot give you medical advice, what we can and always will tell you to do in these situations is to call your care provider and get yourself to the nearest hospital to ensure that both mother and baby are attended to as soon as possible.
Signs of heat stroke:
- Body temperature reaches 104°F (40°C) or hotter
- Mental confusion
- Combative and bizarre behavior
- Strong and rapid pulse (160-180 bpm)
- Skin will become dry and flushed
- Sweat very little
- Quickly lose consciousness and have convulsions
The two conditions I described today, dehydration and hyperthermia, can become medical complications that can compromise both you and your baby if you don't take simple steps to prevent them. It bears repeating that staying hydrated, getting rest, and staying out of the heat and direct sunlight as much as possible are some of the simple yet effective steps you can take to stay safe and cool through the summer months.
Check back on Friday for a detailed list of ideas that you can use ranging from clothing to fluids and foods to sun safety. Many of the ways to stay cool take minimal effort and do not require you to spend a lot of money. Frugal is good in these interesting times!
The material included on this site is for informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation. This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.