As winter kicks into full swing, you may be wishing you were pregnant in any other season. Boots may feel a size too small as your feet and calves expand. Coats don’t button across your belly – I recommend a poncho or cape that you can keep using after delivery!
While the cold can make pregnancy uncomfortable in some ways, patients often wonder whether it can negatively affect their pregnancy. Researchers have looked into this question, but their findings are not clear cut.
- A study from The Netherlands found that after adjusting for outlying data, there was no significant evidence for seasonal influences on depressive symptoms in pregnant patients. Women not being treated for psychiatric conditions reported the fewest depressive symptoms in September, while women being treated had fewer symptoms in December.
- This study from Australia suggests there may be a higher rate of gestational diabetes for pregnancies conceived in winter, while other studies suggest higher rates of hypertension for women who deliver in winter.
- And a study of more than 228,000 women from across the U.S. suggests a higher risk of delivering babies that weigh less than 5.5 pounds at term if the mother was exposed to hot or cold temperatures in the second and third trimesters. If she was exposed to cold during her entire pregnancy, she was more than twice as likely to have a small baby.
Results from studies like these are not consistent enough to suggest winter itself will harm your pregnancy.
Though you might need to skip a few of your favorite activities this year, winter is full of delightful activities you can enjoy while pregnant. Here are some tips to stay active and healthy during a winter pregnancy.
Winter activities to enjoy – and avoid – during pregnancy
Snow shoeing and cross-country skiing. These enjoyable outdoor activities are generally safe for pregnant women – and they are great exercise!
Walking or hiking. Just make sure you have proper footwear to reduce the chance of slipping and falling. Watch out for patches of ice as well as potholes and sidewalk cracks.
Indoor workouts. Yoga, lap swimming, and treadmill time can keep you fit and moving during pregnancy without exposure to the elements. It's a good idea to check with your Ob/Gyn before starting a new activity.
Downhill skiing, snowboarding, or ice skating. Even if you’re experienced on the slopes, your center of gravity is changing. It’s best to avoid activities with a high risk of falling – especially in the last trimester.
Shoveling. Call this a pregnancy perk. We generally recommend that pregnant women avoid heavy lifting, and shoveling snow also can exacerbate lower back pain, which is a common complaint in the last half of pregnancy.
Hot tubbing. Although the heat can seem attractive on a cold day, high water temperatures in a hot tub (exceeding 101 degrees) can be detrimental to your baby’s developing nervous system during the first trimester. Instead, take a nice, warm bath. Learn more.
More winter health tips for moms-to-be
Winter is synonymous with flu and cold season. Practice good hand-washing hygiene to avoid picking up viral illnesses from friends, family, and co-workers. And get your flu shot!
If you do come down with a cold and want to take an over-the-counter remedy, look for medications that are formulated for your specific symptoms. Avoid multi-symptom formulas, especially those containing acetaminophen.
Related reading: Which over-the-counter cold medications are safe during pregnancy
"Though you might need to skip a few of your favorite activities this year, winter is full of delightful activities you can enjoy while pregnant."
Alleviating pregnancy symptoms in winter
Winter can exacerbate some skin conditions associated with pregnancy. Dry winter air can wreak havoc on your skin, increasing the risk of pruritus, or itchy skin. Nosebleeds, which are more common during pregnancy because of the increase in blood volume, also can be more prevalent during the winter.
Increase the humidity of the air in your home. Using a humidifier or placing bowls of water around your home may help with both of these problems.
Lower leg swelling is common in the second half of pregnancy. To avoid or reduce leg swelling, cut down on how long you’re on your feet. Light compression stockings worn to the knees also can reduce swelling by keeping fluid from pooling in the legs. And you might appreciate the extra warmth!
Pregnancy can be uncomfortable during any season. But not everything about being pregnant in the winter is bad. The colder temperatures might even feel comfortable. If you’re skeptical, ask any woman who has been pregnant during a Texas summer!
Don’t let the cold get you down this winter. Instead, think of what’s in store for your family: Long walks with your new little one during lovely spring days.