Summer in North Texas is always a scorcher, with temperatures and heat indexes soaring into the 90s and 100s, week after week. It’s tough to beat that level of heat – especially if you’re pregnant.
During pregnancy, your metabolic rate – the number of calories you burn while your body is at rest – increases 20 percent in the third trimester. Carrying twins adds an extra 10 percent.
Your body can deploy a few natural defenses as the mercury rises. For example, your sweat glands secrete water on the skin’s surface, and when it evaporates, the temperature of nearby blood vessels decreases. Sweating helps circulate cooler blood through your body, decreasing your overall temperature.
But when you’re pregnant, sweating alone may not be enough to keep you cool and comfortable. Getting overheated can lead to headaches, dizziness, Braxton-Hicks contractions (false labor), and dehydration. In severe cases, maternal heat exhaustion can cause birth defects or problems with the placenta, according to the American Heart Association.
However, with a little planning and these cool-down tips, you can stay comfortable and safe during your summer pregnancy.
Your body needs a steady flow of healthy fluids, particularly during pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggests consuming eight to 12 eight-ounce servings of water daily during pregnancy.
But you don’t have to just chug plain water. Many fruits and vegetables contain a lot of water, including cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, and cucumber. Eat these foods by the slice, dice some into your water, or make a refreshing smoothie with ice to stay hydrated this summer.
Pro tip: Skip sugary popsicles and sports drinks during pregnancy. While they might taste good and cool you down, consuming all that extra sugar isn’t a healthy tradeoff.
Use ice packs…strategically
Many people are familiar with cooling neck scarves – the idea is to apply a cool pack or fabric to areas with large blood vessels, such as the underarms and neck, to help decrease your body temperature.
However, research suggests that applying cold packs to small blood vessel areas may be more effective. When patients exercised vigorously and applied cold packs to the soles of the feet, palms, and cheeks, their temperatures dropped quicker to a comfortable level.
Make sure your ice packs are at least 55 degrees. Any colder, and vasoconstriction (temporary narrowing of the blood vessels) may occur, which will hinder the cooling process. Don’t apply ice packs directly to your skin – put a layer of cloth between to prevent skin irritation. Alternatively, soaking your feet in cool water or going for a swim can also help you cool down quickly.
Stay indoors when you can
When possible, swap outdoor activities for indoor alternatives. For example, instead of hosting an outdoor barbecue bring the meal inside and eat in the air conditioning. When outdoors is the only option, bring your own shade. Wear a floppy hat and carry an umbrella to protect yourself from the sun’s rays.
For all day events, consider using a pop-up tent – instant shade, and you’ll get some protection from mosquitoes, too!
Related reading: Pregnant? Plan ahead to stay comfortable this summer
Choose your clothes (and lotions) wisely
If you’re going to be outdoors, choose a light-colored outfit that reflects the sun’s rays. Avoid tighter-fitting styles to allow some space for sweat to evaporate. Or choose a dri-fit, sweat-wicking fabric that keeps you dry and helps with heat management.
Also, be aware of the lotions and creams you use. Thicker, heavier oils and body butters may block your sweat glands and prevent healthy sweating. Choose lighter creams and apply them sparingly if you’re going to be out in heat.
Don’t forget your sunscreen! Look for a light, not too oily sunblock that protects against UVA and UVB rays. Aim for a waterproof formulation that is at least SPF 50. Apply sunscreen every two hours if you are going to be outdoors, and more frequently if you’re going swimming or sweating profusely.
Pro tip: If you’ll be doing a lot of walking, wear shorts that are long enough to keep your thighs from rubbing. Or rub on some talcum powder, deodorant, or Body Glide to prevent painful chafing.
What tips and tricks have you found to stay cool this summer? Tell us on social media using #SummerPregnancyYPM.