Hot, sunny days may be a sought-after panacea for most but, when you are pregnant, the hot weather can quickly become something you dread.
An increased blood volume during pregnancy means that your blood vessels come closer to the surface, making you and your skin feel warmer. It also means that your whole body, including organs such as the kidneys and the heart, work harder than usual. If we combine this with the extra pregnancy weight you now have to carry and the surplus of pregnancy-related hormones that lead you to sweat more, you can easily see how it all contributes to you feeling much warmer and uncomfortable than usual during the summer months.
Keeping the irritation of becoming over-heated and uncomfortable during summer at bay is an important part of staying physically and mentally healthy during pregnancy. Here are our top tips to help keep you feeling cool:
- Swap synthetics for natural fibres such as cotton, bamboo or silk and favour light, loose fitting clothing. Synthetic materials retain moisture and don’t allow your skin to breathe properly, increasing irritation and encouraging environments in which thrush can thrive.
- Light coloured clothing will reflect heat and help you to keep cool. You can save your darker coloured outfits for cooler days or evenings.
- You can help keep your home cool by only opening the windows in the evening or early morning and you can prevent sunny rooms from getting too hot by only drawing your curtains enough to let some light in.
- Although water is essential and should be drank throughout the day, optimal hydration requires other elements that are found in foods. You can ensure an adequate intake of these by eating seasonal summer fruits and vegetables such as pineapple, mango, grapes, melon, pears, berries, cucumber, courgette, asparagus and dark leafy greens. Juices, smoothies and salads are some easy ways to include these into your daily diet.
- Caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee and colas may have a mildly diuretic effect, disrupting your fluid balance. Therefore, it’s best to avoid these or look for their decaffeinated version. Dehydration impacts your and your baby’s health, so it is important to keep your drinking bottle topped up. You could try using frozen chopped fruits to cool and flavour your water.
- Replacing heavy meals for lighter foods will help prevent big rises to your body temperature whilst foods with a low glycaemic index (GI) will keep your blood sugars steady. Favour cooling spices such as fennel, mint or coriander and try to minimize heat-inducing foods such as radishes, ginger and hot peppers.
- Dry, itchy skin can worsen in hot weather. As well as choosing natural fabrics, keeping your skin well moisturised will hopefully provide you with some soothing, cooling relief.
- Staying in the shade will reduce your risk of overheating as well as help prevent the appearance of darker patches of pigmentation that pregnancy hormones can leave on your skin, often on your face. Because of this and the fact that many skins become more sensitive to the sun during pregnancy, a high protection sunscreen is recommended.
- An effective way to cool down is to aim for your pulse points. You can place ice cubes wrapped in a towel or cool, wet flannels over the back of your neck and forehead, run your wrists under a cold tap and/or place your feet ankle-deep into a basin of cool water. If you are out and about, invest in a handheld fan and/or a cooling spray for your face and body.
- Swelling of feet and ankles can be helped by soaking them in cold water, elevating your feet above the level of your heart, stimulating drainage by repeatedly pointing your toes to and away from you (dorsiflexion exercises) and by gentle massage.
Key points to remember in hot weather when you’re pregnant
- Stay well hydrated. Your body has increased fluid requirements during pregnancy. Warm weather will increase your body’s needs even further, so be prepared and don’t leave home without your refillable water bottle.
- Even if you don’t feel hungry because of the heat, try to eat small meals regularly as this will prevent your blood glucose levels from dropping and help with any light headedness or dizziness.
- Your skin is more prone to pigmentation changes that can become patchy, so cover up, use sunscreen and make use of shaded areas when you’re out and about.
- Your skin can be itchier during pregnancy causing dry, flaky skin, the hot weather may exacerbate this. Have a daily moisturising routine to help keep skin irritations at bay.
Hot weather during summer may make being pregnant an irritating and uncomfortable experience. Therefore, it is important to understand the reasons why warmer weather can make you hotter and more bothered in pregnancy and the strategies you can employ to help you keep your cool.