When planning your family, you probably won’t have a lot of control over the time of year you will be pregnant. With pregnancies lasting about 40 weeks, you’ll be pregnant for the better part of a year. The summer poses a special set of pros and cons to pregnant women at all stages, but especially for those nearing the finish line of their due date.
From factors that cause mere discomfort to things that pose legitimate health hazards, the cons are usually heat-related. On the flip side, there are some seasonal advantages. As always, consult your doctor before making any big changes to your routine such as exercise or diet.
Pros of Being Pregnant in the Summer
- Fresh fruits and vegetables are in season and readily available
Nutrition is paramount when you’re pregnant. Based on the diet guidelines you and your doctor have discussed, fresh produce might be a great upside of summertime pregnancy.
Since it is bound to be warm out, if you’re looking for a way to cool down, using fresh fruit to make a smoothie could be a good idea. Just be sure to watch out for the sugar content. Avoid any sugar other than the natural sugar in the fruit; for instance, steer clear of flavored yogurt with added sweeteners or juices.
- Vitamin D
It goes without saying that too much sun can be harmful to your health, but this is especially true when you are pregnant. You might be more susceptible to sun sensitivity during pregnancy and safe sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 is always recommended. This doesn’t mean you should avoid the sun altogether. A few minutes of sun each day can help you produce more vitamin D and avoid vitamin D deficiency, a common during pregnancy. Vitamin D deficiency has possible links to gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and other conditions. Talk to your doctor about sun exposure before setting any kind of routine.
This one might seem trivial, but when you’re pregnant, sometimes feeling good in what you’re wearing is a little something that feels like everything. Summer is the season to wear flowy and breezy pieces. From maxi dresses and skirts to wide-leg palazzo pants and jumpsuits, anything goes in summer. And a lot of fashionable summer outfits that look put together in both social and professional settings feature elastic, which is never a bad thing for an expanding belly. Also, looser sandals or flip flops can be great for feet that might swell when constrained in other shoes. Just make sure you have proper foot support and always monitor your swelling and act if it becomes concerning.
Summer means pools, beaches, lakes and other bodies of water are open for use. In addition to being a good way to cool down, swimming can also soothe pregnancy-related aches and pains. Swimming and floating reduce weight on your joints and your sciatic nerve as well as potentially reducing swelling. When swimming while pregnant, just follow basic rules of water safety. For example, keep an eye on the tide and waves in the ocean.
Cons of Summer Pregnancies
This is simple and applies to everyone, not just pregnant women. But pregnant women should pay special attention because it can have an even more serious effect on them. When it’s hot, we sweat more and lose both water and electrolytes from our body. It is of paramount importance to drink plenty of water with the recommended amount being 2.3-2.5 liters a day. Do not wait until you feel thirsty as dehydration can increase your risk of preterm labor.
In early pregnancy, an abnormally high body temperature, or hyperthermia, can increase the risk of birth defects. Women can develop hyperthermia from a fever, sitting in a hot tub, or excessively hot temperatures outside so therefore when possible, you should avoid these risks. If the heat index gets into the 90s, stay inside in air-conditioned spaces as much as possible, particularly during the peak hours of the day.
- Heat Intolerance
The body temperature of a pregnant woman is already a bit higher than normal, so higher outside temperatures will make you feel even more uncomfortable. All pregnant women have a bit of heat intolerance and should pay extra attention to forecasts and heat advisories.
Swelling, or edema, can be a problem in pregnancy no matter the time of year. However, the American Pregnancy Association lists summertime heat as one of the leading factors that can affect swelling. To avoid further swelling you can also avoid caffeine, make sure you get enough water and potassium, avoid standing for long periods of time, and decrease sodium intake. Here is some additional information from the APA on how to manage swelling.
Tips to Help You Stay Healthy This Summer
There are steps you can take to minimize the unpleasant effects of summer and mitigate the risks. You can try the following:
- Hydrate well. Higher temps mean you need to take in more fluids. Water is great, but other drinks are good too. As long as you aren’t on a restrictive diet (for example, due to gestational diabetes), orange juice, milk, and sports drinks specifically for rehydration can be helpful to replace the electrolytes you sweat out. Coconut water is another popular way to rehydrate.
- Hydration is so important, but you can overhydrate. Too much water can lead to what’s called “water intoxication” and will dilute your electrolytes and cause cramps and fatigued muscles. To avoid this, rather than drink a lot at once, drink throughout the day, even before you think you need to. Because if you’re thirsty, you’re already at least a little dehydrated.
- It is recommended that you drink 2.3-2.5 liters of water per day.
- Wear breathable fabrics to minimize sweating and prevent heat rash. Heat rash typically develops under the breasts and abdomens of pregnant women.
- Carry a spray bottle filled with water to mist yourself.
- If you exercise outside, do it at the coolest times of the day and listen to your body. Never exercise to the point of overheating.
If you have questions or concerns about navigating your summer pregnancy, or pregnancy in any season, the physicians and staff at Triangle Physicians for Women are here to help you. Call us at (919) 678-6900 to schedule an appointment at one of our two locations in Cary and Holly Springs, North Carolina.