Many people dream of a tropical vacation in the summer, but if you’re pregnant, you may be dreaming of an arctic getaway to escape the heat.
Pregnancy is demanding regardless of the season but being pregnant in the summer brings unique challenges. Summer heatwaves are enough to make anyone uncomfortable. But they can have additional consequences for pregnant women, especially if you’re exercising or spending a lot of time outside during peak temperatures. Pregnant women with a core body temperature above 102.2°F have a higher risk of heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and dehydration. Overheating during the first trimester may lead to pregnancy complications like neural tube defects or miscarriage.
Check out these tips to keep you cool and healthy all summer long.
Drink more water when pregnant in the summer.
Hydration is crucial during pregnancy – it helps form the amniotic fluid around the baby, supports increased blood supply, aids digestion, and helps carry nutrients throughout the body. Dehydration can lead to a variety of complications for mother and baby, including neural tube defects, low amniotic fluid, and premature labor.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends 8-12 cups of water per day for pregnant women. During the heat of summer, you may need even more. Listen to your body and make sure you drink any time you’re thirsty.
Here are a few tips to stay hydrated in the heat:
- Keep water close. Carry a water bottle with you as a gentle reminder to hydrate throughout the day.
- Mix it up. Flavored water, fruit-infused water, sparkling water, 100% fruit or vegetable juice, and milk can all help you meet your fluid needs.
- Limit caffeine. Coffee and tea can also contribute to your overall fluid needs, but make sure you keep tabs on your caffeine intake. In general, limit your caffeinated beverages to 1-2 eight-ounce servings per day.
Eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The summer months bring a bounty of fresh, delicious fruits and vegetables that may not be as available throughout the rest of the year. Shopping in-season is also a budget-friendly way to increase variety in your diet – check out your local farmers market to invest in your health and your community at the same time.
Fruits and vegetables are a great way to ensure you are eating a healthy pregnancy diet. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (plant nutrients) that work together to keep you and baby feeling your best. Phytonutrients are responsible for the vibrant colors you see as you walk through the produce aisle and give helpful hints about the benefits of fruits and vegetables.
For example, blueberries get their royal hue from anthocyanins, phytonutrients with high antioxidant power that may help support heart and brain health. Beta-carotene gives carrots their bright orange appearance – as a precursor to vitamin A, this phytonutrient helps support your immune health, vision, and skin. The produce aisle isn’t such a mystery anymore – stroll through with confidence and fill your cart with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables to support a healthy pregnancy.
Fruits and vegetables can also help you meet your pregnancy fluid needs. Approximately 20% of your daily water intake comes from food. Choose fruits and vegetables with high water content like watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, cucumber, celery, and spinach – these options are at least 90% water.
You can even use your produce to help beat the summer heat. Transform your favorite fruits and vegetables into a homemade popsicle or pop some grapes in the freezer for a quick, cool treat.
Practice safe pregnancy exercise.
Exercise during pregnancy supports healthy sleep patterns, mental health, healthy weight gain, and may even help relieve constipation and back pain. The ACOG recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. But if you are pregnant in the summer, you may need to take some extra precautions to make sure you don’t overheat. Here are a few tips for safe pregnancy exercise.
- Avoid exercising in the heat and humidity. Try exercising in a temperature-controlled environment like your house or a gym, or exercise earlier in the day before temperatures rise.
- Let your body breathe. Wear loose-fitting clothing to help you stay cool.
- Drink more water. You’ll probably sweat a little more when you’re exercising, especially in warmer weather. Make sure you drink water before, during, and after exercise to stay hydrated.
If you were active before pregnancy, you can usually continue your usual workout program as long as your healthcare provider gives you the green light. If you’re ready to make exercise a regular part of your routine, here are some great ways to get started.
Walking can be one of the most beneficial and safe exercises you can do if you are pregnant in the summer. Not only is it easy on your joints, but you do not need any special equipment, and walking can fit easily into your schedule. Most women can continue to walk safely throughout all three trimesters of their pregnancy and beyond.
Get your steps in with these tips for walking during pregnancy.
- Wear supportive shoes.
- Walk on the treadmill or indoors at the grocery store, mall, or indoor track if it’s too hot or humid outside.
- Carry a water bottle with you to stay hydrated.
- Eat a small snack before walking, like an apple with peanut butter or yogurt topped with berries.
Swimming is one of the safest forms of exercise during pregnancy. Water workouts target multiple muscle groups, and the water helps support your weight to provide relief for your achy joints. Water immersion may also help relieve ankle and foot swelling and keeps you cool in the summer heat. But just because you’re in water doesn’t mean you don’t need to drink water – make sure you stay hydrated!
Take a break from the pavement and hop in the pool. You should still stay out of hot tubs and saunas and avoid higher-risk water sports like water skiing, scuba diving, and diving. But otherwise, swimming is a great, gentle way to stay active during pregnancy.
Yoga can be a great way to stay in shape if you are pregnant in the summer. Doing yoga while pregnant can help reduce stress, improve flexibility, promote focused breathing, and encourage gentle stretching. Yoga classes are also a great way to meet other moms in your community and grow your support system. You can pair yoga with low-impact cardiovascular exercise like walking or swimming for a great full-body pregnancy workout.
Make sure you practice yoga safely during your pregnancy. Choose a yoga class that is in a climate-controlled area and avoid hot yoga classes to prevent overheating. Be careful with certain yoga positions – poses that require you to lay flat on your back or that involve a lot of abdominal stretching are not recommended for pregnant women.
Practice food safety.
Good nutrition is vital for a healthy pregnancy, but so is food safety. You’re at a higher risk for foodborne infections during pregnancy because of changes to your immune system. Your baby’s immune system is still developing, so they have little power against foodborne illness on their own.
Summer often brings many picnics, barbecues, and cookouts. These outdoor events are a fun way to connect with loved ones, enjoy great food, and participate in summer activities, but they also give bacteria the opportunity to thrive. As your delicious spread of dishes sits outside in the heat, it gradually enters the danger zone (40-140°F), where bacteria multiplies rapidly. The US Food and Drug Administration has outlined the following tips to practice food safety at picnics and barbecues:
Keep cold food cold and hot food hot. Pack and transport food safely. Place cold food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs. Cold food should be stored at 40°F or below to prevent bacterial growth. Meat, poultry, and seafood may be packed while still frozen so that they stay colder longer.
Hot food should be kept above 140°F. It should be wrapped well and kept in an insulated container until serving.
Follow safe grilling procedures. Safe grilling tips include marinating food in the refrigerator (never on the kitchen counter or outdoors), grilling immediately after partial cooking (on the stove, in the oven, or in the microwave), and cooking food thoroughly to a safe internal temperature. Undercooked meat can be home to harmful parasites like Toxoplasma gondii.
Prevent cross-contamination when serving. Do not reuse a plate or utensils that touched raw meat, poultry, or seafood with your cooked or ready-to-eat food. This is particularly important to remember when serving cooked foods from the grill.
Pregnancy makes your skin more sensitive, so you may be more likely to experience heat rash, hives, or chloasma (dark, splotchy skin) if you’re out in the sun. While a mild sunburn usually isn’t too much to worry about for you or your baby, extreme cases of sunburn can bring sun blisters, nausea, vomiting, and chills. You don’t have to stay inside all summer, but make sure you take extra precautions when you’re outside to avoid sun damage and overheating.
Here are some important sun protection tips if you are pregnant in the summer:
- Apply and reapply. Put on sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside, and reapply every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.
- Choose your sunscreen wisely. Pick a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of 30 or higher. Consider a physical sunscreen that sits on top of the skin deflects the sun’s rays instead of absorbing them – look for active ingredients like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
- Wear sun protection clothing. Look for ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) clothing next time you go shopping. Most UPF clothing provides similar protection to sunscreen, but you don’t have to reapply every two hours. It won’t cover your whole body though, so add a hat and sunglasses to shade your face, and make sure you put sunscreen on any exposed areas.
Being pregnant in the summer is challenging. If you’re still dreaming of escaping to the arctic every time a heatwave strikes, you’re not alone. But before you book a flight to Antarctica, crank up your air conditioner and give these tips a shot. The heat of summer will soon be replaced by the warmth of your little one snuggled in your arms – it will all be worth it.