High temperatures can be harmful to anyone, but they’re particularly hazardous when you’re pregnant.
In this post we’ll explain the risks of heat exhaustion during pregnancy, along with some of the signs you should look out for. We’ll also explore some ways you can keep cool during the warmer months of your pregnancy.
The Risks of Heat Exhaustion During Pregnancy
Everyone should take precautions to avoid heat exhaustion in the summer. But this is an area where pregnant women face greater risks than most.
When you’re pregnant, your body temperature will be generally higher than average. So even on cool days, your body will work hard to regulate your temperature. On hot days, your body will work overtime to manage the heat.
So high temperatures carry a very real health risk for pregnant women. And as well as harming you, hot weather can also harm your baby. If you get dehydrated, all of your bodily functions will struggle. And among other things, there’ll be reduced blood flow to the placenta. In some extreme cases, dehydration can even increase the risks of an early labour.
What is Heat Exhaustion?
Heat exhaustion basically means that you’re too hot for too long. The NHS advises that heat exhaustion isn’t serious if you can cool down within 30 minutes. But if left untreated, heat exhaustion can develop into a heatstroke, which can be a medical emergency.
Heat exhaustion is a particular risk for pregnant women because, when your body’s hotter than average to begin with, it can be hard to spot the warning signs of heat exhaustion.
Signs and Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion
Here are some of the common symptoms of heat exhaustion:
- Dizziness and confusion.
- Nausea and a loss of appetite.
- Pale skin and excessive sweating.
- Heat cramps – especially in the legs, arms, and stomach.
- Rapid breathing or a shallow, rapid pulse.
- Excessive thirst.
Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke
Heatstroke is a more serious form of heat exhaustion. Symptoms can involve:
- Fast breathing.
- Unconsciousness or unresponsiveness.
- A fit or seizure.
If you suspect someone’s suffering from a heatstroke, call an ambulance and place the person in the recovery position while you wait for it to arrive.
Tips for Keeping Cool When You’re Pregnant
You can help prevent heat exhaustion and heatstroke by staying cool and hydrated. But pregnant women might finder it harder than others to stay cool on hot days.
Here are some things you can try to stay cool in the summer:
- Drink LOTS of water. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and keep a glass of water by your bed, so you can stay hydrated through the night. If you’re feeling particularly thirsty, an isotonic sport drink containing electrolytes can help you get hydrated fast.
- Cool yourself down. A cool bath can work miracles on a hot day. Just make sure the water temperature’s no higher than 32° You could also try running cold water over your wrists, or soaking a towel in cold water and rubbing it over your skin.
- Know your limits. Avoid over-exerting yourself. Wear light clothing and avoid any intensive activity on hot and humid days, especially during your first trimester.
- Shade yourself. Try and stay in the shade on really warm days, and wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and strong sunscreen to protect yourself from direct sunlight when you do leave the house. Take regular breaks, and aim to stay indoors during the hottest part of the day – usually between 10.00 am and 2.00 pm.
Help and Support Throughout Your Pregnancy and Beyond
You’ll find lots of guides on our Real Parenting blog to help you manage the many challenges that pregnancy can bring: