Summer of Sisterhood: Jeanne Faulkner's 'Get Real Summer Survival Tips for Pregnant Women'
Written by Jeanne Faulkner
If you’re pregnant in the summertime, you’re hotter than hot. In fact, you’re scorching and probably not in a good way. Add humidity, bugs and travel and suddenly, the living’s not so easy. Some women deal with summer discomforts by sealing themselves inside climate controlled houses and offices, but those of us who live in the real world have an arsenal of real life survival skills.
Surviving The Heat
Pregnant women are absolutely hotter than everybody else. They’re carrying more weight than usual, they have a little somebody inside generating his or her own body heat plus their hormones create power surges similar to hot flashes. When it’s super hot, that’s not just a recipe for misery; it can be dangerous.
The body uses circulating body fluids to cool off. Even if a pregnant woman is diligent about drinking fluids, it might not be enough to offset extreme temperatures and she may become dehydrated. Her body responds to overheating and prevents dehydration in a few predictable and unglamorous ways:
- Sweating allows heat to evaporate off her skin. Getting sweaty is a good thing, even if it is inelegant.
- Swelling, usually in the hands and feet, allows the body to store fluids for later. It’s the body’s prudent way of being prepared, in case you don’t have access to water. A little swelling is usually normal. A lot of swelling or swelling that comes on suddenly is a warning sign that something’s wrong.
- Slowing down or fatigue (or in extreme cases fainting) reduces physical activity so the body doesn’t work too hard and create more heat. It’s a coping technique, not laziness.
When a pregnant woman becomes too dehydrated her muscles may cramp and the hormones in her bloodstream might become concentrated, which can cause preterm uterine contractions and in some cases, preterm labor.
Bottom line, the solution for dangerous hotness is hydration and lots of it. That means water, tea, diluted juices, ice chips…not soda, caffeinated or sugary drinks.
Most pregnant women won’t heat up into the danger zone, but might get super uncomfortable. Here are our best tips for dealing with the worst the summer heat has to offer:
Strip Down – Wear as little as necessary to stay street-legal. The idea is to stay easy, breezy and let air circulate on your skin. If you’re still wearing foundation garments, take them off right now.
Stay dry – When it’s not the heat, but the humidity that’s making you sweaty, swampy, sticky and irritable, head to the nursery and swipe the baby wipes and cornstarch-based baby powder. Wipe down all your sweaty spots and sprinkle the powder in your shoes, bra, underwear, behind your knees and in your armpits. Most cosmetics and baby products don’t contain talc anymore (linked to cancer), but just to be sure, look for a label that says “talc-free” or cornstarch based.
Get wet – Shower, swim, spritz, dunk…do whatever you can to get cool water on your skin. Just like sweat, water draws heat away from the body. Keep your hair wet and pull it into a bun to prolong your swim’s cool-factor a few hours.
Get through the night – You’re going to need a bucket list of coping techniques to survive hot summer nights with a huge belly and breasts.
- Do your own research on the naked versus PJ’s debate. For some women wearing nothing is the only way to go. Others feel hotter when they’re skin-on-skin and need a little lightweight cotton to absorb sweat.
- Shower before you go to bed, stay damp and sleep with wet hair.
- Keep the air conditioner on or aim portable fans to hit you full force. (You get a pass from the environmental-police when you’re pregnant)
- Drape wet bath towels and washcloths across your legs, belly and neck to pull heat off your body and amplify your fans’ cooling effect. When they get too warm, twirl your towels like a lariat to cool them off.
- Wrap a couple packages of frozen peas in dishtowels. Place one on your feet and another on your neck. In the morning, toss them back in the freezer and re-use them on the next hot night, but do yourself a favor and write Hot Peas on them with a Sharpie so you don’t serve them for lunch.
Dealing with Bugs
Tis the season for critters of all kinds but be careful how you deal with them.
- Don’t go crazy with the pesticides. Products that kill bugs in your house and yard are loaded with poisons you don’t want your baby exposed to. There are lots of natural products on the market and a few in your pantry (like cayenne pepper, peppermint oil and cinnamon) that keep some pests at bay. If you must fumigate, minimize your exposure. Have someone do it when you’re not home and ventilate like a hurricane.
- Keep the bugs off your body. Fleas, mosquitos, tics and other bugs can host serious diseases like plague, malaria and Lyme disease, not to mention cause insufferable itching and allergic reactions. Your best defense is to wear long sleeves, pants, socks and shoes, but we understand…you’re hot and spontaneous and want to wear your next-to-nothings.
Most medical experts agree pest repellants you spray on your skin are safe during pregnancy. The ones that work best contain DEET – a chemical bugs hate. The Environmental Protection Agency says as long as it’s used as intended for short-term, not long-term use, DEET doesn’t harm human health.
If you’re uncomfortable with chemicals, there are a few kinder, gentler ways of keeping the bugs off. Citronella sold in oils, sprays and candles is supposed to offend mosquitoes, but isn’t crazy-effective. Instead, try spritzing Listerine on your skin and around your seating area or slather on Avon’s SkinSoSoft (original scent) body lotion. Bugs hate this stuff.
It can be hard to travel down the block when you’re pregnant. If you’re queasy, heavy, achy or puffy (or any of the other seven dwarves) traveling when pregnant can be an Olympic event. Whether you’re traveling by train, plane or automobile, follow these guidelines:
- Get up, stretch and walk every hour. Stop the car, get out and move around. The weight of your uterus can compress blood vessels and reduce circulation to you and your baby.
- Pee frequently.
- Drink lots of water.
- Sleep, nap, doze and take it easy. Your body is busy building a baby. Don’t stress it out by doing too much.
- Ask your healthcare provider to recommend a doctor or midwife and hospital with a maternity ward near your destination. You probably won’t need them, but if you do, you don’t want to scramble to find them.
- Don’t get too hungry. Go ahead and enjoy “vacation foods,” but don’t let your healthy diet go to hell.
- Don’t get constipated (among the most common travel complaints). Constipation leads to hemorrhoids, stomach cramps and bloating. If water, fruits and veggies don’t do the trick, use a stool softener like Docusate sodium.
Send us your bucket list of summer survival tips. We’ll post them here to keep our sisters from getting swampy, sticky, sweaty and cranky and help them enjoy their summer of baby love.
About Jeanne Faulkner:
Jeanne is a writer, health journalist, blogger and registered nurse. She’s FitPregnancy.com’s “Ask The Labor Nurse” blogger and contributes regularly to Fit Pregnancy magazine. She also writes about health, wellness, global poverty, fitness, women’s lifestyle issues and parenting for many websites and magazines. Her big passion is global women’s health so she’s active with CARE, the humanitarian organization, as their state representative for Oregon. Jeanne lives in Portland, OR with her family and dogs in a big old house. Her website is: www.jeannefaulkner.com.
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