Hot and very bothered— that’s all 28-year-old Cindy Wilson of Kingston, Pa. thought she was after spending a day on the beach while in her second trimester. “I started to feel woozy,” Wilson says, and before she knew it, she was tumbling down the stairs of the pier. “I ended up being fine, but it was the scariest moment of my pregnancy,” she says. Paramedics told her to spend the rest of the day indoors; that August her daughter, Rosalie, was born safe and sound.
Related: The Summer Survival Guide
According to Karin Fox, M.D., a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women in Houston, it's common for expecting mamas, like Wilson, to overlook the telltale signals of heat exhaustion. “Many early signs mimic typical symptoms of pregnancy, especially fatigue and nausea,” Fox says. “It's tempting to chalk it up to ‘I’m just pregnant,’ instead of ‘it’s too hot for me.’”
That's concerning, because overexposure to sky-high temperatures during pregnancy can be downright dangerous for both mom and baby. Heat exhaustion occurs when your body becomes severely dehydrated, and it only takes an hour or less of activity in scorching weather to develop the first signs (look for: muscle cramps, nausea, dizziness, redness in the face or difficulty breathing). The condition can lead to an increased risk of miscarriage, early labor or birth defects, says Alane Park, M.D., OB-GYN at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles and co-author of The Mommy Docs’ Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy and Birth. Heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke—a more serious condition that can damage your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. But you don't need to foresake fun in the sun all summer— just be sure to play safely. Here’s how.
Hit the (water) bottle
You need to down plenty of H2O—at least 3 to 4 liters a day, Fox says. Water helps to sustain healthy levels of amniotic fluid and prevent your body’s core temperature from creeping too high. Plopping yourself in the shade is not enough; if you're not drinking water, your body runs the risk of becoming dehydrated.
Do sweat it
Rivulets of perspiration collecting in unfathomable places sure doesn't sound pretty, but sweating is essential to keeping your body temp down. If you’re hot but not shvitzing, take it as your cue to hightail it inside for an icy drink in front of the fan, Fox says. If sweat is accompanied by cramps or nausea, also head indoors. Take note: If your body temperature doesn’t drop and you continue to feel nauseated or confused after taking a breather inside, seek medical attention.
Be clothes minded
If you'll be out for awhile, wear a wide-brimmed hat in a breathable material like straw or light-colored cotton. And since sweat evaporates too quickly from exposed skin, depleting your precious water supply, invest in some cute, fairtoned tunics, too.
Eating well, exercising and taking prenatal vitamins with folic acid contribute to your overall wellness, which helps you better endure the effects of heat distress when expecting, Park says. Keep up healthy habits and you’ll have less to stress about when temperatures soar. Hot stuff!
Related: Survive Those Afternoons Outside!