Surviving a summer pregnancy

When the temperature cranks up, expectant mums can find it hard to cope. Penny Voigt has some tips to help you handle the heat.

Are you feeling like one hot mama? It’s not surprising. Not only is your metabolic furnace firing up, but so is your baby’s. Pregnancy can make summer seem hotter than ever, and pregnant mamas are prone to overheating. With around 40% more blood pumping through your body, feeding the needs of your unborn baby, it’s a bit like having an onboard central heating system. If you’re struggling with a hotter-than-usual body, try some of these tried-and-true tips to help you cope with your summer pregnancy.

Put your feet up

swollen legs and feet are common, particularly towards the end of your pregnancy, and are often made worse during hotter weather. Minimise your misery by elevating your legs and feet whenever you’re sitting down, or pop your feet into a tub of cool water, and be sure to wear comfortable shoes to support your feet when standing or walking.

Ditch the salt

While sodium is an important chemical element that works to regulate the temperature and pH levels in your body, too much salt can cause you to retain water, leaving you feeling puffy and swollen. Called oedema, fluid retention causes swelling in your hands, feet, and ankles, and only gets worse as summer heat rises. Don’t overdo it on your salt intake – a teaspoon a day is as much as you need. Check the salt content in processed and packaged foods, and drink plenty of fluids to flush out excess water and keep cool.

Escape the sun

Avoid the midday heat; when the sun’s high, head for the indoors and crank up the fan or air conditioning. Get things done in the morning or late afternoon, and remember to slow down when it’s especially hot. An early morning stroll not only provides great cardio benefits, it’s the perfect time for some fresh air.

Not so swell

As with legs and feet, fingers tend to swell up too during pregnancy. If the swelling seems sudden (you’ve gone from slender to sausage fingers overnight), get yourself checked out by your GP or LMC, as this could be a sign of pre-eclampsia. Try eating foods like bananas that are high in potassium, use a cold compress on your hands, and drink plenty of water. It may pay to take your rings off before your fingers start swelling; that way, you’ll avoid having to cut your rings off.

Top up

Pregnant mams need to drink more liquids, especially on hotter days. Not enough water can make your pregnancy aches worse, cause swelling, and even trigger contractions. Be sure to sip water throughout the day; at least six to eight glasses. If the thought of another glass of water is too awful to bear, flavour it up by adding a slice of lemon or lime, a sprig of mint, and ice cubes. Try caffeine-free herbal iced tea or mix a “mocktail” of crushed pineapple, coconut milk, yoghurt and banana, and blend until smooth (great for replacing electrolytes on scorching days). Water-rich fruits and vegetables like melons and cucumber will also help keep you hydrated.

Spray off

Feel like you’re melting? Keep cool and fresh with a water-filled spritz bottle. Spray a cooling mist on your face and the back of your neck for an instant refresher; it helps keep your skin hydrated too. Pop a cool washcloth on the back of your neck or forehead, stick your feet up, and chill out. Ever tried freezing your scarves? Wrap one of those around your neck to cool off quickly.

Cool and classy

What’s the best thing about a summer pregnancy? Cool, comfortable maternity clothes. For maximum comfort, choose loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing, preferably in cotton; cotton helps sweat evaporate so you don’t suffer rashes and chafing. Think soft cotton singlets, loose-fitting T-shirts, flowing maternity dresses in natural fabrics and neutral colours, and linen maternity pants with a stretchy drawstring waistband. And don’t forget underwear – full cotton panties and a maternity bra go a long way towards helping you feel cool and comfortable.

Pregnancy massage

If you’re feeling the heat, a pregnancy massage may be just the thing to cool you down. Based on the techniques of Swedish massage, a pregnancy massage helps reduce muscle tension, and improve blood flow and lymphatic drainage, which can reduce swelling and water retention. It’s also an ideal opportunity to completely relax, and even catch up on some sleep.

Dunk your bump

Swimming is great way to cool off, and it’s also a really good low-impact for of exercise. If you’re battling with high-blood pressure, being in shoulder deep water actually helps increase blood circulation and relieve swelling, which helps lower your blood pressure. You body’s natural buoyancy in water takes the strain off pregnancy back aches, bringing immediate relief to uncomfortable mamas

Forget flip-flops

Wearing comfortable shoes is an absolute must. Pregnancy hormones cause your ligaments and tendons (including those in your feet) to stretch, often causing swelling and pain. Steer clear of flip-flops; to support the extra weight your feet are carrying, choose sandals and shoes with arch support. You may even find your puffed-up feet need a half-size larger than normal.

Siesta time

It doesn’t really matter what stage you’re at, sleep during pregnancy is something of a challenge. From morning sickness to hourly toilet trips, leg cramps to scary dreams, getting some shut-eye can seem near impossible. To recharge and refresh yourself, try napping during the hottest time of the day. Close curtains and blinds, turn the fan on, and relax. You don’t have to sleep, but allow yourself time to rest and re-energise. A 30- to 60-minute nap during the day does wonders, leaving you feeling more alert and invigorated.

 Retail therapy

Sometimes you just have to go shopping! Places like the mall and movie theatres bring cooling relief when it’s scorching outside. Find reasons to spend time in air-conditioned spaces; catch up on a movie or get that baby shopping done while cooling off for a few hours.

Hit the road

If your summer plans include time away, break up road journeys with stops along the way to stretch your legs and walk around. Simple stretches every hour or so will help minimise swelling, heartburn, and leg cramps. Bring snacks, plenty of fluids, and a pillow to place in the small of your back when you sit down. To help blood circulation on longer journeys, try wearing compression stockings. And remember to give yourself time to relax and recharge your batteries while on your summer holiday.

Slip, slop, slap

Sun worshippers, beware: Your pregnant body is prone to sunburn. Take care when you’re out in the sun. Opt for a higher SPF sun cream, and cover up your head and face with a wide-brimmed hat. Hormonal changes in your body can cause skin to discolour and darken, especially on your face, and is made worse by exposure to the sun. If you do have to go out in the sun, avoid midday heat, and be sure to top up your fluid intake, too.

Summer-proof your home and office

Whether you’re at home or still working, in your countdown to baby’s arrival, summer-proofing your home or office can make summer more bearable. Keep curtains or blinds drawn in rooms that get direct sunlight. Open windows in the evening to let the breeze in, and stock up on heat-beating essentials like fans, ice-cold water, and cotton clothing. Reduce the heat in your home and office (and save energy) by turning off and unplugging appliances that are not in use. Struggling to sleep because of the heat? Consider moving to a cooler room, one that faces away from the sun during the day, and swap poly-cotton sheets for 100% cotton, which breathes easier and stays cooler.

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BUMP & baby is New Zealand’s only magazine for pregnancy and early babyhood. Our team of mums and mums-to-be understand what it’s like to be pregnant in this connected age, and that’s why BUMP & Baby online is geared toward what pregnant women and new mums really want to know.

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