Pregnancy does a lot of strange things to your body. Your moods swing, your figure enlarges, and your feet swell. OK – EVERYTHING swells – including your blood vessels. This phenomenon is called vasodilatation, and it’s your body’s way of keeping cool.
Pregnancy symptoms can make you uncomfortable any time of the year. But during the dog days of summer, especially in Texas, they can be downright unbearable.
So, how do you keep your cool when you have things to do but the thermometer reads 100-plus degrees? You have to plan ahead to stay cool, outsmart the elements, and have fun this summer.
Easy ways to keep cool
You don’t have to leave your freezer door open all summer to get relief from the heat. Here are five ways you can stay cool this summer when the temperature starts to rise:
- Try a cooling neck wrap. These portable accessories can help you stay cool, and they look just like regular neckties or scarves. Just get a wrap wet, freeze it, and drape it around your neck. Putting something cool around your neck is a good idea because there’s a lot of blood flow there, which can cool you down quickly.
- Use a misting fan. If you like to sit outside, try a miniature misting fan. It’s a hand-held fan that also provides a gentle mist of water. These work very nicely when you’re outside at a picnic or a child’s sporting event. They help you cool down by sheer evaporation. Larger misting fans are available for patios and backyards, too.
- Go swimming. A cold dip always feels good on a hot summer day. Swimming is also good exercise, and the buoyancy of being in the water can make you more comfortable by taking the weight off your joints and back.
- Wear loose clothing. When it’s hot, choose loose sundresses rather than tight, binding tops that show off your baby bump. I know tighter maternity clothes are cute and stylish, but loose clothing will keep you cooler and help prevent heat rash under your breasts.
- Budget for a higher electric bill. Brace yourself for sticker shock. Your electric bill is likely to increase if you’re pregnant over the summer, especially in your third trimester when you’re likely to be the most uncomfortable. You will likely use the air conditioning a lot more than you think, so it’s a good idea to plan your summer budget accordingly.
Protect yourself from the elements
A broad-brimmed hat will help protect you from the sun. When you’re outside, use sunscreen and apply it often. The standard amount to use is 1 ounce (about a shot glass full) applied to your entire body every two hours. Apply it more often if you’ve gone swimming or sweated profusely.
Some women worry about topical exposure to chemicals during pregnancy, but sunscreen is typically not a problem. That said, you should look out for “retinol” on your sunscreen label. Retinol is a version of retinoic acid (vitamin A) and although it’s very mild, you should avoid it during pregnancy because the class of drugs can cause birth defects. If you have used retinol, though, there’s no need to panic. As an Ob/Gyn, I just prefer to err on the side of caution.
Speaking of chemicals, my patients often ask, “Can I use insect repellent in the summer?” The answer is yes, and you should. Mosquitos are thick in the summer, and we see cases of West Nile disease and other mosquito-borne infections. A good insect repellant is a must.
One of the most effective mosquito repellants is DEET. I know it has a reputation of being a very potent chemical, but using it in moderate amounts on your skin is not a problem for you or your baby during pregnancy. However, it is too strong to use on small children.
Some women prefer natural bug repellants like pyrethrin. Pyrethrins come from the chrysanthemum flower. It’s not meant to apply to your skin, but you can spray it on your clothing, before you get dressed, to repel mosquitos.
Enjoy the great outdoors
Pregnancy changes your body, but if you don’t have complications, it shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your outdoor hobbies. If you’re accustomed to biking, you can bike. If you like golfing, golf. Go ahead and enjoy a picnic with the kids. Just be sure to stay hydrated and avoid foods that have been sitting out for too long. Food poisoning can cause significant dehydration, which may require a hospital stay.
More happy news: You don’t have to cancel your family vacation just because you’re pregnant. As long as you don’t have any complications, you can travel safely by car or airplane up to 36 weeks on your pregnancy calendar. If you’re traveling by car, stop every few hours to get out, stretch, and move around a little bit. This will help you avoid blood clots and excessive swelling. If you’re flying, wear compression stockings and move about the cabin every few hours. Be sure to carry a set of your medical records with you in case of an emergency.
Pay attention to your body’s signals and respect your limitations. If you feel good, enjoy the great outdoors to your heart’s content – just be sure to stay hydrated! If you feel too hot, return to the air conditioning or take measures to cool down quickly. When you’re pregnant, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to dealing with the summer heat.