If you’re pregnant in the summer months or in an area that is hot year-round, it can be a very uncomfortable experience. Even the most minor chores seem like insurmountable goals, such as getting out of your car and going up a flight of stairs. While discomfort is certainly an issue, there are also serious risks associated with high levels of heat during pregnancy, and you should be careful to avoid them.
What is heat stroke?
Heat exhaustion is a feeling of dizziness, lightheadedness and shortness of breath that comes on in the heat. Heat stroke is more serious, as it is the same condition but with a fever of 105 degrees. Heat stroke has killed thousands of otherwise healthy people over the years, and pregnant women are especially at risk.
What are the risks?
When you’re pregnant and in areas of extreme heat, your body must work to cool both you and your baby. If you’re pregnant, you also have a higher risk of becoming dehydrated. Your blood volume greatly increases when you’re carrying a baby in your womb, which makes it more difficult to distribute fluids through the body.
If you fall victim to heat stroke during your pregnancy, you are putting yourself and your baby at risk for many serious problems. When your core temperature rises above 102 degrees, your baby could have a neural tube defect. This defect is the same reason that pregnant women are advised to stay out of hot tubs and saunas. Heat stroke during pregnancy can also cause miscarriages and maternal death.
How can you prevent heat stroke?
If you live in an area with high levels of heat, avoiding heat stroke might seem difficult. However, you can avoid heat stroke by staying well hydrated during your entire pregnancy. Cutting down on caffeine and salt intake will also allow your body to use fluids more effectively. Taking breaks from activities in the heat is important, and using sunscreen liberally is highly recommended.
If you feel as though you’ve been getting overheated very easily during your pregnancy, speak with your healthcare provider about more ways to stay cool. If you notice any immediate signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke over the course of your gestation, get to a cool place immediately and contact your healthcare provider. Stopping heat exhaustion before it becomes heat stroke is extremely important, and it could actually be the difference between life and death for you and your baby.
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