The Unbelievable 10 Ways Heat Affects Pregnancy

15-40lbs of extra weight to carry around can make anyone feel hot, whether it’s July or January.

A friend of mine was so overheated and uncomfortable in the last few summer months of her pregnancy that she took every effort imaginable just to stay cool, particularly at night. The air-conditioning was cranking at full blast, there were so many fans and wind machines in her bedroom it looked like the set of a Mariah Carey video, and she’d even built a cardboard contraption to funnel cold air from the floor vent directly onto her side of the bed. Her husband patiently slept beside her in a thermal winter sleeping bag, in flannel pyjamas and a toque.

Some of the most common factors attributed to overheating during pregnancy include excessive physical activity (exercise), hot weather conditions, overexertion in hot weather, a high fever due to a medical condition, soaking in a scalding hot bath/shower or hot tub, or hitting a sauna.

Because of the way that pregnancy changes your body, you may be at higher risk for overheating. Overheating is sometimes referred to as hyperthermia and occurs when the body is no longer able to regulate its internal temperature. Below are 10 ways that heat can negatively affect pregnancy, along with tips to reduce the risks:

12 Overheating can Cause Dehydration

Serious complications from dehydration can include swelling of the brain, kidney failure, seizures, and even death, and that’s just for any human. Mild dehydration symptoms include headaches, sluggishness, decreased urine or sweating. Water aids in the heat regulation for everyone and is particularly important during pregnancy. When your temperature reaches above 102 degrees Fahrenheit or 39 degrees Celsius for more than ten minutes, your baby can experience overheating as well, which will lead to other potential health concerns. Severe dehydration can lead to issues and strain in liver and kidney functions for both you and the baby.

The recommended water consumption for pregnant women includes drinking 8-12 eight ounce glasses of water every day. This may not seem like the most welcome advice if you’re already stamping your washroom facilities card over a dozen times each day, and three times each night, but it’s always a good idea to monitor your fluid consumption during pregnancy.

Despite the urban legend that our bodies have a broken dehydration gauge, and that by the time you’re actually thirsty you’re already dehydrated, it’s a good idea to follow your body’s own thirst cues, with a little extra caution and sensitivity during pregnancy, when determining your own water needs. When you’re feeling a bit thirsty, just drink up!

11 Mom may Not Rrealize She's Overheating

Almost scarier than overheating itself is the possibility that the pregnant mom may not necessarily be all that uncomfortable as her body temperature continues to increase. By paying close attention to feelings of weakness, dizziness, dehydration, and nausea, action can be taken to mitigate the risks associated with overheating.

10 An Impact on Your Amniotic Fluid Levels

The amniotic fluid, sometimes referred to as the bag of waters, is a clear and slightly yellow tinted fluid within the amniotic sac. This fluid surrounds the baby in the uterus with a role to protect the baby from the external world, provide the ability for baby to move freely while allowing for symmetrical musculoskeletal development, regulate temperature so baby doesn’t get too hot or cold, and help baby develop its lungs. The amount of amniotic fluid in the sac is generally at around 800 ml throughout most of a pregnancy, and generally drops to around 600ml at the end of term (40 weeks).

Overheating/severe dehydration can impact the level of amniotic fluid available for baby. Low amniotic fluid in early stages of pregnancy can cause birth defects, or miscarriage and preterm labor later in pregnancy.

9 Increased Chance of Miscarriages/Neurological Issues/Birth Defects

Dehydration can cause the body to shut down. In the early stages of pregnancy, this can negatively impact your baby and even terminate the pregnancy. Body temperature over 39 degrees Celsius or 102 degrees Fahrenheit can inhibit fetal growth, cause neural tube defects or abnormality in the fetus due to a failure in the closing of the neural tube 25 days after conception. A high maternal fever has also been known to result in cleft palate in the fetus.

8 It can Cause Preterm Labor

Overheating later in pregnancy can lead to preterm labor or an irritable uterus. Irritable uterus contractions sometimes feel similar to Braxton Hicks contractions with sufferers being nearly twice as likely to go into labor early when compared with non-sufferers. Dehydration in the third trimester has been known to trigger uterine contractions, resulting in preterm labor, and can lead to labor complications including a required C-Section delivery or compression of the umbilical cord.

Brisbane, Australia based researchers studied average weather temperatures and number of premature and stillborn births over a four-year period finding that increases in temperature during the first 28 weeks of pregnancy upped the chances of stillbirth. The increase in risk happened when outside temperatures topped an average of 22.7 degrees Celsius or 73 degrees Fahrenheit.

7 Additional Pregnancy Constipation

About half of pregnant women experience constipation at some point during their pregnancy. The hormone progesterone relaxes muscles in the digestive tract of expecting moms making the food consumed pass through the body at a slower rate. Another factor is iron supplements, often prescribed in high doses throughout pregnancy, which can increase constipation even further.

Many people don’t know this, but our stool is comprised of 25 percent waste and 75 percent water. When the body is experiencing dehydration, the colon will reabsorb fluid to protect itself, resulting in constipation. For a pregnant woman, this can mean stomach cramps, straining during a bowel movement, and passing hard stool. This straining can further irritate hemorrhoids (another common pregnancy issue).

6 Symptoms may vary, making it harder to pinpoint

Possible symptoms of overheating can be different for everyone and include chills, clamminess, dryness in mouth, extreme thirst, and excessive sweating that does not stop.  This means that mom may not know what's wrong before she's very dehydrated.

5 It can Lead to Heat Rash

This is one of the less dangerous, albeit really uncomfortable and annoying possible side effects of overheating during pregnancy. Heat rash, like constipation, is caused by a combination of pregnancy-related bodily reactions. Excessive sweating combined with dampness, an overheating body and the friction of skin rubbing against clothing can cause a prickly heat rash.

Fortunately there are many home remedies that can help including: applying cornstarch baby powder (you’re going to need a supply of this for baby soon enough anyway), rubbing on calamine lotion, a warm (not hot) shower or bath, a tepid oatmeal bath, or simply taking off your clothes and letting the fresh air soothe your sensitive skin. It is best to avoid scented products and to contact your health practitioner for any rash that lasts longer than a few days.

4 It can Cause Fatigue/Dizziness and Fainting

Being tired or dizzy and pregnancy often go hand in hand more frequently than peanut butter and jelly. They can be caused by over-excursion, heat, dehydration, hormones or any combination of factors. Extreme fatigue and dizziness should however be taken seriously.

By giving yourself a little TLC by taking a rest, lying on your side, having a drink of water and/or a snack, you should be able to relieve these problems. The danger comes from ignoring symptoms, and possibly having a fall. If you’re following the suggestions above and the faint/dizzy feelings aren’t improving, or they are happening frequently, contact your health care provider immediately.

3 An increase in urinary tract infections

Pregnant women are more susceptible to urinary tract infections (UTI) because of the changes that hormones cause in the urinary tract. This along with the growing uterus, which is pressing on the bladder, hinders the complete emptying of urine from the bladder.

If left untreated UTI can lead to kidney infections, which have been connected to preterm labor and low birth weight. Some studies conducted with non-pregnant women have found that dehydration can make a woman more susceptible to UTI.

2 Tips on Keeping Safe

In order to keep safe from overheating during pregnancy there are a number of ways you can always be prepared:• Drink plenty of water, more on hot days, or when you are engaging in exercise• Wear looser clothing that breathes and is made of natural fibers• Pay attention to heat advisories, and limit time outside during peak heat hours• Use a fan or air conditioner• Take warm or tepid showers• Watch your caffeine consumption as it can raise blood pressure and body temperatures• Try eating water-rich foods to boost hydration levels such as melon, berries, cucumbers, lettuce and peas• Pre-hydrate before exercising by drinking two eight ounce servings of water about an hour before your planned activities along with taking a few sips of water every 15 minutes or so during your workout. Drink another two glasses after you’re done• Consider low impact exercises such as swimming or walking or exercise classes available that are dedicated to expecting mothers where instructors are specifically trained to have your prenatal needs in mind• For an expecting mom who is experiencing a spike in temperature or overheating due to illness, it is suggested that you contact a medical professional right away to ensure that you are treating the fever in a way that is safe for both you and baby

1 Overheating Can Impact Breastfeeding

New moms should also take note that overheating can impact your breast milk. Breastfeeding is thirsty work. It is recommended that breastfeeding moms drink as much water as they did pre-pregnancy and replace the amounts of fluids they lose each day from nursing. Extreme dehydration can impact the milk production of mom, so bottoms up!

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