In pregnancy, your core body temperature is a bit higher than normal owing to a combination of:
- hormonal changes
- increased blood flow
- the heat produced by the placenta.
If you choose a warm location for your holiday, or are just out and about in the British summertime, you can end up feeling like one hot mama!
If swollen ankles, heat rash and hot flushes have left you feeling more like a beached whale than a beach babe, though, don’t worry – we’ve got some top tips to keep you and your pregnant bump comfortable…
11 ways to keep cool in pregnancy…
1. Look after swollen feet and hands
Hot weather can cause your hands and feet to swell, so consider removing rings and investing in a pair of shoes a size larger than you would normally wear.
2. Minimise salt intake
Excess salt encourages water retention in the body. Keep your feet up as much as you can, and moisturise swollen areas frequently to make them feel more comfortable.
3. Choose natural fabrics for night time
Pregnant women often suffer from night sweats. Hormonal changes in pregnancy intensify your body’s predisposition to heat and can bring on hot flushes similar to those experienced by women during the menopause.
Try to use a pillow made of feather or down rather than synthetic materials, and ensure nightwear is made of breathable cotton or linen.
If all else fails, make like our Mediterranean cousins and take a siesta. Heat can be draining, and studies suggest that mums-to-be need one to two more hours sleep than usual, particularly in the first trimester and final month.
4. Use fragrance to cool down
Certain fragrances can cool you off. “Mandarin and Neroli essential oils are known for their cooling properties – perfect when you’re feeling hot and bothered,” says Susan Curtis, medicines director and natural homeopath at Neal’s Yard Remedies.
“Simply add a few drops of either oil to witch hazel flower water and use a spritz for your face, neck and arms.” She goes on to suggest trying a couple of drops of lavender oil in a foot bath to help soothe swollen ankles.
5. Wear cool cotton underwear
Some mums-to-be swear by men’s boxer shorts, so it could be time to raid your partner’s underwear drawer. Boxers on girls are on-trend, so you’ll soon be cool in every sense of the word!
6. Stay hydrated
According to Dr Carol Cooper, during the hot weather a pregnant woman should be drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty before reaching for a drink: by the time your body registers thirst you are already suffering from the effects of dehydration.
So, take a bottle of water with you everywhere you go – especially if you are traveling on public transport, where you can quickly become overheated – and cut back on the caffeine, which will make you feel more dehydrated.
7. Avoid ice-cold baths
Don’t go mad and jump in an ice-cold bath when you want to cool down. When you’re feeling hot and sticky opt for lukewarm showers, as exposure to extreme cold will constrict the blood vessels and send signals to the body to retain heat.
For the same reason, avoid ice-cool drinks or compresses. You don’t have to drink scalding tea – just lay off the ice cubes!
8. Exercise in water
It’s advisable to avoid strenuous exercise in hot weather, so a workout in the water is an ideal solution: cooling, toning and energizing all at the same time. Try signing up for an aqua-natal exercise class at your local swimming pool – you’ll feel so virtuous afterwards that you’ll probably deserve that extra ice cream!
9. Stay in the shade
Many women find that their skin is more sensitive to sun during pregnancy, so you need to be even more careful than normal. Nina Goad of the British Skin Foundation explains. “Many women develop a condition called chloasma, which causes brown patches on the face.
These patches appear even darker after sun exposure, as they tan more deeply than paler skin.” Nina’s advice is to protect your skin from strong sunlight with clothing and a wide-brimmed hat, seek the shade where possible and use a sunscreen with SPF30 or more and at least 4 UVA stars, which will be indicated on the label.
10. Be aware of BBQ food safety
Summer is barbecue season, and the menu typically consists of burnt offerings, still raw to the middle! To avoid food poisoning use commercially frozen barbecue foods, as the freezing process kills the toxoplasmosis parasite.
Then make sure all food is cooked through thoroughly, and avoid anything that has been left standing around for any period of time. Check that all mayonnaise is made with pasteurised eggs and always wash fruit and veg.
If in doubt, stay clear – take along your own sandwiches and politely decline the cremated sausages.
11. Eat cooling foods
Strange as it sounds, some foods might be able to cool you down. In oriental medicine, all foods are classified according to their properties and the effects on the body, including whether they are ‘warming’ or ‘cooling’.
So, in summer it is recommended that lots of ‘cooling’ salads, vegetables grown above ground – such as peas and beans – and soft fruits are eaten (the fact that there is little cooking with these no doubt helps).
And of course, foods with a higher water content will have a more cooling effect. So why not tuck into a slice of watermelon while you hang out by the pool?