How to keep cool during labour

Midwife, Anne Richley, explains how to beat the heat when you’re having a summer birth

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As the name suggests, labour can be hard work, and the majority of us in this country aren’t used to working in high temperatures for long periods of time. But the good news is that, if you’re due to give birth while the temperature is higher, there are ways to keep cool and make labour more comfortable for you and your baby.

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Why do wards get so hot?

Labour wards are known for being warm, the reason being babies can lose heat very quickly  when they’re first born. There’s no reason, however, why you can’t have the window open during labour, closing it just before the birth. Most units have fans that can be brought into the room, and then switched off just before your baby arrives. Make sure you wear light, loose clothing, and have a spray bottle to spritz water over your face to keep cool.

Is overheating risky?

If your temperature rises, your heart rate increases – and so does your baby’s. But the good news is that when the cause is due to hot weather, not infection, it’s easy to bring your temperature down. You’ll find yourself asking for more drinks because you’re thirsty – although hopefully your birthing partner will anticipate this. A straw can be useful as the effort of lifting a drink to your lips can be too much during labour. Ask your birth partner to keep wiping a cold, wet flannel over the back of your neck and your wrists, which will cool you down. Your midwife will be monitoring you and your baby’s wellbeing during labour and ensuring that you stay as cool as is comfortable.

Why does labour feel harder when it’s hot?

Women often find heat harder to tolerate during pregnancy, as their bodies are already working harder, and when it comes to labour you can liken it to running a marathon in hot weather. To help, fill a plastic sports bottle with water and keep it in the freezer, or put ice cubes in a thermos flask. That way, you can have cool drinks even if there’s no ice machine on the labour ward.

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Find out if you can take a pack of ice pops into the hospital with you, and suck on them throughout the birth to keep you cool. And if you’re having a water birth, although the water needs to be warm for the actual birthing, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t cool down in a tepid bath or shower during the first stage of labour, which can be instantly refreshing.

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