KEEP YOUR COOL WHEN YOU’RE hot, hot, hot
When you’re pregnant, why does it feel as though your internal thermostat is cranked up to the max?
Summer’s finally here, but does your body feel like you’re in the desert rather than the suburbs? Whether you’re experiencing a steady, radiating heat or more sudden and intense hot flushes that leave you a little dizzy, it’s all a normal part of pregnancy.
Midwife Meg Miskin-Garside says that pregnant women generally feel hotter. “Not everyone suffers, but there’s nothing to worry about if you do feel like this: your increased body temperature isn’t damaging your baby, it’s just uncomfortable for you.”
This temperature rise is partly due to more blood flowing around your body at a faster rate. “The blood volume in your body also expands and the effect of this extra blood, travelling at greater speed, will raise your core temperature by about 0.8°C,” says Meg.
It may sound insignificant, but this seemingly small rise in temperature can soon leave you feeling uncomfortably sweaty, particularly when you factor in the added stress of summer heat. It’s a sign, however, that your body is busy nurturing your developing baby. “In addition, your growing baby generates extra energy,” Meg adds. “So, it’s a bit like having your own internal central heating system!”
Fortunately, nature has provided an ingenius in-built cooling device. “You can lose heat more easily through your skin during pregnancy, through a process called vasodilation,” Meg says. “The small blood vessels under your skin widen so the warm blood can flow near to the surface and cool, which is why you might look flushed and reddened. You’ll also have a larger surface area of skin as your abdomen expands.”
There’s a lot that you can also do to help. “Wear loose cotton clothing and don’t be slow to shed layers,” suggests Meg. “Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.”
You should also be careful not to move from cold temperatures straight to hot. “If you’re already running on hot, the effect of vasodilation can lower your blood pressure and make you feel light-headed or faint,” Meg explains.
And avoid anything that will raise your body temperature further. Stay inside during the hottest part of the day and don’t over-exert yourself in hot conditions. Saunas aren’t recommended during pregnancy, and neither are spa baths, as warm water denies your body its ability to lose heat by sweating.
“The combination of your hot body and your hormones may mean you suffer from skin rashes, thread veins and blotchy or discoloured patches on your face, but most will go of their own accord once your baby is born,” Meg says. Just be careful that you don’t pass off a fever as a hot flush. “Your normal temperature in pregnancy is 37.8°C. If it’s above that, keep well hydrated, and see your doctor if there are no signs of it lowering.”
And put those hot flushes to good use as timely reminders to take things easy – if your body is telling you to relax and sit in a shady spot with a good book, it makes sense to listen!