When you’re preg­nant, why does it feel as though your in­ter­nal ther­mo­stat is cranked up to the max?

Mother & Baby (Australia) - - Your Body -

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!

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