Being pregnant involves a lot of challenges, even under normal weather conditions. It can be mood swings, physical changes in the body, extra weight, increased body temperature, looser joints or those crazy cravings that take a toll on the physical and emotional health of pregnant women. Added to this, if there is a heatwave, it can become all the more challenging to beat the heat. Read below to learn about the effects of heat waves on pregnant women.
Can hot weather affect pregnancy? Yes. Pregnant women are at a higher risk of extreme heat than non-pregnant women. They are more likely to have illnesses related to heat, like heat stroke, heat exhaustion, etc., than other women. That is because during hot weather, a person's body temperature rises, and the body has to cool down. During pregnancy, when there is a heat wave, the body has to work much harder than usual to cool the bodies of the developing baby as well as the mother.
There are risks involved for pregnant women when there is a heat wave. Knowing these helps you prepare better and stay comfortable and cool.
Sweating is the body’s way of cooling the system. It sends sweat out through the skin, and as the air absorbs it, the heat is drawn away from the body and cools. When you are pregnant, the body does not work as quickly because it has to work twice as hard (for you and the baby). Due to the heat wave, the body can’t get cool enough and loses too much salt and water. You feel tired, lightheaded, weak and nauseated.
If you ignore the signs of exhaustion, it can lead to an emergency condition called heat stroke, which affects the baby and the mother. It is dangerous as it can lead to severe headaches, a fast pulse, seizures or even coma if left untreated. Heat stroke has a negative impact on developing babies and leads to muscle damage as well as damage to the kidneys and heart.
When the temperature soars, your body loses too much fluid, along with some essential minerals like potassium and sodium, in the form of sweat. You urinate fewer times than usual and feel thirsty with a dry tongue and mouth. Due to dehydration, you may feel confused, dizzy and lightheaded.
Heat rash and pregnancy are synonymous in hot weather. These can appear on your elbows, armpits, under the breasts, groin or neck in hot, humid weather conditions. This is because, the pores get blocked by excessive sweat, and when they are unable to get rid of it, it breaks out into rashes. This is not life-threatening but it is extremely itchy and uncomfortable.
If you are exposed to the sun for a long time, it gets warm, itchy, reddish, and painful. If there is extreme exposure, you can have blisters, nausea, headaches, and even a fever. In the long run, it can lead to skin cancer.
Of all the heat-related conditions, cramps and oedema are the least dangerous. The cramps are involuntary and come up at night during hot weather. It can affect the stomach, calves, and arms. Heat oedema can lead to swelling of the toes, fingers, and ankles and is extremely uncomfortable.
During pregnancy, under normal conditions, the body pumps more blood every minute, thereby increasing your blood volume. As a result of this, the heart rate increases. When there is a heat wave, you get hotter, and that means your heart beats faster to supply more blood to the skin to release extra heat. That means there is less supply to other parts of the body, which makes you sluggish and tired with a higher pulse rate.
When you sweat because of the heat, you lose electrolytes and fluids. Also, the heat dilates the blood vessels, increasing sweating. This results in a lowering of blood pressure, which can lead to pregnant women passing out.
As per some studies, extreme heat and pregnancy third trimester were associated with preterm birth. The fetal growth was too small for the gestational age in countries with extreme heat. But there is more research needed for it to be conclusive. There were also new results that suggest that there is a risk of low birth weight in places where there is an increase in heat and humidity.
Heat waves affect human health, and one has to take extra care when the temperatures rise. Pregnancy and hot weather are not safe for a pregnant woman and the baby, so take precautions to avoid heat-related illness.
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