Why do you feel so warm when you have a baby on board – and how can you keep your cool?
If you’re pregnant, you probably don’t need us to tell you that carrying a baby bump around is hot work – whatever the weather. If you’re usually the kind of person who snuggles up under the duvet at night, you’ll likely find you’re kicking those covers off even as the nights start to turn cooler. And in the height of summer, having a baby on board can be especially tough.
But just why are you more prone to feeling hot and flustered during pregnancy? We speak to Liz Halliday, Deputy Head of Midwifery at Private Midwives, about the physiological reasons behind the temperature rise and, most importantly, how you can keep your cool:
Temperature rise during pregnancy
Is it the weather or does the temperature rise for all pregnant women? If you’ve been feeling the heat you’ll be pleased to hear that temperature fluctuations are a normal part of pregnancy.
Your metabolic rate increases during pregnancy, to make more energy for you and your growing baby.
‘It’s very normal to feel warmer than usual during pregnancy,’ says Halliday.
‘Your blood volume increases by up to 50 per cent and the blood vessels expand slightly to allow for this change. This means that the blood vessels move a little closer to the surface of your skin and may make you feel warmer.
‘In addition, your metabolic rate increases during pregnancy, to allow you to make more energy for yourself and your growing baby. A side effect of this is also feeling warmer than you would normally.’
Is overheating during pregnancy common?
With all these bodily changes going on, how common is overheating during pregnancy? While temperature fluctuations are perfectly normal, extreme overheating can be a cause for concern.
‘Actual overheating in pregnancy is rare and requires your body temperature to go above 38.9°C,’ reassures Halliday.
‘It may be brought on by illness, dehydration, very hot weather, strenuous exercise, electric blankets, a very hot bath or shower, or a hot jacuzzi or sauna. As such, it’s important to speak to your midwife or GP if you are unwell, and to avoid other activities that may lead to overheating.’
Pregnancy overheating dangers
OK, so you might be more uncomfortable, but are there any dangers from overheating, for both you and your baby?
Drink plenty of fluids if you’re exercising or in a hot environment and contact your midwife if you feel unwell.
‘Overheating in pregnancy can cause issues for your baby in the first trimester, so it’s best to avoid activities that may push your body temperature too high,’ says Halliday.
‘It can also lead to dehydration for you, so try to drink plenty of fluids if you’re exercising or in a hot environment, and contact your midwife or GP if you’re feeling unwell.’
Warning signs of pregnancy overheating
Far from just feeling a bit warm, genuine overheating can make you feel distinctly unwell. Halliday outlines the following warning signs to look out for:
✔️ Most people who have a temperature will feel shivery and fluctuate between feeling hot and cold. They will also feel unwell if it is brought on by illness. It’s best to speak to your midwife or GP about what to do if you are unwell.
✔️ If overheating is brought on by a hot bath, jacuzzi, sauna or exercise, you may feel very hot, sweat profusely, and feel dizzy and thirsty. Try not to worry too much. It is likely that, if you are overheating due to one of these factors, you will feel the need to remove yourself from the situation and cool down, so it’s unlikely your body temperature will increase significantly.
✔️ Check the colour of your urine to make sure you’re properly hydrated – if you’re drinking enough water, your urine should be a pale straw colour.
✔️ If, on the other hand, you are dehydrated, your urine may become scanty, and very strong in smell and colour. Try to drink plenty of fluids and if it does not improve or you cannot keep fluids down, speak to your midwife or doctor.
Top tips to stay cool during pregnancy
As well as ensuring you’re properly hydrated, there are a number of other steps you can take to stay as cool and as comfortable as possible during your pregnancy. These are especially useful during the warmer summer months, but are handy to try at any time of year if that pregnancy ‘glow’ is getting a little too intense!
- Don’t forget to drink
OK, so we’ve said it before, but this is so important it’s worth repeating: staying hydrated during pregnancy is vital to help keep you cool. Try carrying a bottle of water (iced on the hottest days) with you when travelling by bus or train, and don’t wait until you feel thirsty to take a sip.
- Cut back on caffeine
Caffeinated drinks can raise your blood pressure as well as your core body temperature, so swap them for water or a fresh fruit smoothie.
- Eat foods with a high water content
Water-rich fruits, such as melon, berries, salad vegetables such as cucumber and fresh peas all have a high water content, which will aid hydration and help keep you cool. Cold vegetable soups, such as gazpacho, and homemade ice-lollies packed with fresh fruit juices or pureed fruits should also be top of the list.
- Try swimming
Not only will a dip cool you down, it will help ease an aching back and swollen legs or ankles – perfect if you’re struggling carrying that baby bump around all day. Revel in the lovely weightlessness you feel as the water supports your body – but remember that breaststroke legs may aggravate symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), if you’re suffering with this.
- Take a lukewarm bath or shower
Think an icy shower might be the best way to cool down? Not so. Very cold water can actually cause your blood vessels to constrict in reaction to the cold, which conversely helps your body to actually preserve heat. If you want to take a cooling shower, lukewarm is your best bet.
- Dress accordingly
Eve on cooler days, you might find that being on your feet all day or commuting can raise your temperature more than usual while pregnant. Halliday recommends wearing layers, so you can easily remove or add clothing for comfort.