Pregnant

Surviving the Summer Heat During Pregnancy

Photo by michal_staniewski/iStock / Getty Images

The hottest days of summer can be tough on everyone but they can be exceptionally uncomfortable if you’re pregnant. Being pregnant any time of year can make you feel like you are your own personal radiator. Your body temperature actually runs slightly higher than someone who is not pregnant and you may experience a lower tolerance for heat and a higher propensity for heat exhaustion. While we can’t will the weather cooler to make you more comfortable, we can offer these seven expert tips for surviving the summer heat while pregnant.

  1. Stay hydrated: When you are pregnant, the Institute of Medicine recommends that you drink 12-13 eight ounce glasses of water per day. However, when you are exposed to heat or exercise, you should have an additional 8-ounce glass per hour to stay sufficiently hydrated. The extra water will help restore electrolytes lost from sweating. Water has a whole host of benefits during pregnancy, including preventing overheating, headaches, fatigue and swelling.
  2. Exercise Wisely: While moderate exercise during pregnancy has many great benefits, you need to be careful not to overexert yourself in the heat. On hot days, exercise during cooler hours avoiding the midday sun. Consider exercising indoors at an air conditioned gym or yoga studio. Swimming is also a great way to cool down on a summer day and has the added bonus of taking weight off the sciatic nerve which can often cause pain or discomfort in pregnancy.
  3. Avoid peak sun hours: When temperatures are high, it’s best to avoid spending time outdoors during the hours of 10AM and 2PM when the sun is strongest. Overexertion in high temperatures can lead to heat exhaustion and even heat stroke in pregnant women which can be dangerous for both mom and baby. Opt for indoor activities with air conditioning during these hours such as the mall, library, aquarium, movies or just staying home. If you are outside in the heat and begin to experience excessive sweating, weakness, muscle cramps, a headache, dizziness, or excessive thirst, get inside to air conditioning as soon as possible and lay down with a damp cloth on your head and a glass of cool water. If your symptoms do not improve once out of the heat, seek medical attention.
  4. Take frequent cool showers: A cool shower on hot days can be just the trick to bring your body temperature down and seek some respite from the heat. Shower twice a day if you need to, to keep cool. You probably won’t have that luxury once baby arrives!
  5. Wear loose fitting, light clothing: Breathable cotton is your best bet when you’re pregnant in the summer heat. It’s not uncommon to get heat rash under the breasts and abdomen where sweat can accumulate in the hot summer months. Light, breathable clothing will help prevent this problem and keep you as cool as possible on those hot days. 
  6. Wear sunscreen with a high SPF and reapply often: When you are pregnant, your skin is actually more susceptible to the harmful UV rays from the sun. Using a good sunscreen and reapplying it often will help protect you from painful sunburns. Sunburns can also cause your core temperature to rise which is not healthy for your developing baby. 
  7. Put your feet up: Heat and pregnancy can be an automatic recipe for swelling. While swelling is more common in the second half of pregnancy and can lead to your shoes feeling snug and your rings getting stuck, it’s always a good idea to get extra rest while you are pregnant. Take a siesta in a cool place for 30 minutes each day to give yourself time to relax and lower your body temperature. Napping is another luxury you may not have time for once baby arrives, so you might as well take advantage of the opportunity while you have it.

It’s always important to take extra precautions to care for your body in the heat but when you’re pregnant, it’s even more vital. Drink plenty of water, stay out of the sun’s harmful rays, and get rest when you need it. Just because you have a bun in the oven, doesn’t mean you need to feel like one! 

For questions about pregnancy, natural birth, the postpartum period or women’s health, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.

10 Reasons a Birth Center Might Be For You

Photo Credit: Rochelle Matos -  withlove.mn

Photo Credit: Rochelle Matos - withlove.mn

If you’re pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, you may be considering your options for birth. While the majority of babies in the US are born in hospitals, there’s another option available for women who wish to birth in a homelike setting but desire many of the resources and safeguards of a hospital. This option is called a birth center. Birth centers are designed for healthy women seeking a natural birth experience under the care of midwives instead of obstetricians. Midwives embrace the idea that birth is a natural and normal process and should be approached under the wellness model of pregnancy and birth. Birth centers are able to provide routine, woman-centered care that focuses on the natural, physiological process of birth and seeks to minimize unnecessary interventions. While birth centers are not equipped for emergency medical procedures like C-sections or other serious complications, they are typically located in close proximity to a partnering hospital for quick transfers when necessary. If you are hoping for a natural birth experience in a non-medical environment yet under the care of licensed midwifery professionals, a birth center may be for you. Here are 10 reasons you should consider delivering at a birth center.

  1. You’re hoping for a natural, intervention free birth: At birth centers, pregnancy and childbirth are seen as natural and normal events. Midwives seek to empower and support women in doing what their bodies were created to do without unnecessary intervention. According to the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, the rate of C-sections for low risk births is only 6 percent at birth centers in comparison with 27 percent of low risk births in a hospital setting.
  2. You want to have a midwife instead of a doctor: Midwives are uniquely positioned to provide personalized care to mothers during pregnancy and birth that not only focuses on physical health, but also emotional, spiritual and mental wellbeing. Midwives are trained professionals that support women in having optimal pregnancies and birth experiences with minimal medical intervention. Births that are attended by midwives tend to have lower rates of C-sections, episiotomies and perineal trauma.
  3. You believe hospitals are for sick people: If you are hoping to bring your baby into the world in a more homelike environment but you want the expertise and resources of skilled professionals, a birth center may be for you. In many countries around the world birth is not seen as a medical event at all but a natural, normal experience in life. Birth centers offer many of the safeguards and equipment of a hospital without the medical environment.
  4. You want to have a water birth: Though some hospitals do offer the option of a birthing tub, it is more commonly available at birth centers. Laboring and delivering in water has many benefits from pain relief, improved cervical dilation and a soothing transition for baby from womb to world.
  5. You want to be able to eat and drink during labor: While most hospitals will restrict your intake during labor due to the risk of needing general anesthesia for a C-section, most birth centers encourage you to nourish yourself as needed to keep up your energy and stamina.
  6. You want to save money: While you should check your insurance policy to confirm benefits and birth center coverage, delivering at a birth center is typically less expensive than delivering at a hospital. Reasons for the difference in cost include a shorter length of stay and fewer interventions among other variables. Typically, your out-of-pocket cost at a birth center will be about a third less than that of a hospital birth. 
  7. You do not want to have continuous fetal monitoring: While your midwife will likely intermittently monitor your baby, you will not be hooked up to a fetal monitor for the entirety of your labor like you may be at a hospital. This enables you to move about freely throughout your labor to the positions that offer the most relief and comfort. You also will not have to worry about any invasive internal monitoring or unnecessary cervical checks. 
  8. You don’t want to deliver on your back: Midwives are typically more flexible in encouraging the mother to birth and labor in whatever position her body tells her she should. Laboring and delivering on your back has been found to be one of the least conducive positions to helping baby move naturally through the birth canal. 
  9. You don’t want to feel rushed: In a birth center you will be encouraged and supported in laboring as long as your body needs. Rather than hastening the labor process with interventions, midwives embrace the natural normal process of childbirth in which you place trust in your body to know what it needs to do and at what pace.
  10. You want your family (or friends) involved: While a hospital may limit the number of individuals allowed in the room for your birth, at a birth center you will be welcome to have whomever you feel you need to support you in your birth experience. Birth centers will often involve the family during prenatal appointments and during labor realizing that the birth of a new baby is a family experience to be shared.

If you are a healthy woman experiencing a normal pregnancy and feel that a birth center may be more in line with your hopes and plans for natural birth, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. We are here to support and empower you from pregnancy to postpartum and beyond.

 
 

Zika Virus: What Pregnant Mamas Need to Know

Pregnant Mother Traveling

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you have probably heard the growing concern over the spread of the Zika virus. Health officials around the world have declared the Zika virus a public health emergency and efforts to contain it and address the crisis are in motion across the world. Many of the warnings are directed at pregnant women regarding the serious threats the virus poses to unborn children. You may be wondering if this is something you need to be worried about in Minnesota. Here’s all you need to know about the Zika virus as a pregnant woman.

What is the Zika Virus?

Zika is a mosquito born virus that is transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. The virus belongs to the Flavivirus family along with yellow fever and West Nile and is particularly threatening because there is no vaccine to prevent it and no medicine to treat it. The World Health Organization's Director General has called the recent outbreak an “extraordinary event” and predictions show that an estimated 3-4 million people across the Americas will contract the virus in the next year. Spread primarily through mosquito bites, symptoms of the Zika virus are typically mild and include fever, headache, muscle aches, lethargy, rash and conjunctivitis. The real risk; however, appears to be the harmful effects on the unborn fetus as the virus readily passes through amniotic fluid.

Why Are There Heightened Concerns for Pregnant Women?

The Zika virus has gained worldwide attention due to its potentially damaging effects on unborn babies. The virus has been linked to a serious neurological birth disorder called microcephaly in which babies are born with abnormally small heads. It has also been linked to other neurological abnormalities and Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that can lead to paralysis and death. In Brazil alone, some 4,000 cases of microcephaly have been reported since the fall of 2015 and are suspected to be related to the recent outbreak of the Zika virus. Currently in Colombia, there are an estimated 3,100 pregnant women infected with the Zika virus further raising concerns about the rapidly spreading epidemic and the risks to unborn babies. It should be noted that despite the serious risks the Zika virus poses to pregnant women, they are no more susceptible to contracting the virus than men and non-pregnant women. 

Should I Be Concerned About the Zika Virus?

Zika Virus Outbreaks

It’s easy to see all the hype about the spread of the Zika virus and feel afraid that you and your baby are in danger. And although several states in the US do have confirmed cases of the virus, thus far it has only been found in persons who have traveled abroad to affected areas. If you have not recently traveled to an affected area of the world or come in contact with the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, it is very unlikely that you have contracted the Zika virus. Countries and territories that currently have active Zika outbreaks include: 

  • Barbados
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Colombia
  • Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, US territory
  • Costa Rica
  • Curacao
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • French Guiana
  • Guadeloupe
  • Guatemala
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Jamaica
  • Martinique
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Saint Martin
  • Suriname
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Venezuela
  • American Samoa
  • Samoa
  • Tonga
  • Cape Verde

If you have recently traveled to any of the affected areas and are experiencing two or more symptoms of the Zika virus, contact your healthcare provider for further testing and examination. Even with the absence of symptoms, it is a good idea to share any recent travel concerns with your doctor to ensure that you and your baby are monitored closely going forward. It is believed that the greatest risk is posed to the fetus when exposure to the Zika virus occurs during the first trimester when vital organs are developing. 

How Can I Protect Myself from the Zika Virus?

The best way to protect yourself from the Zika virus is to postpone travel to affected areas until the virus is under control and you are no longer pregnant. The CDC has advised against travel to Zika affected areas for all pregnant women and has recommended that women who reside in those areas avoid becoming pregnant for up to two years. If you absolutely have to travel to an affected area, carefully follow all CDC guidelines to protect yourself from the virus including:

  • Using an EPA approved insect repellent over sunscreen containing deet, picaridin or IR 3535 (all are safe for pregnant women when used properly)
  • Wearing long pants, long sleeves and when possible, permethrin treated clothing
  • Sleeping in an air-conditioned or screened-in room

In addition to avoiding travel and taking the necessary precautions should travel be necessary, take extra measures to prevent mosquitos from gathering around your living space at home. This includes discarding any standing water, keeping screens closed and utilizing insect repellents. The types of mosquitos that can carry the Zika virus are present in many US locations and precautions should be taken to avoid them when possible.

If you have further questions about the Zika virus or if you are pregnant and are concerned about a recent trip to an affected area, contact your healthcare professional for further guidance to ensure that you and your baby remain healthy and thriving.