Pregnancy and hot weather
Most women's body temperature increases during pregnancy, making them more temperature sensitive when the weather is hot. In the first trimester (12 weeks) of pregnancy, becoming overheated is not recommended since this can affect healthy fetal development. As the mother’s body tries to cool down, her blood vessels narrow which can reduce the amount of blood and nutrients flowing to her baby.
Ways to stay cool and avoid overheating in pregnancy
It’s not always possible to avoid becoming overheated, especially during the summer months. However, there are a few things you can do which may help.
- Stay out of direct sun and keep inside or in shady areas.
- Time your outings so you avoid being out in the hottest part of the day.
- Use spray bottles filled with water to cool your face and body.
- Place a wet washer or cooling wrap around your head and neck.
- Put your feet in a bowl of cool water. Cool your hands and feet if you’re feeling really hot.
- Soak in a cool bath, or go for a swim. Frequent, cool showers are also great for keeping cool.
Heat exhaustion happens when someone becomes dehydrated because of fluid loss. Excessive physical activity or being in a hot environment can also lead to heat exhaustion.
Left untreated, heat exhaustion can be a risk factor for experiencing heatstroke. This causes a sudden rise in temperature as well as confusion and potentially a loss of consciousness.
Symptoms that can be a signal of heat exhaustion:
- excessive sweating
- muscle aches and cramps
- feeling faint or dizzy
- rapid, weak pulse
- pale and clammy skin
Dark-coloured, concentrated urine (wee) is a sign of needing to drink more water.
Treatment for heat exhaustion
- Lie down in a cool and shady place.
- Loosen tight clothing and remove as many layers as possible.
- Place your hands and feet in cool water. Wet your skin, sit in an air-conditioned room or use a fan to cool down.
- Drink sips of water and avoid dehydration.
When to see a doctor
Short periods of feeling hot and uncomfortable are unavoidable during the summer months. However, it’s important to see a doctor if:
- you feel unwell
- you become dizzy or faint
- you have a headache, nausea or vomiting
- your pulse is fast or there are changes to your breathing
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Sun protection and sunscreen
Using sunscreen is advisable at all stages of life, including during pregnancy and when breastfeeding. Although sunscreens contain various ingredients, the amount absorbed through the skin is thought to be minimal. This means sunscreens do not pose a risk to pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Use a sunscreen that is suitable for sensitive skin and is hypoallergenic if you have a sensitive skin condition or are prone to skin reactions. Speak to your pharmacist if you need help choosing a sunscreen that is right for you.
Exercising during hot weather
You don’t need to stop exercising when it’s hot, but you will need to consider the type of exercise you do and when to do it. The general recommendation for pregnant women is to do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week.
Exercising early in the morning or later in the day when the weather is cooler means there’s less risk of overheating and you’ll feel more comfortable. It’s important to choose exercise activities that won’t cause you to overheat.
Activities that are generally safe include:
- swimming or other water exercises including aquarobics
- walking or jogging
- cycling – either outdoors or on a stationary bike
- pregnancy exercise classes
- Pilates, yoga, stretching or other floor exercises
How to get comfortable when breastfeeding in summer
Strategies to keep you and your baby cool when breastfeeding:
- Place a muslin or cotton wrap between you and your baby.
- Lie down to feed so there’s some space between your baby’s body and your own. Only your baby’s mouth and your breast need to be in contact when breastfeeding.
- Place a cool wet washer in the crook of your arm.
- Breastfeed in air-conditioned spaces or use a fan to circulate and cool the air.
Making breast milk uses extra fluid and it’s important to stay well hydrated when you’re breastfeeding. Be guided by your thirst, and remember there is no set amount of water you need to drink each day. The weather, your activity level and the foods you eat will all influence how much water you will need to drink.
Resources and support
Speak with your maternity care provider if you need more information about pregnancy, hot weather and breastfeeding. Every woman and her baby are different and it’s important to seek guidance from someone who knows you and your history.
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
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Last reviewed: December 2023