Pregnancy isn’t without its fair share of discomforts any time of year, but toting a baby bump during the summer months can be especially problematic. Your higher-than-normal body temperature makes the steamy weather seem even hotter, and let’s be honest, those extra pounds probably aren’t helping matters. (A necessary evil, for sure, but still no fun.)
Pregnancy is a time to celebrate though, right? Just because the sun is scorching in the sky doesn’t mean you have to drag yourself around in misery for the duration of the season. With a few helpful tips and some wise advice, we’re here to help you survive—and, dare we say, even enjoy—your warm weather incubation period.
When it comes to outdoor fun, there’s one important thing to remember: sunblock. Apply it every single time you leave the house, particularly on your face, where you’re prone to fall victim to the infamous “mask of pregnancy,” formally known as melasma. Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, D.C., shares, “My favorite [sun protection] products contain physical sunblock ingredients like zinc and titanium because they offer the best UVA coverage. All sunscreens will block UVB rays, but not all block UVA rays, which are the major contributor to the discoloration of melasma.” She also recommends wearing a hat whenever the sun shines on your face during pregnancy. “Ultraviolet A light will get through even the best sunblock.”
Of course, your best defense against sunburn or discoloration is to enjoy the sun in short doses. To keep your cool, find a canopied area that provides a natural barrier between you and the brightest star.
Preggo gals need a little extra pampering, but a trip to the spa isn’t always in the budget. Here are a few at-home fixes for pregnancy-related ailments.
The problem: Shiny, oily skin
Ever felt like the pregnancy glow is actually just an overproduction of oil? You aren’t completely wrong. “Increased hormones lead to additional oil production,” says Tanzi. “In warmer months, the humidity also increases oil production.” Meaning summertime mamas-to-be might have a crazy case of greasy face.
To combat the oil overload, Tanzi recommends using a glycolic acid-containing cleanser. But beware of what you’re using to wash your skin, since everything you absorb is passed on to your baby. No matter how oily and acne-prone you become, avoid products containing retinoids and salicylic acid. A mild cleanser is your best bet, and if you have any doubts (or don’t recognize any of the ingredients listed on the label), take your products along to your OB so he can skim the components and give them a “yea” or a “nay.”
The problem: Tired eyes
Toward the end of pregnancy, exhaustion is par for the course. (Perhaps it’s nature’s cruel way of preparing us for motherhood?) To brighten up sleepy peepers, cut two larger-than-the-eye slices of chilled cucumber, dampen a washcloth with cool water, and lie back on a comfortable reclined surface. Place the cucumber slices over your eyes and top with the washcloth. Relax and enjoy for at least 15 minutes. When you rejoin the world, your eyes will look less puffy and dark circles will be magically lightened. Once you’ve finished your treatment, rinse your eyes with cool water.
The problem: Irritated skin
Pamper your pretty face with a soothing DIY facial: Mix 1 cup natural yogurt with 1/2 cup oatmeal, apply the concoction to your irritated face, and hang out for 15 minutes or so. Wipe off with a warm washcloth. If your skin is super oily, consider adding a couple drops of lime or lemon juice to your mask mixture; if dryness is your problem, drop in a tablespoon or two of honey.
The problem: Sore, swollen feet
Nothing beats a spa pedicure, but you can re-create the soothing effects at home with little effort. Fill a basin with warm water, 1/2 cup Epsom salts and a teaspoon of your favorite essential oil (rosemary and peppermint are popular choices). Soak your barking dogs for five to 10 minutes, then employ a friend or your partner to handle the rest: Gently remove dead skin with an exfoliating scrub, lather up with a moisturizing lotion (request a little massage action too!), and paint those nails a pretty color.
Dress for success
If you’re heading outdoors, dress for the occasion—think light-colored, lightweight and breathable. Cotton and linen will become your new best fabric friends. (Synthetic fabrics will do nothing but make you hotter and itchier, so read labels before buying your warm weather maternity wear.) Stock up on pieces that are both comfortable and fashionable, such as fitted tanks, breezy skirts and comfy dresses.
If the shoe fits
Your first instinct might be to pick up a pair of flip-flops to sport all summer long, and we don’t blame you. They won’t constrict your swollen feet and you won’t even have to bend over to put them on. (Win-win!) However, a cheap pair of flops won’t give your feet the support they need and may leave you with sore soles and legs at the end of the day.
Go ahead and splurge on a good pair of sandals or slip-ons with arch support, and don’t be surprised if they’re a size larger than you wore prepregnancy. Even when you remove swelling from the equation, feet tend to stretch and grow a bit during pregnancy, resulting in a shoe size that’s a half or full size bigger than before.
As much as we’d like to endorse the chocolate-and-doughnut diet, the facts can’t be ignored: When you eat better, you feel better. Luckily summer’s bounty provides a smorgasbord of tasty fruits and veggies you won’t mind snacking on.
Hot weather calls for cool snacks, and few things are as satisfying as a homemade popsicle. Buy a make-your-own kit now, and you and your tot can enjoy healthy treats for years to come.
Blend equal parts 100 percent juice and fresh or frozen fruit chunks, pour into a pop mold and freeze. If you’d rather go chunk-free, simply freeze juice or lemonade. Just watch your sugar intake—choosing the juice you use allows you to better control your calorie count, a luxury you don’t have with premade pops.
For a creamier concoction, blend equal parts low-fat yogurt and fresh fruit with a tablespoon of honey; pour into your mold and freeze. Enjoy your pop knowing you’re consuming a healthy dose of protein, calcium and probiotics for your budding babe.
Need that dessert zing? Make pudding using low-fat or skim milk, toss in some fruit, and blend to perfection. Whether chocolate and strawberries or vanilla and blueberries, freeze whatever cool combo strikes your fancy.
Smoothies are the perfect refreshing summer snack, but cafe-bought varieties are often loaded with unnecessary sugar and calories. Try making your own smoothies at home. Not only is it super easy, it allows you to customize your creation with the exact nutrients you want and need.
Work it out
Staying in shape is essential during pregnancy, but heat can put a damper on outdoor walks and workouts. Early morning or late evening activities can be more enjoyable (and less sweaty); you might also choose to embrace the comfort (and AC) of a trek on the treadmill or an indoor fitness class.
The water’s perfect
Luckily for hot mamas, water is an awesome countermeasure for sizzling sunshine, and swimming is a great form of exercise. Dipping into a chilly pool is absolutely heavenly when you’re carrying around another human 24 hours a day, and that weightless feeling you enjoy in the water might just be the most relaxing experience you’ll have in your 40-week run. Plus, in addition to cooling you off, taking a dip in the pool also relieves stress on your bones and joints.
A walk or yoga session on the beach is nothing short of divine, but make sure you don’t overdo it in the heat. If the heat index hits 90 degrees or higher, stay indoors; since your body temperature is above normal already, you’re more prone to overheating. While you’re outside—and particularly while you’re exercising—be sure to dress appropriately and stay hydrated. Don’t assume these words of warning mean you need to spend the entire season inside though. A little sunshine is good for you both physically and emotionally, and there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the great outdoors. Just do so wisely and keep what’s best for baby in mind.
Watch out for these symptoms, which can signal it’s time to take it easy. Sit down, grab some water and cool off if you experience:
• sudden change in body temperature
• heart palpitations
Call your doctor immediately if you experience:
• vaginal bleeding
• blurred vision
Have some fun
If this is your first bambino, you might currently be sweating your way through your last summer sans baby. Savor it! While your next season of sun will be filled with thrills and priceless memories, it will be significantly more challenging to travel and embark on spur-of-the-moment festivities with a wee one. Take advantage of the opportunity for a last hurrah.
Over the moon
Babymoons are a great way to reconnect with your partner before you become parents. Book a relaxing vacation somewhere you’ll both enjoy (may we suggest somewhere with a spa?) and take it easy for a few days. Travel with caution though—while hitting the road (or skies) is perfectly safe during a normal pregnancy, it does require a few extra precautions.
If you’ll be reaching your destination via car, consider being the passenger rather than the driver. Your baby is well protected in your belly, but keeping some distance between your bump and the steering wheel when possible isn’t a bad idea. Also ensure you’re wearing your seat belt correctly, with the top strap across your collarbone and the bottom under your belly and across your upper thighs, never above or below your bump.
Plan for frequent bathroom breaks, and give yourself a few minutes to walk around, stretch and get the blood pumping in your legs every couple hours. Since pit stop toilets often aren’t the cleanest, plan to bring along a “break bag” with toilet paper, seat covers and hand sanitizer. Also pack plenty of healthy snacks and refreshments for the road.
Most doctors and airlines agree that air travel after 36 weeks is a no-go, so plan your flight adventures accordingly. When booking your ticket, request an aisle seat (for easy bathroom access), and keep in mind that a seat over the wing will provide the smoothest ride. Get up and stroll the aisle every hour or so to prevent swelling and leg discomfort, and drink lots of water to combat the dehydrating effects of dry cabin air.
Since it can be hard to control the temperature in a plane, dress in layers so you can easily add or subtract clothing as needed. Plan to bring along a neck pillow for longer flights, which will allow you to nap more comfortably in your seat.
[note] Before planning a getaway, check with your doctor to make sure you’re good to go. He might recommend staying close to home if you’re in your third trimester or if your pregnancy is considered high risk.
If you’re too close to your due date to head out of town (or simply want to save on travel expenses), consider playing tourist in your own town. Spend some time leisurely strolling through museums, relaxing in cool movie theaters, and splurging on gourmet meals (or at least ones you don’t have to cook yourself). A staycation could be just what the doctor ordered to rejuvenate you before baby arrives.
Also make the most of your home sweet home. Host a barbeque, plan a DVD-and-pizza date night for you and hubby, have a few friends over for a girls’ night in. Growing a person is a lot of work, and you deserve some downtime with your friends and family.