Why a heatwave can spell trouble for pregnant moms

Here’s why you should stay cool if you’re pregnant during the hot summer months.

South Africa is notorious for its beautiful warm weather but also for its bouts of heatwaves. Pregnant women are vulnerable to heat stress as physiological changes in pregnancy make thermoregulation more of a struggle. A pregnant woman’s metabolism is raised and internal heat production is increased. This is especially important in a low resource setting, where pregnant women are required to do chores such as fetch and carry water, subsistence farming, etc. For more information on this, read on…

High temperatures and preterm birth

Studies have shown that there is a link between higher temperatures and maternal and newborn health outcomes.

A study was published recently in The BMJ (British Medical Journal) that investigated the relationship between high environmental temperatures and preterm birth, stillbirths, and birthweight. The study looked at births across 27 countries and established that preterm births were more common at higher than lower temperatures. There was a marked increase in preterm births during a heatwave and a higher rate of stillbirths at higher temperatures.

The average birthweight was also lower at higher temperatures. These findings were more common in young girls and older women and in low socio-economic areas.

Previous research has shown that 10% of all births in Asia are preterm and 12% in Sub-Saharan African.

This makes pregnant women in these areas at an even higher risk of early delivery in higher temperatures.

4 Ways to stay cool while pregnant

If you are pregnant during peak summer months, or during a heatwave, there are a number of things to look out for and try to consider.

  1. Number one is obviously to try and stay cool. Staying indoors and out of the sun, will prevent the rise in body temperature. Wearing a hat and thin cotton clothing, preferably white can also keep you cool.
  2. Make sure you’re not dehydrated and drink lots of fluids. Always try to have a water bottle on hand. This can be quite challenging if you’re in your first trimester and struggling with morning sickness. Speak to your nurse or doctor if you are unable to tolerate fluids or are vomiting profusely. There is medication to prevent nausea and vomiting, and in extreme cases, intravenous fluids may be needed.
  3. If you go into labour, you should ideally be in a cool room with a fan and constantly sip on water or other fluids.
  4. Global warming and climate change have a huge impact on the health of pregnant women and their babies. It is of the utmost importance to create awareness about this!


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