The Pregnant Woman’s Guide to Summer

A Sydney summer is a glorious thing; sunshine, beach trips, the frangipani trees blooming and
everybody in holiday mode. There are a few hazards though – sunburn, dehydration, stray
backyard cricket balls! If you’re pregnant, there’s a few extra things to keep in mind when
planning your perfect summer. Here are our tips.

Staying hydrated

Number one, top of the list, is to stay hydrated. Your blood volume increases during
pregnancy and your heart works harder. Your body uses extra fluid for the developing
pregnancy. You also lose more fluid into your tissues (this is why your ankles swell up) and
through extra sweating. Add in some morning sickness and it’s very easy to become
dehydrated. Dehydration will make you lightheaded and give you a headache; if it becomes
severe, it can be dangerous.

Make sure to drink regularly throughout the day. Aim for 8-10 glasses of water spaced
throughout the day. If you are out in the sun or exercising, you’ll lose even more fluid than
usual through sweat. Make sure to drink extra to compensate.

Staying cool

Pregnancy makes your peripheral blood vessels dilate, giving you that flushed pregnancy
“glow” but also making hot days a struggle.

Be conscious of the heat. To misquote the song, stay out of the midday sun! Wear loose,
breathable clothing and always wear a hat outside. Keep the house cool and sleep with a fan
on at night.

Swollen feet and ankles are common and the heat will make them worse. The good news is
you can wear thongs and sandals everywhere in summer. Whenever you sit or lie down, prop
your feet up above the level of your heart. This helps your body remove the extra fluid that
causes the swelling. A word of warning though – if one ankle is obviously more swollen, or
you have headaches, upper abdominal pain or spots and sparkles in your vision, phone your
hospital immediately.

Sun protection

Slip, slop, slap is non-negotiable for anyone venturing out into the Australian sunshine.

Invest in a broad-brimmed sunhat and remember, no hat, no play! Wear a great pair of
sunglasses and clothing with an inbuilt SPF factor.

It’s a myth that pregnant women can’t wear sunscreen. Buy a good quality SPF50+, like the
ones from the Australian Cancer Council. Apply and re-apply!

Finally, while it’s true that pregnancy can cause increased skin pigmentation, don’t ever
ignore a mole that looks new or different. Melanoma doesn’t care if you’re pregnant or not.
Get any changes checked by a doctor immediately.

Swimming

Swimming is fabulous for pregnant women. It offers a great cardiovascular workout and core
strengthening, which is really beneficial for pregnancy and birth. Also, your joints naturally
loosen and are put under extra strain by your growing pregnancy. Swimming is low impact,
so it protects your joints. The buoyancy is particularly good for relieving lower back and hip
pain. It will also keep you cool.

Avoid diving (or belly-flopping!) because hitting the water from a height can be like a blow to
your belly. Instead step down into the water. Also, as your belly grows your centre of gravity
changes, making falls more common. Take extra care on slippery pool decks and in strong
surf.

If you’ve had your baby, you should avoid swimming until your post-partum bleeding has
completely ceased. If you had an episiotomy this also needs to have fully healed, which can
take up to 4 weeks. In both cases it’s because of the risk of infection. If you had a caesarean,
you also need to be conscious that your deep abdominal muscles are recovering – check with
your doctor to see when they are happy for you to resume swimming.

Travel

If you’re heading off for the holidays, lucky you!

Remember that airlines and ships have rules about pregnant women travelling. Most
companies refuse to let women travel in late pregnancy, in case they go into labour or develop
complications. The rules vary depending on the company and the length of your journey.
Make sure to check with your carrier before booking tickets – don’t forget to check your
return journey as well!

You will need a letter from your doctor stating that you are well enough to travel. Ask for this
at your last appointment before leaving.

Travel insurance can be tricky. Most travel insurance policies will not cover pregnancy – you
need to research this carefully. Be very wary of travelling without insurance, especially to
destinations like the United States where hospital costs are extremely high. Should you

deliver a baby prematurely, you may find yourself stuck in a foreign country for months, with
an astronomical medical bill.

Which brings us nicely to the next point – the destination. Keep in mind that not all
destinations have equal access to top-level medical care. Research the facilities available,
including options for medical evacuation. The Australian Government’s Smart Traveller
website is a good starting point. You may also need special vaccinations, anti-malarial
medications or other precautions for your destination – see a travel doctor for advice.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) prevention when travelling

Blood clots can form in your legs (deep vein thrombosis) or lungs (pulmonary embolus). This
can cause serious illness or death.

Pregnancy significantly increases your chance of developing a blood clot. So does being
immobilized for long periods. Long journeys, where you are forced to sit for hours at a time,
are well recognized for causing clots. Most people are aware of the risk when flying, but very
long car or bus trips can also be a problem.

All pregnant women going on a long trip should follow some basic advice. Buy a pair of
medical compression stockings – you can purchase a properly fitted pair at large pharmacies.
Wear the stockings at all times during travel. Stay well hydrated. Most importantly, get up
and walk around as much as possible, at least every hour.

Some pregnant women have underlying medical problems that put them at even higher risk
of blood clots. These women may need to take blood-thinning medication when travelling.
Check with your obstetrician if this applies to you.