Surviving the Summer Heat in Pregnancy

How do you stay cool when pregnant in the summer?
Photo © RapidEye/Getty Images

Thanks to physical changes during pregnancy, like hormonal fluctuations and increased blood volume and cardiovascular output, pregnant people tend to feel warmer no matter the season. So, if you are pregnant in the summertime, you may find it difficult to get cooled off.

Before you were pregnant, feeling hot may have been a minor nuisance. But getting too hot during pregnancy can quickly turn to overheating, which can be a serious health risk to you and your baby.

A body temperature higher than 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit can lead to heat exhaustion, heatstroke, or dehydration. Overheating can also lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes like premature birth, low birth weight, stillbirth, and congenital disabilities. So staying cool in the summer isn't just a matter of comfort; it's a matter of health.

Summer Pregnancy Risk: Dehydration

Drinking water during pregnancy is vital because of the increased demands on your body. It is even more important to drink lots of water during the summertime, when hot temperatures can speed dehydration.

Not drinking enough liquid can lead to heat exhaustion and can also cause Braxton Hicks contractions. Signs of dehydration include:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dry mouth
  • Flushed skin
  • Chills
  • Constipation
  • Dark-colored urine
  • High heart rate/low blood pressure

Aim for 8 to 12 cups of water a day. Drink before you get thirsty—thirst can be a sign that you've waited too long.

Summer Pregnancy Risk: Swelling

During pregnancy, your body retains more water, which means that some swelling, especially around your ankles and feet, is normal. However, when the weather is hot, swelling can be even more pronounced.

Excess swelling from the heat is called "heat edema." When the body experiences excess heat, blood vessels expand, which causes body fluids to move into the tissues, resulting in swelling.

While swelling during pregnancy is a normal side effect, it can also be cause for concern. Call your doctor if swelling:

  • Is extreme
  • Is in your hands and face
  • Comes on suddenly

Excessive swelling, especially in the hands and face, can be a sign of preeclampsia.

Staying out of the heat can help you avoid excessive swelling in the summertime. If you do find yourself experiencing heat edema, try to rest with your feet up, take a cool shower, or place your feet in a pool or a basin of cool water.

Summer Pregnancy Risk: Sun Exposure

During pregnancy, it's best to avoid direct sunlight. If you are in the sun, use a 30-45 SPF sunscreen. Avoid restrictive clothes, which can increase your discomfort and add to swelling problems.

Limit outdoor time to the cooler parts of the day—early morning and early evening—rather than high noon. And when you do go out, stay hydrated by drinking even more than the recommended 8 to 12 cups of water.

When to Call Your Practitioner

Most of the time, summer heat is a nuisance that can be managed. But sometimes, it can lead to overheating, resulting in risks to your pregnancy and your baby. So watch out for pregnancy warning signs that warrant a call to your doctor:

  • Regular contractions or cramps
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Leaking fluid from the vagina
  • Swelling or puffiness of the face or hands (a sign of preeclampsia)
  • Headaches or blurred vision (preeclampsia signs)
  • Lack of fetal movement
  • Pain during urination (possible urinary tract, bladder, or kidney infection)
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain (preeclampsia signs)
  • Low, dull backache

A Word From Verywell

Summer can be a great time to get out and enjoy your pregnancy. Many activities can still be done during pregnancy with a few simple modifications. Just keep in mind that overheating can happen far more quickly when you are pregnant, so take precautions when it's hot outside. And watch for signs that your body may be dehydrated or overheating.

If you notice any concerning swelling, have a temperature over 102 degrees F, or experience any other symptoms that worry you, be sure to contact your doctor right away.

9 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Soma-Pillay P, Nelson-Piercy C, Tolppanen H, Mebazaa A. Physiological changes in pregnancy. Cardiovasc J Afr. 2016;27(2):89-94. doi:10.5830/cvja-2016-021

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heat - reproductive health.

  3. Konkel L. Taking the heat: Potential fetal health effects of hot temperatures. Environ Health Perspect. 2019;127(10):102002. doi:10.1289/ehp6221

  4. Mulyani EY, Hardinsyah, Briawan D, Santoso BI. The impact of dehydration in the third trimesters on pregnancy outcome-Infant birth weight and length. J Gizi Pangan. 2018;13(3):157-164. doi:10.25182/jgp.2018.13.3.157-164

  5. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. How much water should I drink during pregnancy?.

  6. University of Michigan Health. Swelling.

  7. ACOG Council on Patient Safety in Women's Health Care. Urgent maternal warning signs.

  8. Stanford Medicine. Warning signs during pregnancy.

  9. Hendriks E, MacNaughton H, MacKenzie MC. First trimester bleeding: Evaluation and managementAm Fam Physician. 2019;99(3):166-174.

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.