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Pregnancy- summer calls for extra care (The Tribune-26 May 2010)

Sangeeta is due next month, but is doubly distressed since the load of the baby and the
oppression of summer heat have tied her down to the bedroom. Worried about the health of the
baby, she calls her doctor and asks, “Can summer heat lead to an adverse outcome for me or my

The doctor replied, “Generally, only those who

don’t get adequate care during pregnancy run the
risk of complications. Heat can be dangerous for
you and your baby if you become overheated,
dehydrated, or develop hyperthermia.

“Dehydration can be especially dangerous

because it can cause your baby’s heart to beat too
quickly and increase your risk of preterm labour.
The likelihood of preterm labour increases
because dehydration decreases your blood volume, thereby increasing the concentration of
oxytocin, the hormone responsible for uterine contractions. Take the following precautions”-

* Avoid direct mid-day sun because pregnant women are more prone to sunburn than non-
pregnant women.

* Drink one glass of water for each hour you are outdoors in hot weather.

* Avoid vigorous outdoor activities during the hot hours of the day.

* Use a high SPF sunscreen. If you have fair skin, use SPF 30 or 45. (Increased melanin
production can lead to the “mask of pregnancy”; so make sure your time in the sun is limited and
don’t head out without sunscreen.)

* Get indoors at the first sign of weakness, fatigue, dizziness, lightheadedness, or excessive
thirst. Lie down and drink some cold water or electrolyte replacement liquid. Call your doctor.

When to go to the doctor routinely in pregnancy?

Your first visit will be when you are 6 to 8 weeks pregnant. Your doctor will start with your
medical history. You’ll be weighed and have your blood pressure taken. On your first visit,
you’ll also have to undergo a pelvic examination to check the size and shape of your uterus and a
Pap smear to check for abnormalities of the cervix.

Urine and blood test samples will be taken. Urine is tested to check for bacteria, high sugar
levels and high protein levels (which can put you at risk for preeclampsia, a type of high blood
pressure during pregnancy). Blood is tested to check for hemoglobin, infectious diseases
(sexually transmitted diseases and hepatitis) and blood group.

Ultrasound may be done to check your baby’s growth and position in your uterus. Most women
gain about 12 kg. If you don’t weigh enough when you get pregnant, you may need to gain more.
If you’re overweight when you get pregnant, you may need to gain less. A monthly check-up is
advised initially.

Diet and other factors

Meat, eggs and fish that are not fully cooked may put you at risk for an infection. Fish sometimes
has high levels of mercury, which may hurt your baby. Wash all fruit and vegetables properly.
Eat four or more servings of dairy foods each day. This will give you enough calcium for you
and your baby. Avoid tea or coffee or other drinks with caffeine; do not have more than one or
two cups each day. You should take 1,000 mcg (1 mg) of folic acid every day during your
pregnancy. Folic acid can help prevent problems with your baby’s brain and spinal cord.

Avoid all kinds of medicines, which may cause birth defects, especially during the first three
months of pregnancy. Lifting heavy objects or standing for long periods can be hard on your
body. Radiation, lead and other heavy metals, such as copper and mercury can be damaging.
Avoiding foetal heat stress is especially important during the first trimester when your babys
major body systems are developing. Hyperthermia may be associated with some birth defects,
including heart problems, abdominal wall defects and nervous system malformation.

Try to get at least 30 minutes for exercise each day. Walking and swimming are great choices. If
you didn’t exercise before pregnancy, start slowly. Don’t overdo while exercising. Call your
doctor if you have symptoms such as blurred vision, dizziness, chest pain or abdominal pain
while you are exercising. It is okay to have sex.