Why am I feeling hot during pregnancy?

It's common to feel hot when you're pregnant, regardless of the temperature outside. There are several reasons for this: you're carrying around more weight (thanks, baby!), your heart is working harder to support your developing child, you're experiencing hormonal changes, and you have more blood circulating to carry nutrients to your little one, making your skin feel warmer.

These natural changes aren't normally a cause for concern. However, certain activities and heat in your environment can raise your body temperature further, and sometimes this can be dangerous for you and your baby. Exercising in the heat, spending time in a hot place, sitting in a hot bath, and illness can all cause your body's temperature to rise to unhealthy levels.

Sadly, climate change is increasing the threat of heat waves, which are especially dangerous for pregnant women. The problem is made worse when extreme temperatures are accompanied by power outages, making it difficult to keep cool.

It's important to protect yourself from getting too hot during pregnancy. Learn the signs of overheating and how to stay safe.

Signs of overheating while pregnant

You may be overheating if you have the following symptoms:

Overheating during pregnancy: How to keep cool

If you suspect you're overheating, try moving to a cooler place. Drink plenty of water, put on loose clothing, and try putting wet clothes on your skin or sitting in a bathtub full of cool water. Seek medical treatment immediately if symptoms get worse or last longer than an hour.

Risks of overheating in the first trimester

Overheating during the first trimester of pregnancy may harm your baby's development. Babies whose moms had an elevated temperature during the first few weeks of pregnancy have an increased risk for heart problems and neural tube defects. (Neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, affect the brain and spinal cord.)

Exposure to extreme heat early in pregnancy may also raise the risk of miscarriage and preterm birth. One study by the National Institutes of Health found that women exposed to extreme heat waves during the first seven weeks of pregnancy were 11 percent more likely to go into labor early.

It's not just hot weather that can put your pregnancy and baby at risk during the first trimester. Doctors also recommend avoiding hot tubs, saunas, and very hot baths early in pregnancy, especially for extended periods of time, because these will raise your body temperature.

Similarly, a high fever also raises your body temperature and should be brought down with medication (acetaminophen). Call your doctor or midwife if you develop a fever in pregnancy.

Effects of overheating during pregnancy

Since your body is already working overtime to keep both you and your baby healthy, it has more trouble keeping cool in extreme heat.

You're also more likely to get dehydrated if you're pregnant, preventing you from sweating to cool yourself off.

In the worst-case scenario, overheating in pregnancy could lead to serious health problems. Studies have tied overheating to increased risk of:

Dehydration from overheating can also cause Braxton Hicks contractions (false labor pains), and make you feel dizzy or faint. Fainting could result in a fall, putting you at risk for injury or concussion.

How to keep cool during pregnancy

Here are tips from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for avoiding overheating, particularly when it gets hot outside:

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