Extreme heat causes extra risk to pregnant women and their baby

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ST. LOUIS - Dangerous heat combined with high humidity means heat index values will soar to 110 degrees across the St. Louis region. This excessive heat is forecast to last well into the weekend. And while everyone needs to take certain precautions to stay safe, overexposure to extreme heat is dangerous to both pregnant women and their babies.

During pregnancy, women are more sensitive to the effects of heat because of some of the changes already happening in their bodies. They have extra fluid and weight, a higher base body temperature and an increase in baseline heart rate level. All of these factors make them more prone to feeling overheated compared to the average person.

Dr. Eric Strand, Division Chief of General Obstetrics and Gynecology, says there are early signs of heat exhaustion that pregnant woman need to recognize.

“A rapid heart rate, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, profuse sweating or feeling of clamminess, fatigue can be one," he said. "Certainly, if a woman is using the bathroom and she notices her urine is very dark that’s usually a sign that she might be becoming dehydrated. So those would all be early warning signs that somebody might want to take a few measures to get themselves cooled off."

Dr. Strand says that if you start feeling any of these early signs of heat exhaustion you need to get to a cool place, drink cool fluids, apply cool compresses, shed layers or change into looser fitting clothes. If taking these precautions doesn’t alleviate the symptoms, or if you become confused, lethargic, or your body temperature is at 103 degrees or higher, you need medical help.

Dr. Strand says experiencing heat exhaustion or stroke can have impacts on not only the mom but their baby as well.

“So many patients will find that they’re a little more prone to contracting if they get dehydrated. And so one of the things we always tell women throughout the course of pregnancy that they want to stay well hydrated and obviously they’re at risk of being dehydrated when it’s so hot outside. Certainly, severe forms of heat exhaustion to heatstroke can have significantly negative effects for mom and baby. Just in terms of the baby’s ability to survive through that very hostile environment,” Dr. Strand said.

Pregnant women should limit outdoor time, avoid exercising outside in the middle of the day and use caution.


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