Having a baby in Spain

Dealing with pregnancy during a Spanish summer

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The heat in Spain can also be dangerous for pregnant women, so it's important for expecting mums to take precautions when pregnant during a Spanish summer.

The heat in Spain can also be potentially dangerous for pregnancy, so it's important that all mums to keep themselves out of the sun as much as possible and drink lots of water, says Dr Monique Rainford.

I have always had a low tolerance for the cold and prefer warmer temperatures. All that changed during my first pregnancy. I turned the office air conditioning down to a low setting and had a fan on at every opportunity. The heat was almost unbearable.

This heat intolerance is true for many pregnant women since, in general, they have a reduced tolerance to heat. The summer is here and most people would agree that it is very hot. I can certainly empathise with the discomfort of women who are pregnant during the summer months.

However, prolonged exposure to high temperatures can lead to more than just discomfort. It can lead to a serious condition known as hyperthermia. This condition occurs if someone's body temperature becomes higher than its normal level.

Hyperthermia

It is different from a fever in that a fever is a controlled rise in body temperature usually as a protective response to different factors such as infection. In hyperthermia there is an uncontrolled rise in the body's temperature, which may be due to impairment in the body's temperature regulation system or its cooling system.

Unfortunately, there are risks to the developing baby if a pregnant woman has this condition. If she develops hyperthermia early in pregnancy, her baby is more likely to have a birth defect, especially neural tube defects which are abnormalities involving the baby's spine and/or brain. Later in the pregnancy the condition can raise her risk of preterm labour (labour before the pregnancy has reached full term).

Fortunately, a pregnant woman's risk of developing hyperthermia is low. Nevertheless, the higher temperatures of summer can lead to other conditions. A recent study done in Israel showed that the rate of oligohydramnios was higher for pregnant women in the summer months as compared to the other months of the year.

Drink enough water

Oligohydramnios is a condition in which the volume of amniotic fluid surrounding the developing baby is lower than normal. It has been associated with a higher risk a foetal distress and an increased risk of a pregnant woman having a caesarean delivery.

So what can a pregnant woman do to avoid some of these possible complications?

She should keep well hydrated by drinking several glasses of water daily, at least 10. She can employ the use of fans or air conditioning where possible to keep cooler. She should wear cool clothes such as those made with cotton material in light colours that reflect the sunlight.

Soaking in the sun, in moderation

She should avoid direct sunlight as much as possible; use a large rimmed hat or an umbrella in situations where shade is not readily available. She should avoid being outdoors at the hottest times of day; use sunscreen to protect her skin as sunlight exposure can worsen pregnancy - induced darkening of the skin.

Finally, swimming is not only a safe exercise for most women in pregnancy, but it is a fun way to keep cool in these hot summer months.

Monique Rainford / KidsinMadrid / Expatica
Dr Monique Rainford is a consulting obstetrician and gynaecologist.
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