Pregnancy isn’t without its fair share of discomforts any time of year, but toting a baby bump during the summer months can be especially problematic. Your higher-than-normal body temperature makes the steamy weather seem even hotter, and, let’s be honest—those extra pounds probably aren’t helping matters. (A necessary evil, for sure, but still no fun.) But a scorching sun doesn’t mean you have to drag yourself around in misery for the duration of the season. After all, pregnancy is a time to celebrate, right? With a few helpful tips and some wise advice, you can survive—and, dare we say, even thrive, during your warm weather incubation period.
Do a body good
Thick hair, strong nails, that pregnancy glow … there are a lot of natural beauty perks that come along with the baby you’ve currently got in tow. Unfortunately, there are some not-so-pretty ones, too. Here’s how to tackle them before they tackle you.
When it comes to outdoor fun, there’s one important thing to remember: sunblock. Apply it every single time you leave the house, particularly on your face, where you’re prone to fall victim to the infamous “mask of pregnancy” (formally known as melasma). Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, founder and director of Capital Laser & Skin Care and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., shares, “My favorite [sun protection] products contain physical sunblock ingredients like zinc and titanium because they offer the best UVA coverage. All sunscreens will block UVB rays, but not all block UVA rays, which are the major contributor to the discoloration of melasma.” She also recommends wearing a hat whenever the sun shines on your face: “Ultraviolet A light will get through even the best sunblock.”
Preggo gals need a little extra pampering, but a trip to the spa isn’t always in the budget. Enjoy these at-home fixes for common pregnancy-related ailments.
Shiny, oily skin
Ever felt like the pregnancy glow is actually just an overproduction of oil? You aren’t completely wrong. “Increased hormones lead to additional oil production,” says Tanzi. “In warmer months, the humidity also increases oil production,” meaning summertime mamas-to-be might have a crazy case of greasy face. To combat the oil overload, Tanzi recommends using a glycolic acid-containing cleanser. No matter how oily and acne-prone you become, avoid products containing retinoids and salicylic acid. A mild cleanser is your best bet, and if you have any doubts (or don’t recognize all of the ingredients listed on the label), take your products along to your OB or midwife appointment so she can skim the components and give them a “yea” or a “nay.”
Toward the end of pregnancy, exhaustion is par for the course. (Perhap it’s nature’s cruel way of preparing us for the sleep deprivation that’s to come?) To brighten up sleepy peepers, cut two larger-than-the-eye slices of chilled cucumber, dampen a washcloth with cool water, and lie back on a comfortable reclined surface. Place the cucumber slices over your eyes, top with the washcloth, and relax for at least 15 minutes. When you rejoin the world, your eyes will look less puffy, and dark circles will be magically lightened. Once you’ve finished your treatment, rinse your eyes with cool water.
Pamper your pretty face with a soothing DIY facial: Mix 1 cup plain yogurt with 1⁄2 cup oatmeal. (If your skin is super oily, consider adding a couple drops of lime or lemon juice to your mask mixture; if dryness is your problem, stir in a tablespoon or two of honey.) Apply the concoction to your irritated face, and hang out for 15 minutes or so before wiping it off with a warm washcloth.
Sore, swollen feet
Nothing beats a pedicure, but you can recreate the soothing effects at home with little effort. Fill a basin with warm water, 1⁄2 cup Epsom salt and a few drops of your favorite essential oil (rosemary and peppermint are popular choices). Soak your barking dogs for 5 to 10 minutes, then recruit a friend or your partner to handle the rest: Gently remove dead skin with an exfoliating scrub, lather up with a moisturizing lotion (request a little massage action, too!), and paint your nails a pretty color.
Say YES to the dress
Embrace the breeze, gals—soft, loose dresses are a pregnant girl’s summer wardrobe staple. Avoid heavy and synthetic fabrics, which will do nothing but make you hotter and itchier. Opt for light-colored, lightweight and breathable options, like cotton and linen, especially if you’ll be spending time outside.
Your first instinct might be to pick up a pair of flip-flops to sport all summer long, and we don’t blame you. They won’t constrict your swollen feet, and you won’t even have to bend over to put them on. (Win-win!) However, a cheap pair of flops won’t give your feet the support they need and may leave you with sore soles and legs at the end of the day.
Go ahead and splurge on a good pair of sandals or slip-ons with arch support. Don’t be surprised if they’re a size larger than you wore prepregnancy. Even when you remove swelling from the equation, feet tend to stretch and grow a bit while expecting, resulting in a shoe size that’s a half or full size bigger than before.
Eat for the season
As much as we’d like to endorse the cupcake-and-doughnut diet, the facts can’t be ignored: When you eat better, you feel better. Luckily summer’s bounty provides a smorgasbord of tasty fruits and veggies you won’t mind snacking on.
Warmer weather calls for lighter meals, making salads the go-to grub for a mom- to-be already sharing her stomach space. Toss together your favorite greens, veggies, fruits and healthy dressing for a quick and easy meal. Add some protein by topping with lean meat fresh off the grill. Other light and healthy dishes to try: summer squash pizza, fish tacos, veggie-loaded omelets, and fruit salad with mint and lime. Yum!
Smoothies are another refreshing pick, although it’s usually better to DIY than to drive-thru buy. Café-made smoothies tend to be overloaded with unnecessary sugar and calories, and you can easily blend your own at home with fruit, yogurt or milk, and ice. Try mango, pineapple and spinach; strawberry, banana and kiwi; or any other combination that satisfies your cravings.
Sodium can lead to swelling (which can be further exacerbated by both pregnancy and hot weather), so it might be wise to lay low on the salt intake. However, don’t think you need to cut it from your diet completely. Salt is a good source of iodine, an essential nutrient for your budding babe, so enjoy it in moderation.
Keep up the pace
Staying in shape is essential during pregnancy, but heat can put a damper on outdoor walks and workouts. Early morning or late evening activities can be more enjoyable (and less sweaty). You might choose to embrace the comfort (and A/C) of a trek on the treadmill or an indoor fitness class.
The water’s perfect.
Luckily for hot mamas, water is an awesome countermeasure for sizzling sunshine, and swimming is a great form of exercise. Taking a dip in a chilly pool is absolutely heavenly when you’re carrying around another human 24 hours a day, and that weightless feeling you enjoy in the water might just be the most relaxing experience you’ll have in your 40-week run. Plus, in addition to cooling you off, taking a dip in the pool relieves stress on your bones and joints.
A walk or yoga session on the beach is nothing short of divine, but make sure you don’t overdo it. Because your body temperature is already above normal, you’re more prone to overheating, so if the heat index hits 90 degrees or higher, stay inside. While you’re out—and particularly while you’re exercising— be sure to dress appropriately and stay hydrated. Don’t assume these words of warning mean you need to spend the entire season cooped up, though. A little sunshine is good for you both physically and emotionally, and there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the great outdoors. Just do so wisely, and keep what’s best for baby in mind.
Live it up
If this is your first bambino, you might currently be sweating your way through your last baby-free summer. Savor it! While your next season of sun will be filled with thrills and priceless memories, it will be significantly more challenging to travel and embark on spur-of-the-moment festivities with a wee one. Take advantage of the opportunity for a last hurrah.
Babymoons are a great way to reconnect with your partner before you become parents. Book a relaxing vacation somewhere you’ll both enjoy (may we suggest somewhere with a spa?), and take it easy for a few days. Travel with caution, though—while hitting the road (or skies) is perfectly safe during a normal pregnancy, it does require a few extra precautions.
If you’ll be reaching your destination via car, consider being the passenger rather than the driver. Your baby is well-protected in your belly, but keeping some distance between your bump and the steering wheel when possible isn’t a bad idea. Also ensure you’re wearing your seat belt correctly, with the top strap across your collarbone and the bottom under your belly and across your upper thighs, never above or tucked below your bump.
Plan for frequent bathroom breaks, and give yourself a few minutes to walk around, stretch and get the blood pumping in your legs every couple hours. Because pit stop toilets often aren’t the cleanest, plan to bring along a “break bag” with toilet paper, seat covers and hand sanitizer. Also pack plenty of healthy snacks and refreshments for the road.
Most doctors and airlines agree that air travel after 36 weeks is a no-go, so plan your flight adventures accordingly. When booking your ticket, request an aisle seat for easy bathroom access, and keep in mind that a seat over the wing will provide the smoothest ride. Get up and stroll the aisle every hour or so to prevent swelling and leg discomfort. Drink lots of water to combat the dehydrating effects of dry cabin air.
It can be hard to predict the temperature on a plane, so dress in layers that you can easily add or subtract as needed. Plan to bring along a neck pillow for longer flights, which will allow you to nap more comfortably in your seat.
If you’re too close to your due date to head out of town (or simply want to save on travel expenses), consider playing tourist in your own city. Spend some time leisurely strolling through museums, relaxing in cool movie theaters and splurging on gourmet meals (or at least ones you don’t have to cook yourself). A staycation could be just what the doctor ordered to rejuvenate you before baby arrives.
Also, plan to make the most of your home sweet home. Host a barbecue, have a Hulu-and-pizza date night for you and hubby, invite a few friends over for a girls’ night in. Growing a person is a lot of work, and you deserve some downtime with your friends and family. Once baby arrives, things are going to change, and it might be a bit before you have a chance to really connect with those you love—so let them know now how much they mean to you and how lucky you are to have them in your life.