Beat the heat: How expecting mothers can prevent heat illness

Heat exposure during pregnancy can affect the health and development of an unborn baby, doctors say

It’s no secret that temperatures are hot in Texas. While these extreme temperatures can affect everyone, they can especially affect expecting mothers.

Dr. Kerry Graebe, Obstetrician & Gynecologist at Methodist Hospital says there are ways to take precautionary measures in the heat, and recognize the signs of stress.

Extreme heat exposure during pregnancy can affect the health and development of an unborn baby, especially during the first trimester, according to Graebe. Extreme heat could cause defects in the baby and cause pre-term labor at the end of the pregnancy.

Graebe says the biggest risk when pregnant women are exposed to extreme heat outdoors is the development of the neural tube, or the brain and spinal cord.

Due to the risks, it’s important to understand the warning signs of heat-related issues.

These warning signs include nausea, vomiting, generalized weakness, muscle aches and cramps, excessive thirst, and overall heat temperature.

Greaebe says as the heat-related issue becomes more severe, it’s not uncommon to start losing sweat, become confused or dizzy, and experience a change in your mental status. When these symptoms occur, you should seek medical attention.

A pregnant woman’s body can regulate their temperature pretty well. However, pregnant women are more susceptible to dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Graebe says these symptoms can come on much faster than a non-pregnant person.

Pregnant women should try to stay in cool or air-conditioned areas to protect their unborn baby from the effects of extreme heat. For those who have to be outdoors, seek shade, wear light, breathable clothing, and apply sunscreen. Graebe says adequate hydration and frequent breaks should also be taken for pregnant women outdoors.

For more information on the Women and Children services at Methodist Hospital, visit their website at