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Pregnancy is no walk in the park, especially once the temperatures drop. Here are some health considerations for your winter pregnancy and ways to stay healthy throughout the coldest months.
According to a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), exposure to extreme temperatures during pregnancy can increase the risk of preterm birth, which occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy and increases the likelihood of health complications.
The study found that participants who experienced extreme cold, which they defined as being below the tenth percentile of their region’s average temperature, during the first seven weeks of their pregnancies had a 20 percent higher risk of delivering their babies before 34 gestational weeks.
The NIH study also found that exposure to extreme cold during the second or third trimester led to an 18 to 21 percent increased likelihood of having a low birth weight. When exposed to extreme cold throughout their pregnancy, expecting parents were 257 percent more likely to have an infant with low birth weight.
“It’s unclear why exposure to extreme temperatures affects birth weight,” said Laura Tyree, M.D., OB/GYN at Inspira Medical Group. “One possibility is that such exposure reduces blood flow to the uterus, which limits how much oxygen and nutrients can get to the fetus.”
To minimize your chances of low birth weight or early delivery, avoid long exposure to extreme temperatures. While some cold weather is unlikely to have an effect on your pregnancy, it’s always important to listen to your body and warm up inside if you’re feeling too cold.
Pregnant people are at increased risk for contracting viral infections, including the seasonal flu and COVID-19. “Changes to the immune system during pregnancy make it harder to fight off infections,” said Dr. Tyree. “Pregnant people are more likely than non-pregnant people to get hospitalized for respiratory illnesses.”
A fever during pregnancy can be harmful to your baby, but it’s usually no cause for concern. Although fevers are common, some studies have shown an association between fevers and pregnancy complications. If you’re pregnant and have a fever, drink plenty of fluids and ask your doctor about taking an acetaminophen-based fever reducer such as Tylenol.
Because of the increased risk for complications, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a seasonal flu shot for pregnant people. If you’re expecting, the CDC also recommends that you stay up to date with your COVID vaccines and booster shots.
Pregnancy causes many hormonal changes in the body that can affect the skin. These changes, combined with the drop in temperature, can cause itchy, dry patches on the skin. To minimize skin irritation, use a mild, unscented lotion to stay moisturized.
“Although mild itching, especially on the stomach, isn’t harmful to you or your baby, significant itchiness without a rash can signify a more serious liver condition called obstetric cholestasis,” said Dr. Tyree. “Talk to your doctor if you experience extreme itchiness, especially if you notice it at nighttime and you’re nearing the end of your pregnancy.”
Although there are several factors to consider when navigating pregnancy throughout the winter months, there are ways to minimize risk and stay healthy. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about your winter pregnancy. When expecting parents choose Inspira, they receive comprehensive prenatal care. Schedule an appointment with an OB/GYN or a certified nurse midwife today.
Inspira Health is a high reliability organization (HRO), which means safety is the top priority for patients and staff. To make an appointment, call 1-800-INSPIRA.
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