When I found out last February that I was expecting for the first time, I was ecstatic. My midwife told me early on that my baby would be due approximately the end of September. Great, I thought—the baby will share a birthday month with his dad!
Then I realized that just as I would be hitting the "big belly" stage of the pregnancy, we'd be heading into summer time, and during August, one of the hottest months of the year, I'll be close to due.
That thought definitely stole my thunder a bit. Already hot by nature, my expanded blood volume makes me even warmer as it is, without the help of hot summer temps. But once I did some research, I found that there are actually some great reasons to be pregnant during the summer season. Some are obvious, but some might not have occurred to you.
So put on your cutest summer maternity dress and check out the sunny side of a summer pregnancy.
RELATED: Best Maternity Dresses for Summer
Walking and swimming are an expectant mama's two best friends. Both are low-impact, provide great cardio benefits and are the perfect excuse to head outside for some fresh air.
"Walking is one of the very best forms of exercise during pregnancy because it can be done by women of all fitness levels and stages of pregnancy, and it qualifies as weight-bearing cardio," says Jennifer Johnson, perinatal exercise specialist and founder of fitforexpecting.com. "Research shows weight-bearing exercise delivers a multitude of health benefits to both mom and baby, including delivering more oxygen to mom's muscles and tissues, and therefore to the baby through the placenta." This translates to a better-functioning placenta and more nutrients for your growing little one.
Tip: Wear comfortable, supportive shoes and bring plenty of water.
Swimming provides much-needed relief from pregnancy weight gain, swelling, pressure, loosening of the joints and the intense summer heat, says Johnson. If running (or even walking) on land is uncomfortable, water jogging or walking is the perfect alternative. Water aerobics is a favorite of many pregnant women because it's the only place they feel weightless, and the cool water feels refreshing.
RELATED: Easy Walking Workouts for Pregnancy
And most of us already know just how important the nutrients in these foods are to a healthy mom and baby. Packed with vitamins and important nutrients like energy-giving carbohydrates and filling fiber, fruits and vegetables are major building blocks for a healthy baby.
"With warmer weather, women are more likely to want to eat cooler (and healthier) foods like raw fruits and vegetables and main dish salads featuring salmon, lean beef or chicken," Bridget Swinney, M.S., R.D., author of Eating Expectantly: Practical Advice for Healthy Eating Before, During and After Pregnancy. "And, you can easily grow your own organic vegetables and culinary herbs, which can save money now and later—you can cook and freeze them to make your own baby food once the baby is old enough."
While it's important not to get too much sun and to consistently wear sunscreen, spending a few minutes a day in the rays exposes your skin to more UV light, which makes it produce more vitamin D.
"Vitamin D deficiency is very common during pregnancy and has been linked to a higher risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and bacterial vaginosis," says Swinney.
Of course, there are some food sources, such as fortified milk and fatty fish, but supplementing with vitamin D is also encouraged (many prenatal vitamins don't supply enough); it's very difficult to get enough just through food. Check with your prenatal healthcare provided for a recommended amount; a 2010 study encourages doses as high as 4,000 IU's daily to ward off preeclampsia, but most providers cap their recommendation at 2,000 IU's.
Maternity clothes have come a long way in the past several years. Now, adorable options abound for summer dresses, skirts, tank tops and bathing suits. Designers such as Motherhood Maternity, Liz Lange Maternity, Destination Maternity, Old Navy and Gap and others make affordable options that keep you feeling cool and looking great, no matter how far along you are.
Consignment shops are also a great place to find good deals on gently-used maternity wardrobe staples.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a highly contagious virus that causes a respiratory tract infection, says Jonathan M. Espana, M.D., an OB-GYN with The Women's Specialists of Houston at Texas Children's Pavilion for Women. RSV may be serious for premature babies, or those who have heart and lung problems, especially age 6 months and younger.
RSV season is generally October through May, so babies born in the warmer months are less likely to get it, although babies born in Florida seem to have a yearlong risk, notes Dr. Espana.
It's essential to stay well hydrated throughout pregnancy (and beyond), but even more so in the hot temps of summer. Once you've gotten your daily quota of H20, indulge in a mocktail!
These cocktails-sans-alcohol taste great, look pretty and can even deliver some great pregnancy nutrients.
"Summertime often offers vacation and time away from work, which may be great if you are in the beginning days of your pregnancy when physical symptoms can render you feeling less than glowing," says Juli Fraga, Psy. D. a perinatal psychologist in San Francisco who works regularly with expectant and postpartum moms.
But even better, summer is one of the best times of the year for a last-minute romantic getaway, a.k.a. babymoon with your partner.
"Babymoons are the perfect time for partners to connect and spend quality time together before they transition from being partners to parents," says Fraga.
RELATED: The 20 Best Babymoon Destinations