Welcome to my site! You’ve likely been directed here for information or materials on maternal health and extreme heat. Below I offer a quick overview on the risk and share outreach materials that you are welcome to review and/or adopt. These are recommendations and precautions, not medical advice. I welcome questions at any time (adelle [dot] monteblanco [at] mtsu [dot] edu).
Help Moms Stay Cool for their Baby
With this summer well underway, expecting families need to be aware of the impact that extreme heat can have on their babies’ health.
Most years, heat causes the most weather-related fatalities (compared to other weather-related risks). You can probably list some of the most vulnerable groups; they include the elderly, outdoor workers, children, those who are already ill, and those who lack cooling resources, such as air conditioning. Too often pregnant women are omitted from this list.
Everyone will be exposed to extreme heat over their life; but it’s the increased body temperature associated with overexposure to heat that is of concern. Moms walking outside for a few minutes when it is warm is fine as long as she is comfortable, however, concern grows when moms are not able to escape the heat or work outdoors throughout their pregnancy. The mounting research evidence suggests that pregnant people’s over exposure to extreme heat, and the associated increased body temperature, is significantly associated with serious adverse birth outcomes. These adverse birth outcomes can include preterm birth, low birth weight, and even stillbirth.
With our long summers and temperatures steadily increasing, you or the families you serve may be eager to learn symptoms of heat stress and protective measures pregnant people can take to promote health.
If you, someone you serve, and/or someone you love is pregnant, be extra vigilant for symptoms of heat stress: feeling dizzy, lightheaded or very hot, lethargic, experiencing a headache, nausea, or vomiting, profuse sweating, weakness or muscle cramps, and/or rapid heartbeat. If any of these symptoms are present, seek air conditioning, submerge in a cool bath, and/or apply cold towels to neck and forehead. If air conditioning is not present, wet skin and/or clothing with cool water and use an electric fan. Call a healthcare provider (e.g., midwife, doctor) after any episode, especially if fainting occurs.
Ideally, pregnant people and their support team avoid heat stress by staying hydrated (limit caffeine and sugary drinks), staying in a cool indoor space during peak heat hours, dressing in cool and loose clothing, and checking the forecast.
Precautions for newborns include not bundling them up—too many layers can cause them to overheat—and allowing nursing babies frequent access to the breast. Breastfeeding is how they quench their thirst and stay hydrated.
*Many thanks to Rachel Curtis, Desert Doula, who shaped much of the helpful text above so I can communicate effectively to moms and maternal and child health professionals.
If you are a parent that would like helpful reminders around your home or a health care provider eager to promote heat safety to your clients/patients, please feel free to adapt, print, and/or post the following materials:
Outreach materials created by the Hot Spots for Heat Resilience team (Adelle Dora Monteblanco, Jennifer Vanos, Sarah LeRoy, Patricia Juárez-Carillo, and Gregg Garfin)
- Rack card to promote heat safety (English/Spanish)
- Urine chart to promote hydration (English/Spanish)
- Passive cooling brochure (English, Spanish)
Additional materials created by Adelle Monteblanco and Jenni Vanos (Arizona State) in response to feedback from maternal health professionals:
- Tips to keep you and your home cool (English; Spanish)
- FAQs when talking to pregnant people about heat and health — designed for maternal health professionals preparing or responding to a conversation about extreme heat and safety precautions (English; Spanish coming soon!)
Materials made from other organizations and leaders:
- Patient education brochure; poster explaining how heat affects the human body (Health Care Without Harm)
- Summertime Breastfeeding Infographic (Breastfeeding USA)
- Fact Sheet: Increasing Temperatures because of Climate Change is a Reproductive Justice Issue (Human Rights Watch)
- Fact Sheet: Higher Temperatures Hurt Moms and Babies (National Partnership for Women and Families)
If you would like to have the materials in a different file type or have feedback to offer on any of the materials, or if you’d like to tell me how you are using the materials, I welcome an e-mail at any time (adelle [dot] monteblanco [at] mtsu [dot] edu). Thank you!