5 Smart Strategies to Winterize Your Pregnancy

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Baby, it’s cold outside! In roughly 80% of the country, that is. If you’re living in Hawaii, SoCal or the 8 southern-most states, you’re probably not worried about icy sidewalks or where you put your snowshoes at the end of last winter.

Then again, with an OK from your health care provider, you might decide to jump on a plane and travel north for a winter vacation, business event or family visit. No matter where you’ll be this winter, here are 5 smart strategies to help you and your baby stay healthy, safe and comfortable.

#1 – Layer Up (or Down)

Plenty of people already “run hot” when they’re pregnant. That makes dressing in layers the best way to easily control your personal comfort level. Too hot? Take something off. Too cold? Bundle up by adding another layer.

But bundling up can be a challenge. Because no matter how much you love your favorite winter coat, at some point you won’t be able to button or zip it around your growing belly. The solution? Look for a convertible (“maternity”) coat, jacket, or hoodie that you can wear both during and after your pregnancy. These days you can find maternity outerwear online and in retail stores at all price points.

Many of these products feature an extender panel that fits comfortably over your baby bump while you’re pregnant, then over your baby carrier after your little one arrives. Once you’re back to your pre-pregnancy size, simply zip out the extender for a regular fit.

#2 – Give Ice the Boot

Walking is a great way to keep your cardiovascular system healthy without straining your muscles and joints. But when sidewalks become icy, slushy or cracked, going for a brisk walk might not be so appealing. Pregnancy does change your center of gravity, making you more prone to falling. And no one wants to slip and fall on an icy surface.

Another challenge may be that your regular boots feel a size too small, due to normal pregnancy swelling in your feet and calves. The solution? Invest in a pair of sturdy, flat boots or shoes with deep treads that will give you good traction on outdoor surfaces.

If you need to go up a size, do it. You can always add an insert or wear another pair of socks to take up the extra space once your feet stop swelling. With your feet warm and stable, you can feel more confident venturing outdoors for a healthy walk in the crisp, fresh air.

#3 – Steer Clear of “Sickies”

Keeping your distance from people who are coughing or sneezing is good advice year-round. And even more important during the winter cold and flu season. When you’re pregnant, the last thing you want is to get sick and not be able to take any medications because you’re expecting.

Here are some healthy reminders to minimize your risk of catching a nasty virus:

  • Get a flu shot as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You and your baby are at a higher risk for flu-related complications if you catch it.
  • Get vaccinated against COVID-19. The CDC has determined that COVID-19 vaccines are “safe and effective” for people who are pregnant or lactating.
  • Ask your health provider if you should also get a pertussis (whooping cough) booster vaccine.
  • Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your nose and mouth.
  • Get plenty of rest, eat healthy foods, and drink plenty of fluids to fortify your body’s natural immunities.
  • If someone near you is coughing or sneezing (especially without wearing a mask), move away. It’s OK to politely excuse yourself if you know them.

#4 – Stay Active (and Safe)

You already know that physical activity can help ease many pregnancy aches and pains. But during the cold weather months, it can be tempting to curl up on the couch instead of getting up to exercise. If you have access, swimming in an indoor pool, walking on a treadmill, or taking a yoga class are easy ways to stay active. Remember to check with your health care provider before you start a new activity.

If winter sports are your thing, snow shoeing and cross-country skiing (in moderation) are generally considered safe activities during pregnancy. Again, with your provider’s permission.

Now for the no-no list:

  • NO downhill skiing, snowmobiling, snowboarding or ice skating. Even if you are an expert, the risk of falling is still too high.
  • NO shoveling snow or heavy lifting which can make pregnancy low back pain even worse. (And who likes to shovel snow or lift heavy stuff anyway?)
  • NO hot tubbing. High water temperatures (usually 100°F to 104°F) can seriously harm your baby’s developing nervous system, especially during your first trimester.

#5 – Nourish Your Skin

When temperatures turn cold, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water. But winter air can be dry and your body actually needs more water in the winter than you might think. Dehydration can lead to preterm labor and other health problems, so make a conscious effort to drink lots of liquids. Although juices and coconut water are also good options, drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated.

Not drinking enough water and exposure to winter weather can also be hard on your skin. When you’re pregnant, your skin changes in response to changes in your hormones. Exposure to winter air – indoors and outdoors – also steals away moisture and dries out your skin. And dry skin can become flaky, itchy, and uncomfortable.

Besides drinking plenty of water, here are some ways to keep your skin soft and supple:

  • Take a lukewarm shower – it’s  kinder to your skin than a hot bath.
  • Apply moisturizer to your elbows, hands, belly, and chest immediately after showering when your pores are open and can absorb it better.
  • If you experience “itchy belly” as your skin stretches over your growing baby, keep your favorite moisturizer handy and use it often.

With a little planning and a few smart strategies, being pregnant over the winter months can be a warm and wonderful experience that you will remember forever.

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