During the winter, we get to enjoy many wonderful things—holiday food and gifts, more family time, and the first snowfall. It’s a great time of year to be pregnant! However, the winter season does come with its own set of challenges for new moms, such as extreme temperatures, viruses, ice and snow. Here are a few tips to feel comfortable and safe all winter long:
1. Get your car prepared. One of the more serious winter situations for a pregnant woman would be to find yourself in a car for a long period of time – either your vehicle will not start, or you’ve spun into a ditch on the side of the road. Be prepared and prevent hypothermia by having blankets, high calorie snacks and water in your car.
2. Be extra cautious on the road. It is always a good idea to exercise caution when driving during the winter months, especially if you are pregnant. You have the safety of two to consider now! Keep your attention on driving instead of multitasking (i.e. texting, talking on the phone or using a navigation system). Mapping out your route to the hospital from home and work is especially critical during winter when bad weather and bad traffic are more likely to occur. It also is dangerous crossing the streets when it’s dark outside in the winter. Wearing reflective gear makes it easier for drivers to see you and your children.
3. Layer up! If the temperature is extreme, limit your time outside. Take advantage of the cold weather and your extra time indoors to shop online for baby clothes, organize the nursery, read some baby books, or write baby shower thank-you notes. Your ears, fingers, toes and the tip of your nose are where most of the lesions from frostbite occur. So, when outside, be sure to wear a hat that will protect your ears, gloves or mittens, thick socks and a scarf over your nose. Warm beverages also are helpful in preventing frostbite.
4. Keep the germs away. During the winter season, we spend more time indoors with people, and viruses are extremely efficient when it comes to going from one person to another. It is recommended to get a flu shot during any trimester of pregnancy to protect yourself and your newborn babies from the flu. Viruses can remain alive on surfaces for hours, so wiping door handles and any other surface with a cleaning/disinfectant wipe after someone sneezes or coughs can help protect you from catching a cold or the flu. Staying hydrated, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep is important to maintain your immune system in its best possible shape to defend you and your baby against viruses.
5. Watch out for ice. It may sound obvious, but so many people get injured during the icy winter months from slipping on an icy sidewalk or driveway. This can be even worse for pregnant women whose natural balance is already altered. Regular exercise is essential to a healthy pregnancy, but as a precaution, avoid exercising outdoors. Look online or even on Netflix for some prenatal workouts you can do at home. You also can decrease your chance of slipping on ice or snow by wearing shoes with good traction (i.e. rubber-soled boots with deep treads). And, let your partner, a neighbor or a friend do the shoveling!
6. Stay social. Staying inside in extreme cold is the right call for mommy and baby, but don’t let yourself get too isolated. According to research, stress and isolation may have more of an impact on your immune system than you think. Make sure you still make plans to see friends and family during the winter. Feeling connected to others and supported throughout your pregnancy can help you stay healthy and in a positive state of mind.
Francisco Enriquez, M.D. is a pediatrician at Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers.